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My Voyage around the World: The Atlantic and Pacific Travels of a Late Sixteenth-century Italian Merchant

30 April 2019

4-6pm; OC1.04 [tea and coffee from 3.30pm]

The travel account left by the Florentine merchant Francesco Carletti (1573-1636) remains a major understudied source for global historians. This workshop is organised by Luca Mola' and Giorgio Riello and will explore Carletti’s travels to Japan, China and India. This follows a first meeting dedicated to Carletti's journeys in the Atlantic and the Americas.

We ask participants to read the second part of Carletti’s account, available here either in English or in Italian. The meeting will start with short presentations on:

  • Japan - Miki Sugihura
  • China - Anne Gerritsen, Leiyun Ni, and Sander Molenaar
  • India - Guido van Meersbergen

and will be followed by a general discussion

You might find it useful also to read John Elliott's review of the English edition in the New York Review of Books. 

All Welcome!


Carletti's Voyage Around the World

Carletti’s insights on topics as different as slavery (that as a good Christian he abhorred, and as a merchant he practiced), food (with wonderful descriptions of pineapples and bananas), religion (with arresting comments on the persecution of Christians in Japan), modes of writing (as in the case of China) and mercantile information (on different parts of the world) provide a unique range of materials for global historians.

Carletti was the first European merchant who circumnavigated the globe to have left a detailed account of his travels. Starting from Seville in 1594 where Carletti operated with his father Antonio, the two travelled to Cape Verde and purchased slaves to be sold in the West Indies. Once in Spanish America, the Carlettis decided to travel to Peru, Columbia, and through Central America to Mexico. They then sailed to the Philippines and from there to Japan and Macao where Carletti’s father died in 1598. His son Francesco continued his journey to Goa and from there to Lisbon. Carletti had by this point accumulated substantial wealth from trade in commodities across different world areas. However, all his earnings and the original manuscript of his travels were lost when the Portuguese vessels on which he travelled was captured by a Dutch ship. What is now known as the Carletti travel diary deposited at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence is the account that Carletti wrote for the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I when he returned penniless to Florence.

Three editions of his travel account were published in Italian between 1905 and 2004. However the only edition in English was published in 1964 and is deficient in its interpretative apparatus and quality of translation. This workshop would like to be the first step in a project to produce a new translation and interpretation of this important travel diary. This project will be carried out in collaboration with Professor Paula Findlen (Stanford University) and Dr Brian Brege (Syracuse University).