A vogue for travel ’stunts’ flourished in England between 1590 and the 1620s: playful imitations or burlesques of maritime enterprise and overland travel that collectively appear to be a response to particular innovations and developments in English culture. This study is the first full length scholarly work to focus on the curious phenomenon of ’madde voiages’, as the writer William Rowley called them. Anthony Parr shows that the mad voyage (as Rowley and others conceived it) had surprisingly deep and diverse roots in traditional travel practices, in courtly play and mercantile custom, and in literary culture. Looking in detail at several of the best-documented exploits, Parr situates them in the ferment of such ventures during the period in question; but also reaches back to explore their classical and mediaeval antecedents, and considers their role in creating a template for eccentric English adventure in later centuries. Renaissance Mad Voyages brings together literary and historical enquiry in order to address the implications of an interesting and neglected cultural trend. Parr's investigation of the rash of travel exploits in the period leads to extensive research on the origins of the wager on travel and its role in the expansion of English tourism and trading activity.
'Renaissance Mad Voyages is one of those exciting scholarly books that make you realize how important and interesting its apparently obscure subject is. Parr provides a rich historical contextualization for the English "mad voyage" which demonstrates that it is caught up in, and also a vivid epitome of, the main currents of shifting religious, economic, and colonialist practices for at least 200 years. Historians and literary critics alike will find it engagingly written, magisterial but never overwhelming in its command of historical detail, and skillful in making a wide range of unfamiliar texts legible and accessible.' Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto, Canada 'Anthony Parr displays a firm grasp of early modern cultural history in this charming but scholarly account of recreational travel and madcap journeys and adventures. His deep research in Elizabethan and early Stuart texts yields vivid vignettes of ingenious stunts, scams and wagers, pioneer tourism, and the feats of English eccentrics. Parr illuminates the worlds of London finance, legal chicanery, and literary reputations, while tracing intrepid travelers across the British Isles and as far afield as Venice, Istanbul, and Jerusalem. This is a lucid and illuminating work that displays a warmth and sympathy toward its subjects, and respect for the work of other scholars.' David Cressy, Ohio State University, USA