THE FIRST ENGLISH EXPLORER by Kit Mayers

  • Written by  Jon Wright
  • Published in Books
THE FIRST ENGLISH EXPLORER by Kit Mayers
05 Mar
2017
Kit Mayers offers a lively account of Anthony Jenkinson, the daring adventurer who headed off to Russia in 1557 with dreams of travelling all the way to the fabled riches of Cathay

It’s a little odd, though, to see Jenkinson described as ‘the earliest of all the English explorers.’ Apparently, by Mayers’ reckoning, none of the Englishmen who had visited far-flung climes during earlier decades and centuries qualify for the title: ‘None of these voyages were exploration as all these routes had been pioneered by other nations.’ That seems like a narrow and rather harsh definition.

Still, Jenkinson’s tale is well worth the telling and Mayers’ account, while relying on predictable sources, is enhanced by the fact that he has followed in the Tudor’s footsteps. The book efficiently explains the causes behind Jenkinson’s odysseys (chiefly the desire of England’s newly founded Muscovy Company to seek out new markets) and it’s great fun to read about Jenkinson sailing down the Volga, traversing the Caspian Sea, and trudging through the Kara Kum desert all the way to Bukhara. There were adventures aplenty (bandits, bad weather, and the other usual suspects) and even though Jenkinson was obliged to turn round and retrace his footsteps rather than pushing through to China, he certainly helped to open ‘English eyes and minds to the lure of global trade.’

His maps and his reportage of inner Asia also proved to be transformative. Along with the likes of Hugh Willoughby, Stephen Borough and Richard Chancellor, who journeyed to Russia a few years earlier, Jenkinson deserves to be better known. The later travels to Persia, along with several return visits to Russia, are also chronicled and Mayers proves to be an enthusiastic and reliable guide to this fascinating life.     

Click here to purchase ‘The First English Explorer’ by Kit Mayers

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Exhibitions

The tenth annual David Shepherd wildlife exhibition returns to the…

Exhibitions

The Wellcome Collection continues with its year-long exploration of our…

Reviews

From the National Theatre, a trickster play that misses a…

Books

‘It is interesting and mind-stretching to make educated guesses,’ writes…

Books

China is currently undergoing ‘one of the great religious revivals…

Books

The world’s leading health organisations were not easily convinced that…

Books

The hunt for Sir John Franklin’s ships Erebus and Terror…

Books

Since the 18th century, a white feather has been a…

Exhibitions

New exhibition highlights the ubiquity of plastic in the modern…

Films

Craving some non-fiction? Here are some of the best documentaries…

Exhibitions

A multimedia exhibition tackles the question of what it’s like…

Books

Jules Mountain was working as guide in the Alps until,…

Books

When making predictions about India’s future, the first step is…

Books

Many of us will be familiar with this run of…

Books

‘When the winds of change blow some people build walls,…

Books

Veteran traveller Stephen O’Shea takes the reader on a delightful…

Books

Turning each page of this sumptuous book is a constant…

Books

In her youth, Kapka Kassabova would spend family holidays on…