Traveller or Tourist? The Sensible Observations of Roland Barthes and George Sandys

Andrew Hadfield


Is it better to be a tourist or a traveller? Tourists are usually denigrated as vulgar and ignorant while travellers are thought to be more sensitive and observant and to be performing more useful cultural work. However, the iconoclastic writings of Roland Barthes might persuade readers to rethink these commonly-held assumptions. Barthes’ insights into the nature of travel and tourism provide us with a way of exploring the history of travel writing and the relationship between ideas of travelling and tourism. George Sandys’ Relation of a Journey begun An; Dom: 1610 (1615) can be read as a work that thinks about and values tourism, setting its author apart from his contemporary travel writers Thomas Coryat, William Lithgow and Fynes Moryson. While they concentrate on their own ability to understand and appropriate the value of other cultures for their readers, Sandys writes for a reader who might wish to follow in his footsteps and enjoy the experience of encountering other places. A strong case can be made that Sandys’ book is the ancestor of the late nineteenth-century guides that did so much to encourage European tourism, Baedeker and Cook.


Travel; Tourism; George Sandys; Roland Barthes; China; The Orient; Jerusalem; religion; crocodiles

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