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The Itineraries of Geography: Jan Huygen van Linschoten's Itinerario and Dutch Expeditions to the Indian Ocean, 1594-1602

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2011
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Journal number1
Volume101
Number of pages29
Pages149-177
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Jan Huygen van Linschoten's 1596 Itinerario, published in Amsterdam just before Dutch world hegemony, opened the Indian Ocean world for the European geographical imagination, especially regarding its spice markets and non-Christian cultures. Linschoten confirmed rumors in Europe that the Portuguese Estado da India had become decadent and unstable, especially in its capital Goa. He also mentioned the absence of Portuguese control in the market of Bantam, which would become the capital of Dutch Indonesia. In addition, the book disclosed nautical and economic information about the Indian Ocean until then carefully guarded by the Portuguese, especially about the Spice Islands. In fact, the book's navigational section was published early so it could be on board the so-called First Voyage organized by the Dutch. This article discusses the main features that made the cartographic, cultural, and economic information of the Itinerario crucial to this historical expedition. Historicizing the discipline of geography is indispensable for understanding how travel and technology affect what can be known of the planet. Following Foucault's understanding of the production of knowledge, the central argument is that the Itinerario inaugurated a leap in the Dutch geographical “episteme” and a new struggle for the Indian Ocean. Linschoten's humanist scholarship was from the start a multiplicity of knowledges and voices that could be read and used in many ways.