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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Tr


The curiosity of that man must be very feeble and sluggish, and his appetite for information very weak or depraved, who, when he compares the map of the world, as it was known to the ancients, with the map of the world as it is at present known, does not feel himself powerfully excited to inquire into the causes which have progressively brought almost every speck of its surface completely within our knowledge and access. To develop and explain these causes is one of the objects of the present work; but this object cannot be attained, without pointing out in what manner Geography was at first fixed on the basis of science, and has subsequently, at various periods, been extended and improved, in proportion as those branches of physical knowledge which could lend it any assistance, have advanced towards perfection. We shall thus, we trust, be enabled to place before our readers a clear, but rapid view of the surface of the globe, gradually exhibiting a larger portion of known regions, and explored seas, till at last we introduce them to the full knowledge of the nineteenth century. In the course of this part of our work, decisive and instructive illustrations will frequently occur of the truth of these most important facts,--that one branch of science can scarcely advance, without advancing some other branches, which in their turn, repay the assistance they have received; and that, generally speaking, the progress of intellect and morals is powerfully impelled by every impulse given to physical science, and can go on steadily and with full and permanent effect, only by the intercourse of civilised nations with those that are ignorant and barbarous.

But our work embraces another topic; the progress of commercial enterprise from the earliest period to the present time. That an extensive and interesting field is thus opened to us will be evident, when we contrast the state of the wants and habits of the people of Britain, as they are depicted by Caesar, with the wants and habits even of our lowest and poorest classes. In Caesar's time, a very few of the comforts of life,--scarcely one of its meanest luxuries,--derived from the neighbouring shore of Gaul, were occasionally enjoyed by British Princes: in our time, the daily meal of the pauper who obtains his precarious and scanty pittance by begging, is supplied by a navigation of some thousand miles, from countries in opposite parts of the globe; of whose existence Caesar had not even the remotest idea. In the time of Caesar, there was perhaps no country, the commerce of which was so confined:--in our time, the commerce of Britain lays the whole world under contribution, and surpasses in extent and magnitude the commerce of any other nation.

The progress of discovery and of commercial intercourse are intimately and almost necessarily connected; where commerce does not in the first instance prompt man to discover new countries, it is sure, if these countries are not totally worthless, to lead him thoroughly to explore them. The arrangement of this work, in carrying on, at the same time, a view of the progress of discovery, and of commercial enterprise, is, therefore, that very arrangement which the nature of the subject suggests. The most important and permanent effects of the progress of discovery and commerce, on the wealth, the power, the political relations, the manners and habits, and the general interests and character of nations, will either appear on the very surface of our work, or, where the facts themselves do not expose them to view, they will be distinctly noticed.

A larger proportion of the volume is devoted to the progress of discovery and enterprise among the ancients, than among the moderns; or,--to express ourselves more accurately,--the period that terminates with the discovery of America, and especially that which comprehends the commerce of the Phoeniceans, of the Egyptians under the Ptolemies, of the Greeks, and of the Romans, is illustrated with more ample and minute details, than the period which has elapsed since the new world was discovered. To most readers, the nations of antiquity are known by their wars alone; we wished to exhibit them in their commercial character and relations. Besides, the materials for the history of discovery within the modern period are neither so scattered, nor so difficult of access, as those which relate to the first period. After the discovery of America, the grand outline of the terraqueous part of the globe may be said to have been traced; subsequent discoveries only giving it more boldness or accuracy, or filling up the intervening parts. The same observation may in some degree be applied, to the corresponding periods of the history of commerce. Influenced by these considerations, we have therefore exhibited the infancy and youth of discovery and commerce, while they were struggling with their own ignorance and inexperience, in the strongest and fullest light.

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