The Experience of the Sixteenth-Century English Voyages to Guinea

By P.E.H. Hair, published February 1997


English voyages were later than Spanish, French and Portuguese. Trade was initially in gold, ivory, spices and hides, but Hawkins’ voyages in the 1560s carried slaves to the Caribbean. Outbound voyages ‘coasted’ down the western side of Europe and Africa; return voyages struck out into the Atlantic to find helpful winds and currents. Merchants’ Agents and ships’ companies had influence on the ship’s movements and schedule. Reluctance to touch land for fresh provisions and water effectively limited voyages’ durations and worsened onboard conditions. Tropical diseases resulted in a mortality rate of about 32%.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Tudors | Health at Sea | Caribbean
Subjects include: Merchant Marines | Ship Handling & Seamanship

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