Tramps and their Excuses: A Study of the Writing of Travellers in Borneo in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Millum, Trevor (1993). Tramps and their Excuses: A Study of the Writing of Travellers in Borneo in the 19th and 20th Centuries. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The aim of the study was to examine travel writing over a significant period of time in order to understand more about the nature of travel writing in itself and to determine what changes may have taken place within the genre over time. A secondary aim was to carry out an exploration of the S E Asia Collection in the Library of the University of Hull.

In order to focus the study on a manageable body of work, the geographical area was narrowed to that of the island of Borneo and the texts to those of book-length.

The study began with a reading of a wide range of material which related to the subject of the thesis. From this essentially exploratory bibliographical research arose three things. Firstly, a body of material which could be reasonably defined as travel writing about Borneo was identified. Secondly, a broad categorization of sub-groups within that body of material began to emerge. Coincidentally, further ideas about the nature of travel writing, particularly in the context of the exploitation of East by the West, developed.

There followed a detailed and careful review of the texts which served to refine the characteristics of the sub-groups and show the ways in which changes in the genre had taken place over time.

The thesis concludes that while there have been significant changes in the nature of travel writing, there is an interesting degree of continuity, for example, curiosity as a motivating force and confidence as a characteristic., And where a writer writes from within the role of explorer, there is a remarkable number of characteristics which remain constant over time.

Throughout the period under study, different kinds of writer have become travellers, with varying motives, producing new kinds of travel writing: as the world has become smaller, the focus of the travel writer has become narrower and the ethos more personal.

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