Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth

The Muscovy Company and Giles Fletcher, the elder (1546–1611)

This book tells the story of English relations with Russia, from the 'strange and wonderfull discoverie' of the land and Elizabeth I's correspondence with Ivan the Terrible, to the corruption of the Muscovy Company and the Elizabethan regime's censorship of politically sensitive representations of Russia. Focusing on the life and works of Giles Fletcher, the elder, ambassador to Russia in 1588, it explores two popular themes in Elizabethan history: exploration, travel and trade and late Elizabethan political culture. The book draws together and analyses the narratives of travel, the practicalities of trade and the discourses of commonwealth and corruption that defined English encounters in late sixteenth century. In the early stages of English mercantile contact with Russia, diplomatic negotiations took shape in the wake of developing trade relations and were made up of a series of ad hoc embassies by individuals. The embassy of Giles Fletcher in 1588, however, represented a change in diplomatic tack. Fletcher's writing of Russia reveals some shared Elizabethan images of the land on Christendom's periphery and fundamentally how Russia was used as a site to reflect on themes of cultural development, commonwealth, trade and colonisation. The extensive use in Fletcher's text of the language of anti-popery points to resonances with the anxieties that riddled the political and religious consciences of late Elizabethan England. His work engaged in cajoling the commonwealth to think with the image of Russia.

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