The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this text, Thomas More narrates an episode from his own life in which he met and conversed with Raphael Hythloday, a Portuguese sailor who had traveled on four of Amerigo Vespucio’s voyages across the Atlantic and on the fourth one was left behind to explore—from a fort settled in current Cabo Frio (Brazil). More begins his narrative by describing the afternoon in Antwerp when he was introduced to Hythloday through his friend Peter Giles. Having finished business and gone to mass, he saw his friend with Hythloday, and thus made his acquaintance. More and Giles asked Hythloday at length about his experiences. According to More, the sailor described how after being left at a fort by Vespucio, he and his companions worked to “win the good graces of the people of that land,” and having gained the confidence of the leader, were eventually given a guide and supplies for exploring the land. In their travels they saw many towns and cities that were well-populated and well-governed and that they had different kinds of boats and ships, including some like Europeans. Hythloday, according to More, introduced them to the compass, which emboldened them to travel more widely. More ends the account by writing of his plan to tell more of Hythloday’s experience elsewhere and by emphasizing how much could be learned from it to “correct the errors of our own cities, nations, peoples, and kingdoms.”
Thomas More (1578-1635) was an English statesman and writer active in London during the Renaissance. Known as a humanist scholar, More worked as a public servant between 1510 and 1518 when he served as an undersheriff of London. This text is an excerpt from his book Utopia, which was published in 1516 and in which he described the political system of an ideal nation state, as well as coined the term “utopia”—which implies in fact that there-is-not such-a-place. In this passage, More departs from a narrative account of his stay in Antwerp on official business to recount a conversation with Raphael Hythloday, a Portuguese sailor who had asked to be left behind on the fourth of Amerigo Vespucio’s voyages across the Atlantic. More recounts Hythloday’s description of his experience there, which involved befriending leaders and obtaining support from them so that he and his companions could further explore the Continent. More is chiefly interested in the existence of multiples cities and towns across the Atlantic and in the apparently peaceful coexistence of governments among these “civilized nations” that Hythloday encountered. But More also articulates his belief that Europe can learn from the mistakes of these newly discovered governments, and for this reason, in addition to their positive aspects, he also wants to hear about their “ill-considered practices.”