Henry Hudson

“Henry Hudson, The Celebrated and Unfortunate Navigator, Abandoned by His Crew in Hudson’s Bay the 11th of June 1610,” by Francis Davignon, The Marines’ Museum.

Henry Hudson

1575 CE - 1611 CE

Muscovy Company of England and the Dutch East India Company

Primary Goal:

On four different voyages of exploration, Hudson sailed northeast in search for a passage across the North Pole to Asia, then west in search of a passage through North America to the Indies.

Achievement:

He explored Hudson Bay, the Hudson River as far as West Point, south to the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay. On his fourth voyage, marooned and left to die with his young son and seven others by a mutinous crew, Hudson was never heard from again.


Henry Hudson embarked on his remarkable voyages because of an organization called the Muscovy Company and their desire to find a northern passage to China and the East Indies.

Hudson first enters the pages of history in 1607 when he was named as master of a vessel sponsored by the Muscovy Company. While there is no source material providing childhood anecdotes or accounts of his adolescence, there are many coincidental references in the records of the Muscovy Company of members and agents named Hudson. One of the founding members of the Company was another Henry Hudson who first appears during the reign of Mary Tudor in 1555. He was named in the Charter as one of the founders and first assistants of the Muscovy Company. This was a full 52 years before Henry Hudson, famed explorer, began his quest for a northern route to Asia.

An explanation of how Henry Hudson, explorer, acquired the training and experience to be hired as master of valuable ship can be found in the Company’s records. They show that frequently, children and relatives of important members of the organization were given employment within the Company. There was also an apprenticeship to which boys could be bound for a number of years. Some of the boys were given a good basic education, trained in the business of the Company, then sent out to Russia to keep accounts and buy and sell trade goods. One of these boys was named Christopher Hudson. Another class of boys, those with more adventuresome spirits, was placed on ships to train as navigators. One of these was named Thomas Hudson. It was this practical, hands-on training that led to the future successes of Thomas Hudson and others as they worked in service to the Muscovy Company and its trading mission.

Some of the gaps in the history of the Hudson family can be explained when verifiable accounts of the same person are cross-referenced from the records of the Muscovy Company and other official papers. In several collections of records, the name of Christopher Hudson is spelled three different ways; Hudson, Hodson, and Hodsdon. He served as a representative of the Company in the 1580’s while Thomas Hudson is listed as captain of one of their ships. Spelling the same name in different ways depended on who was doing the writing, and could account for a lack of background information on many people within a historical framework.