In Search of El Dorado
October 2018 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Sir Walter Raleigh, who went out in search of gold. Jerry Brotton looks at the endless fascination with El Dorado
In 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh sailed to South America in search of the fabled 'El Dorado'. Gold had long fascinated Europeans and he was determined that his expedition would bring back untold treasures. He travelled up the Orinoco River which flows through what is now Venezuela, but his search was in vain and there was little to show for it except his remarkable account of the journey, 'The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana'. Jerry Brotton takes this as his guide as he travels to Trinidad, Raleigh's staging post for the journey, and then into modern day Guyana for his own journey in search of gold.
Jerry discovers the descendants of the indigenous peoples Raleigh met and wrote about in his account, and travels upriver in search of the elusive gold that was so prized by Europeans.
What is left, if anything, of the dream of El Dorado in today's Guyana? Deep In the pristine rainforest of South America he finds out if the lure of gold still holds.
Jerry Brotton is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London
Producer Mark Rickards