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In , before the boom in Postcolonial Studies and social and cultural history, perhaps this book did read as something new. It's a nice entry-way into an examination of how and why a nation was influe A very small book--a hundred pages--it is made up of lectures. It's a nice entry-way into an examination of how and why a nation was influenced or not influenced by its colonies.

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Jan 24, Ian McHugh rated it really liked it. An excellent discussion of the impact of the discovery of the New World on Europe. The book is split into four parts and the discussion of the ideological and literary impact of Columbus' discovery was to me the most fascinating. An excellent bibliography accompanies this edition for anybody wishing to research further.

Highly academic in tone - the text is based on Elliott's lectures - but very relevant and timely in it's content. Oct 16, Alex rated it really liked it Shelves: americana. Aug 04, Chase rated it it was ok. Aug 14, Frances Haynes rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction-non-biography. Otto rated it liked it Oct 06, Will rated it liked it Mar 07, Mallory Howe rated it liked it Aug 22, Arlomisty rated it liked it Aug 30, Alex Ilushik rated it it was ok Mar 08, Spencer Murray rated it really liked it Nov 04, Elizabeth Driskell rated it liked it Feb 06, Finale rated it liked it Nov 18, Carmen Munoz-schira rated it it was amazing Jan 28, Kate Van Haren rated it liked it Jun 06, Brian rated it really liked it Nov 07, TheMadHistorian rated it really liked it Oct 04, Tamara rated it really liked it Jun 16, Allexya rated it it was amazing Jul 30, Paulina Zajac rated it really liked it Oct 11, Caitlin Anderson rated it really liked it Feb 27, Chelsea Stewart rated it it was amazing Nov 15, Bradford rated it really liked it Mar 17, Paige rated it did not like it Feb 22, Lauren Whitehouse rated it liked it Feb 27, Ivy rated it really liked it Jun 03, Heather rated it it was ok Jun 23, Nino Vallen rated it really liked it Jan 28, Al rated it really liked it Jul 31, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

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About J. Elliott, is a historian of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe specialising in Spanish history. He was knighted for his services to history, and was awarded several decorations by the Spanish government. Other books in the series. Cambridge Studies in Early Modern History 1 - 10 of 34 books. Books by J. Trivia About The Old World and There was too much diversity, too many new things to be described, as Fernndez de Oviedo constantly complained. Forcing themselves to communicate something of their own delight in what they saw around them, the Spanish chroniclers of the Indies occasionally achieved a pen-picture of startling intimacy and brilliance.

What could be more vivid than Las Casas's description of himself reading matins 'in a breviary with tiny print' by the light of the Hispaniola fireflies? Edmundo O'Gorman 2 vols. Mexico, , i, Yet there are times when the chroniclers seem cruelly hampered by the inadequacies of their vocabulary; and it is particularly noticeable that the range of colours identifiable by sixteenth-century Europeans seems strictly limited. Again and again travellers express their astonishment at the greenness of America, but can get no further. Just occasionally, as with Sir Walter Raleigh in Guiana, the palette comes to life: 'We sawe birds of all colours, some carnation, some crimson, orenge tawny, purple, greene, watched [i.

But Lery possesses a quite unusual capacity for putting himself in the position of a European who has never crossed the Atlantic and is forced to envisage the New World from travellers' accounts. He instructs his readers, for instance, how to conceive of a Brazilian savage.

So, to enjoy the real pleasure of them, you will have to go and visit them in their country. Pictures, as Lery implied, could aid the imagination. Trained artists who accompanied expeditions to the Indies like John White, on the Roanoke voyage of , and Frans Post, who followed Prince John Maurice of Nassau to Brazil in might at least hope to capture something of the New World for those who had not seen it.

But the problems of the artist resembled those of the chronicler. His European background and training were likely to determine the nature of his vision; and the techniques and the colour range with which he had familiarized himself at home were not necessarily adequate to represent the new and often exotic scenes which he now set out to record.

Frans Post, trained in the sober Dutch tradition, and carefully looking down the wrong end of his telescope to secure a concentrated field of vision, did manage to capture a fresh, if somewhat muted, image of the New World during his stay in Brazil. But once he was back in Europe, with its own tastes and expectations, the vision began to fade. Qyinn 2 vols. London, Even where the observer depicted a scene with some success, either in paint or in prose, there was no guarantee that his work would reach the European public in an accurate form, or in any form at all.

The caprice of publishers and the obsession of governments with secrecy, meant that much information about the New World, which might have helped to broaden Europe's mental horizons, failed to find its way into print. Illustrations had to run further hazards peculiar to themselves. The European reader was hardly in a position to obtain a reliable picture of life among the Tupinamba savages of Brazil when the illustrations in his book included scenes of Turkish life, because the publisher happened to have them in stock. Nor was the technique of woodcuts sufficiently. Above all, the existence of a middleman between the artist and his public could all too easily distort and transform the image he was commissioned to reproduce.

Readers dependent on De Bry's famous engravings for their image of the American Indian could be forgiven for assuming that the forests of America were peopled by heroic nudes, whose perfectly proportioned bodies made them first cousins of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Letts London, , p. In spite of all the problems involved in the dissemination of accurate information about America, the greatest problem of all, however, remained that of comprehension. The expectations of the European reader, and hence of the European traveller, were formed out of the accumulated images of a society which had been nurtured for generations on tales of the fantastic and the marvellous.

When Columbus first set eyes on the inhabitants of the Indies, his immediate reaction was that they were not in any way monstrous or physically abnormal. It was a natural enough reaction for a man who still half belonged to the world of Mandeville. Cecil Jane, ed. Vigneras London, , p. The temptation was almost overpoweringly strong to see the newlydiscovered lands in terms of the enchanted isles of medieval fantasy. If the unfamiliar were to be approached as anything other than the extraordinary and the monstrous, then the approach must be conducted by reference to the most firmly established elements in Europe's cultural inheritance.

Between them, therefore, the Christian and the classical traditions were likely to prove the obvious points of departure for any evaluation of the New World and its inhabitants. In some respects, both of these traditions could assist Europeans in coming to terms with America. Each provided a possible norm or yardstick, other than those immediately to hand in Renaissance Europe, by which to judge the land and the peoples of the newly-discovered world.

Some of the more obvious categories for classifying the inhabitants of the Antilles were clearly inapplicable. These people were not monstrous; and their hairlessness made it difficult to identify them with the wild men of the popular medieval tradition.

The reverence of late medieval Europeans for their Christian and classical traditions had salutary consequences for their approach to the New World, in that it enabled them to set it into some kind of perspective in relation to themselves, and to examine it with a measure of tolerant interest. But against these possible advantages must be set certain obvious disadvantages, which in some ways made the task of assimilation appreciably harder.

Fifteenth-century Christendom's own sense of self-dissatisfaction found expression in the longing for a return to a better state of things. The return might be to the lost Christian paradise, or to the Golden Age of the ancients, or to some elusive combination of both these imagined worlds. With the discovery of the Indies and their inhabitants, who went around naked and yet in defiance of the Biblical tradition mysteriously unashamed, it was all too easy to transpose the ideal world from a world remote in time to a world remote in space.

Arcadia and Eden could now be located on the far shores of the Atlantic. The process of transposition began from the very moment that Columbus first set eyes on the Caribbean Islands.

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The various connotations of paradise and the Golden Age were present from the first. Innocence, simplicity, fertility and abundance all of them qualities for which Renaissance Europe hankered, and which seemed so unattainable made their appearance in the reports of Columbus and Vespucci, and were eagerly seized upon by their enthusiastic readers. In particular, they struck an answering chord in two worlds, the religious and the humanist. Despairing of the corruption of Europe and its ways, it was natural that certain members of the religious orders should have seen an opportunity for reestablishing the primitive church of the apostles in a New World as yet uncorrupted by European vices.

In the revivalist and apocalyptic tradition of the friars, the twin themes of the new world and the end of the world harmoniously blended in the great task of evangelizing the uncounted millions who knew nothing of the Faith. Sanford, The Quest for Paradise. Europe and the American Moral Imagination Urbana, 1ll.

The humanists, like the friars, projected onto America their disappointed dreams. In the Decades of Peter Martyr, the first popularizer of America and its myth, the Indies have already undergone their subtle. Here were a people who lived without weights and measures and 'pestiferous moneye, the seed of innumerable myscheves. So that if we shall not be ashamed to confesse the truthe, they seem to lyve in the goulden worlde of the which owlde wryters speake so much: wherin men lyved simplye and innocentlye without inforcement of lawes, without quarrelling Iudges and libelles, contente onely to satisfie nature, without further vexation for knowlege of thinges to come.

Edward Arber Birmingham, , p. It was an idyllic picture, and the humanists made the most of it, for it enabled them to express their deep dissatisfaction with European society, and to criticize it by implication. America and Europe became antitheses the antitheses of innocence and corruption. And the corrupt was destroying the innocent. In his recently discovered History of the Discovery of the Indies, written in , Prez de Oliva makes the Indian caciques express their plight in speeches that might have been written for them by Livy.

It was a device which was employed at almost the same moment by another Spanish humanist, who may also have been thinking of the horrors of the conquest Antonio de Guevara in his famous story of the Danube peasant. See also L. Amrico Castro Princeton, But by treating the New World in this way, the humanists were closing the door to understanding an alien civilization.

America was not as they imagined it; and even the most enthusiastic of them had to accept from an early stage that the inhabitants of this idyllic world could also be vicious and bellicose, and sometimes ate each other. This of itself was not necessarily sufficient to quench utopianism, for it was always possible to build Utopia on the far side of the Atlantic if it did not already exist. For a moment it seemed as if the dream of the friars and the humanists would find its realization in Vasco de Quiroga's villages of Santa Fe in Mexico.

As that reality came to impinge at an increasing number of points, so the dream began to fade. The conquistadores, who had been driven forward by their greed for booty, land and lordship, watched in dismay as the officials of the Spanish Crown encroached on their feudal paradise. The friars, who had glimpsed in the New World their New Jerusalem, grew progressively disenchanted at the spiritual and moral backslidings of its captive citizens. The Utopia of the humanists, like the Seven Cities of the explorers, seemed increasingly remote and increasingly unreal.

By the middle of the sixteenth century the discrepancies between the image and the reality could no longer be systematically ignored. Too many awkward facts were beginning to obtrude. The assimilation of these facts was to take Europe a century or more. It proved to be a difficult, as well as a lengthy, process; and in many respects it was still far from completed by the middle of the seventeenth century, if we take as our criterion the words of Professor Winch: 'Seriously to study another way of life is necessarily to seek to extend our own not simply to bring the other way within the already existing boundaries of our own Much effort went into bringing the known facts about America within the existing boundaries.

But even by the middle years of the seventeenth century, the boundaries themselves had barely begun to move. Given the implications of certain aspects of the discovery of America, this may seem a disappointing outcome for a hundred and fifty years of intellectual endeavour. Guicciardini, with his usual shrewdness, noted these implications when he wrote: 'Not only has this navigation confounded many affirmations of former writers about terrestrial things, but it has also given some anxiety to interpreters of the Holy Scriptures In spite of the problems raised by the growing knowledge of America, no sustained attack had yet been mounted on the historical and chronological accuracy of the Biblical story of the creation of man and his dispersion following the flood.

European political and social. Panigada, ii, p. I have found this paper particularly helpful in working on some of the points contained in this chapter. It was only in the century after that Europe's traditional mental boundaries began to be extended at these crucial points. Before then, we are likely to find little more than isolated reconnaissances outside the stockade, or dramatic advances which are never quite consolidated. But this apparent failure should not blind us to the magnitude of the work that was being undertaken within the stockade in the preceding years.

This work was the essential preliminary to any sustained break-out by the garrison. New possibilities had at least been glimpsed, new lines of advance prepared. To watch the process by which sixteenth-century Europe came to grips with the realities of America is to see something of the character of sixteenth-century European civilization itself, in its strength and in its weakness.


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Certain elements in Europe's cultural inheritance made it difficult to assimilate new facts and new impressions, but others may have given it certain advantages in confronting a challenge of this magnitude. It was, for instance, important that the European attitude to the scope and purposes of knowledge should have allowed considerable latitude to speculative inquiry. Gregorio Garca, a Spanish Dominican who published in a massive survey of the numerous hypotheses that had been advanced to explain the origins of the native inhabitants of America, observed that man's knowledge of any given fact derived from one or other of four distinct sources.

Two of these sources were infallible: divine faith, as revealed through the scriptures, and ciencia, which explained a phenomenon by its cause. But that which was known by human faith rested solely on the authority of its source; and what was known only by opinion must be regarded as uncertain, because it was based on arguments which could well be disproved. The question of the origin of the American Indians came into this last category, because there could be no clear proof, the matter was not discussed in the scriptures, and the problem was too recent to have allowed the amassing of any corpus of convincing authority.

If certain areas, therefore, were fixed and determined for all time by divine pronouncement, there were other areas where the inhabitants of Christendom could range more or less at will. It was important, too, that the pursuit of knowledge should have enjoyed the sanction both of. Quoting, consciously or unconsciously, from Aristotle, Corts grandly announced in a letter to an oriental potentate that it was 'a universal condition of men to want to know'. The whole European movement of exploration and discovery was informed by this desire to see and to know; and no man better exemplified Aristotle's dictum than Corts himself, as he probed into the mysteries of volcanoes, observed with fascination the customs of the Indians, and, in his own words, diligently inquired into the 'secrets of these parts'.

Some of this curiosity can be seen as a desire for the acquisition of information for its own sake. The sixteenth century collected facts as it collected exotic objects, assembling them for display in cosmographies like so many curios in a cabinet. But curiosity also had its due place within a wider, Christian, framework. At the end of the century, Jos de Acosta, in his great Natural and Moral History of the Indies, likened men to ants in their refusal to let themselves be deterred, once they had set out on their quest for facts.

Here again, a comparison with the Chinese approach to the southern lands, as described by Professor Schafer, provides a revealing insight. The Hua man of the T'ang period could not call with complacency on such metaphysical principles as 'order', 'harmony', 'unity in diversity' or even 'beauty' all conceptions agreeable to our own tradition to lubricate his difficult adjustment. Edmundo O'Gorman 2nd ed.

Mexico, , p. Sixteenth-century Europeans, on the other hand, instinctively accepted the idea of a designed world into which America however unexpected its first appearance must somehow be incorporated. Knowledge of the new lands and new peoples could, as Acosta suggested, further the great task of the evangelization of mankind. Knowledge of its infinite diversity, on which Fernndez de Oviedo and Las Casas exclaimed with awe and wonder, could only enhance man's appreciation of the omnipotence of its divine creator.

Knowledge of the medicinal and therapeutic properties of its plants and herbs was further. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore Berkeley, Both approaches to knowledge, the curious and the utilitarian, possessed obvious limitations as a means for broadening the mental horizons of sixteenth-century Europeans.

It was of great importance that they should have accepted the fact of the diversity of mankind, and have been stimulated by their reading of classical authors to display a lively curiosity about the habits of different peoples. But the collecting instinct encouraged a tendency towards the indiscriminate accumulation of random ethnographic facts, which made it difficult to establish any coherent pattern of ideas.

In some respects it was particularly unfortunate that the sixteenth century possessed an obvious classical model in Pliny's Natural History. The often inchoate impression created by Oviedo's History of the Indies is partly the outcome of an excessive respect for an authority whose methods were among those least needed by sixteenth-century seekers after truth. The indiscriminate compilation of facts lumped them together into an undifferentiated category of the marvellous or exotic.

This inevitably reduced their effectiveness as vehicles for change. Some were successfully assimilated into pre-existing patterns, while others, which might have been more challenging, remained mere curiosities. Drer gazed in wonder on Montezuma's treasures, but these exotic objects were curiosities to be admired, not models to be imitated. As the handiwork of 'barbarians', the artistic creations of the peoples of America exercised virtually no influence on sixteenth-century European art.

They were simply consigned to the cabinets of collectors mute witnesses to the alien customs of non-European man. Many of the natural products of America, on the other hand, were more easily accepted and absorbed, especially those which could be put to some practical use. But a rigorously utilitarian approach could be as constricting in its way as indiscriminate collection for curiosity's sake.

A concentration on the merely useful inevitably meant that much was omitted or ignored. Yet ultimately it was the stimulus of practical. Officials and missionaries alike found that, to do their work effectively, they needed some understanding of the customs and traditions of the peoples entrusted to their charge. Royal officials who came from Spain were used to thinking in legal and historical terms, and it was natural enough that they should have applied these to their new environment.

How else, for example, could they determine the tax obligations of an Indian to his encomendero, other than by first discovering the amount of tribute he used to pay to his native lord in pre-conquest times? The visitas of royal officials to Indian localities therefore tended to turn into elaborate inquiries into native history, land tenure and inheritance laws; and the reports of the more intelligent and inquiring of these officials, like Alonso de Zorita in New Spain, [1] were in effect exercises in applied anthropology, capable of yielding a vast amount of information about native customs and society.

In the years immediately following the conquest, missionaries were less concerned than royal officials with the gathering of data. The first generation of missionaries, buoyed up by their faith in the natural innocence and predisposition to goodness of the native inhabitants, assumed that their minds were, in Las Casas's words, tablas rasas [1] on which the true faith could easily be inscribed.


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  • Bitter experience soon showed otherwise. In his History of the Indies of New Spain the Dominican Fray Diego Durn insisted that there could be no hope of abolishing idolatry among the Indians 'unless we are informed about all the kinds of religion which they practised And therefore a great mistake was made by those who, with much zeal but little prudence, burnt and destroyed at the beginning all their ancient pictures. This left us so much in the dark that they can practise idolatry before our very eyes [2] This realization that successful missionary enterprise was impossible without some understanding of native life and ways of thought, was at once the stimulus and the justification for the great studies of pre-conquest history, religion and society undertaken by the members of the religious orders in the later sixteenth century.

    Jos F. Ramrez 2nd ed. Mexico, , ii, The strictly practical considerations which governed these missionary inquiries inevitably had certain limiting results. The religious were not. Christianity, for instance, precluded a dispassionate approach to the problem of cannibalism although Las Casas, if he could not excuse it, derived some satisfaction from the fact that cannibalism had also had its devotees in ancient Ireland. Even if some elements in native civilization defied comprehension, the very effort to acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding of that civilization forced the friars to undertake investigations which brought them up against the boundaries of conventional disciplines and methods.

    It was necessary for them to learn native languages; and this in turn drove them to compile dictionaries and grammars, like the first grammar of the Quechua language, which was published in by the Dominican Fray Domingo de Santo Toms. But, having shaped this tool with considerable difficulty, they then came up against a further, and unexpected, problem that of evidence. Esteve Barba, p. The nature of this problem is illuminated in a remarkable exchange of letters between Acosta and his fellow-Jesuit Juan de Tovar, who had sent him the manuscript of a history of Mexico.

    Acosta, in thanking for the manuscript, asked Tovar for assurance on three points which were troubling him. First, 'what certainty or authority does this history have? Third, how could one guarantee the authenticity of the Aztec speeches recorded by Tovar, 'since without the art of writing, it would seem impossible to preserve speeches of such elegance and length'?

    Tovar, in his reply, explained how young Aztecs were trained to remember and hand on to succeeding generations the great speeches in their national history, and how they made use of pictographic records as aids to memory. The correspondence between Tovar and Acosta was printed as document no.

    New ed. Mexico, , iv, A dependence on oral tradition may not have inspired great confidence among Europeans accustomed to written records, but at least the idea. Fernndez de Oviedo, considering the same question a generation before Acosta, shrewdly reminded his readers that the Castilians, too, had their oral history, in the form of their great romances.

    It was therefore possible for sixteenth-century Spaniards to rely on popular memory in compiling their histories of the peoples of America without feeling that they were doing excessive violence to their conception of proper historical method. But their concern for the authenticity of their evidence induced them to refine and develop their techniques of inquiry; and in the hands of an expert like Bernardino de Sahagn the collection of oral evidence became a highly sophisticated piece of ethnographical field-work.

    The impact of these methods on sixteenth-century Europe was unfortunately blunted by the fact that so many of the great studies of native culture and society remained unpublished. The works of Durn and Sahagn did not appear in print until the nineteenth century, and Tovar's history of Mexico, which provoked Acosta's questions, remains unpublished to this day. All too often, Europe remained in ignorance of the pioneering methods and the novel findings of those who worked among the native peoples of America.

    It is not therefore surprising if the evidence for a direct influence on Europe of pioneering techniques developed in America turns out to be scanty. It is also, by its nature, difficult to interpret. Apparent cases of direct influence tend to be ambiguous. The original impetus behind some new departure is as likely as not to be European, although American experience may well provide an additional stimulus. In the realm of philology, for instance, Garcilaso de la Vega seems to have derived his scholarly interest in the proper spelling of Quechua words from his membership of a circle of Cordoba savants, who had learnt from the historian Ambrosio de Morales to employ literary, topographical and philological evidence in their study of Spanish antiquities.

    But Garcilaso's intimate knowledge of the New World and its history did help to widen the horizons of these antiquaries. When his friend Bernardo Aldrete published in his history of the Castilian language, he used the examples of Quechua and Nahuatl to illustrate the way in which military conquest can promote linguistic unity. American experience may have had a rather more direct, although still limited, impact on methods of governmental inquiry. The need to obtain authentic information about a totally unknown world forced the Spanish Crown to arrange for the collecting of evidence on a massive scale.

    In this process, the questionnaire became an essential instrument of government. Spanish officials in the Indies were bombarded with questionnaires. The most famous of these although by no means the earliest were the ones drafted in the early s at the instigation of the president of the Council of the Indies, Juan de Ovando, to elicit a large amount of detailed information on the geography, the climate, the produce and the inhabitants of Spain's American possessions.

    There was no obvious reason why a method of inquiry designed for the New World should not be applied in the Old World too; and in , after Juan de Ovando had moved to the presidency of the Council of Finance, a similar investigation was launched in Castile. Also Howard F. Oine, 'The Relaciones Geogrficas of the Spanish Indies, ', Hispanic American Historical Review, xliv , , which includes a complete English translation of the printed questionnaire of Ovando's initiative suggests how decisive could be the action of a single individual in a key position, but it also reflects a more general aspiration of the age to order and to classify.

    By the later sixteenth century, as a result of the vast amount of fresh observation during the preceding decades, the problem of classification was becoming acute in every field of knowledge. Large quantities of ill-assorted data about the New World had now found their way to Europe; and there were many manuscripts in private circulation or in the hands of the Council of the Indies, which needed sifting and collating. The overwhelming need by was for the introduction of method, in a field where investigation was all too often unsystematic, and dependent on the individual efforts of enthusiasts.

    Fernndez de Oviedo had made heroic efforts in his time to embrace the totality of knowledge about the New World in one vast encyclopaedic survey, but anew and more sophisticated generation was beginning to find his methods inadequate. It was somehow symbolic of the amateur approach of Oviedo, that he should have taken every precaution for the safe despatch of a live iguana from Hispaniola to his friend Ramusio in Venice, but omitted to inform himself adequately about its dietary habits. He gave it a barrel of earth for its sustenance, and the unfortunate creature died on the voyage.

    The aspiration after a greater professionalism and a higher degree of system expressed itself in many ways in the years around In the Sevillan doctor, Nicols Monardes, published his famous survey of the medicinal plants of America, which appeared in John Frampton's English translation of under the title of Joyfull Newes out of the Newe Founde Worlde. At about the same time a Bolognese naturalist, Ulisse Aldrovandi, was creating a botanical garden and museum, for both of which he was constantly soliciting specimens from America.

    Concerned about the lack of method in such books about America as were available to him, he asked the Grand Duke of Tuscany in to seek permission for him to lead a scientific expedition to the Indies. The permission never came, but two years later Philip II did dispatch just such an expedition to America under the leadership of the Spanish naturalist and physician Dr Francisco Hernndez. In , the same year as Hernndez left for Mexico, the Spanish Crown created a new post, that of cosmographer and official chronicler of the Indies, and appointed to it Juan Lpez de Velasco, a close associate of the reforming president of the Council of the Indies, Juan de Ovando.

    In practice, the official history of the Indies had to wait until a later chronicler, Antonio de Herrera, published his Decades in the early seventeenth century. But Velasco, whose own interests seem to have been more cosmographical than historical, duly wrote between and a Geography and Universal Description of the Indies [2] This was exactly the kind of work that was needed at this moment a brilliantly succinct and lucid synthesis of the existing information on the geography, the natural phenomena and the peoples of the Indies.

    But Velasco's work, like the voluminous botanical notes of Hernndez, remained virtually unknown to contemporaries, and was not published in full until Once again, an important contribution to knowledge was deprived of its rightful impact by its failure to appear in print. Justo Zaragoza Madrid, For Velasco, see also Carbia pp. Velasco's work, however, although a tour de force, was essentially a compendium, and it was not until the publication in Spanish in of Jos de Acosta's great Natural and Moral History of the Indies, that the process of integrating the American world into the general framework of European thought was at last triumphantly achieved.

    This History was, Acosta claimed, a novel undertaking. Many authors, he wrote, had. The competing claims of unity and diversity were reconciled in a synthesis which owed much to the Aristotelian cast of Acosta's thought. Edmundo O'Gorman's introduction to his edition of Acosta admirably summarizes the author's intentions and achievement. But Acosta's synthesis was itself the culmination of a century of intellectual endeavour, in the course of which three different aspects of the American world were being slowly and painfully assimilated into the European consciousness.

    America, as an entity in space, had demanded incorporation into Europe's mental image of the natural world. American man had to be found his place among the peoples of mankind. And America, as an entity in time, required integration into Europe's conception of the historical process. All this was achieved during the course of the sixteenth century, and it was Acosta's synthesizing genius which brought the great enterprise to completion. The gradual acceptance by Europeans of the natural and geographical phenomenon of America was at once hindered and helped by their dependence on the geographical learning of classical antiquity.

    The challenge to that learning was vividly expressed by the Portuguese Pedro Nunes when he wrote in his Treatise of the Sphere, of 'New islands, new lands, new seas, new peoples; and, what is more, a new sky and new stars. If experience effectively disproved the second of these theses at an early stage, it did not disprove the first of them until the crossing of the Behring Strait in It was therefore reasonable enough that there should have been continuing uncertainty throughout the sixteenth-century as to whether or not America formed part of Asia.

    Las Casas eventually decided that in fact it did, [2] whereas Fernndez de Oviedo suspected that 'the mainland of these Indies is another half of the world, as large as, or perhaps larger than, Asia, Africa and Europe Certain cosmographical ideas derived from classical antiquity were in fact vindicated by the discoveries. Indeed, the reading of Strabo in conjunction with Ptolemy, together with the evidence provided by Portuguese experience, made it possible for the Florentine Lorenzo Buonincontri to postulate the existence of a fourth continent in Nor could classical learning be of any great value in interpreting the phenomena of a part of the world of which it had remained unaware.

    Here, as Fernndez de Oviedo never tired of pointing out, there was no substitute for personal experience. And on each fresh occasion, another fragment was chipped away from the massive rock of authority.

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    John Parker Minneapolis, , p. But the very fact that the natural phenomena of the New World did not figure in the traditional cosmographies or natural histories, made it all the harder to bring them within the compass of the European consciousness. One device frequently employed was that of analogy or comparison. But the comparative method had its own dangers and disadvantages. When Oviedo and Las Casas compared Hispaniola to those other two famous islands, England and Sicily, in order to prove that it was in no way inferior to them in fertility, the general effect was simply to blur the differences between all three.

    The differences were sometimes so great, he said, that to reduce them all to European types was like calling an egg a chestnut. For Acosta, American nature had its own distinctive characteristics, as belonging to a distinctive fourth part of the world, but it simultaneously partook of enough general characteristics to make it one among the four parts of a common whole.

    The same, moreover, was as true of man as of nature. For American man, even more. At the time of the discovery of America, there already existed a number of loosely defined categories into which Europeans could slot the different peoples of the world. The fundamental division along religious lines was between Christian and heathen. But Renaissance Europeans also appropriated from classical literature the distinction between Greeks and barbarians; and the barbarian, while heathen, was also rough and unpolished.

    Different peoples displayed different degrees of barbarity, and the differences were generally explained by astrological and environmental influences. Aristotle had taught Europeans to think of man and even the most barbarous man as a naturally social creature, but it was also recognized that certain men existed who were so savage or wild as to live solitary lives in the forests, without benefit of religion or social institutions. Like Nebuchadnezzar, the prototype of the wild man, these savages represented man in his degenerate rather than in his primitive form, although classical doctrines of the Golden Age had created an awareness that the solitary forest-dweller could also represent man in a state of primaeval innocence, before he was corrupted by civil life.

    These general ideas about man and society provided at least a crude frame of reference which could help Europeans to come to terms with the peoples of America. But inevitably, over the course of the sixteenth centry, the increased knowledge and understanding of the indigenous inhabitants of America, and of the vast differences between them, exposed the inadequacies of the intellectual framework, and forced its modification.

    From the very beginning, there were sharp disagreements about the nature of American man. On the whole, the image of the innocent Indian was most easily maintained by those Europeans who had never actually seen one. Europeans who had experienced any prolonged contact with him were as likely as not to swing sharply to the other extreme. Commenting on the diet of the natives of Hispaniola, which included roots, snakes and spiders, Dr Chanca, who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, remarked: 'It seems to me that their bestiality is greater than that of any beast in the world.

    If he was not a man, then he was incapable of receiving the faith; and it was precisely this capacity for conversion on which Paul III insisted when he proclaimed in the bull Deus of that 'the Indians are true men'. Cecil Jane Hakluyt Society, 2nd series, vol. The Christian tradition defined man in terms of his receptivity to divine grace; the classical tradition defined him in terms of his rationality.

    It was generally accepted, especially after that the native peoples of America satisfied the criteria of both these traditions sufficiently to be included among the human kind. But the exact degree to which they satisfied these criteria remained a matter of continuous debate. So far from being peculiarly fitted to receive the pure milk of the gospel, as the first generation of friars had fondly hoped, the Indians gave every sign of extreme religious unreliability. Catholics and Protestants were united on this.

    Fernndez de Oviedo voiced the gravest misgivings about the genuineness of their conversion; [1] and Jean de Lery found ample evidence among the Tupinamba of Brazil for the validity of Calvinist teaching. The degree of rationality to be found among the Indians was as open to question as their degree of fitness to receive the faith. For Fernndez de Oviedo they were clearly inferior beings, naturally idle and inclined to vice; and he found evidence for their inferiority, not in their colour for colour in the sixteenth century possessed few of the connotations which it later acquired [1] but in the size and thickness of their skulls, which indicated a deformation in that part of the body which provided an index of a man's rational powers.

    And for this reason Nature specially proportioned their bodies, so that they should have the strength for personal service. The Spaniards, on the other hand, are delicately proportioned, and were made prudent and clever, so that they. Variations in colour were attributed to length of exposure to the sun. Blackness did, however, possess certain disagreeable connotations, at least for the sixteenth-century Englishman. See Winthrop D. Madrid, , f 4.

    Cultural Readings - Selected Bibliography and Links

    The equation between bestiality, irrationality and barbarism was easily made; and those who made it could then proceed to draw on Aristotelian doctrine to justify Spanish domination over the Indians as both natural and necessary. Those Spaniards who, like Vitoria, felt the blood run cold in their veins at the thought of the behaviour of their compatriots in the Indies, [1] were therefore driven to reconsider at a new and deeper level the traditional European classification of the peoples of the world.

    This process of reappraisal was supremely important, because it gradually forced Europeans to move away from a narrow and primarily political definition of 'civility' towards the broader concept of 'civilization', which was not necessarily equated with Christianity. Perea and J. Perez Prendes Madrid, , p.

    The old world and the new 1492-1650

    Vivanti, 'Alle origini dell idea di civilt: le scoperte geografiche e gli scritti di Henri de la Popeliniere', Rivista Storica Italiana, lxxiv , Fray Toms de Mercado, writing in the s, called Negroes and Indians 'barbarians' because ' they are never moved by reason, but only by passion'. The very search for these proofs helped to shape the idea of what constituted a civilized man. Las Casas, for instance, pointed to Mexican architecture 'the very ancient vaulted and pyramid-like buildings' as 'no small index of their prudence and good polity' a thesis rejected by Seplveda on the grounds that bees and spiders could produce artefacts that no man could imitate.

    Angel Losada Madrid, , p. Translation by J. The implications of this, as spelt out by Vitoria, were so far-reaching that they were bound to affect Christendom's conception of its relationship with the outer world. Rationality, measured by the capacity for living in society, was the criterion of civility; and if this civility was not crowned, as it should have been, with Christianity, this tended to be a misfortune rather than a crime. Accordingly I for the most part attribute their seeming so unintelligent and stupid to a bad and barbarous upbringing, for even among ourselves we find many peasants who differ little from brutes.

    Vitoria's argument placed Christianity and barbarism in a new perspective, although it was a perspective which was deeply influenced by Graeco-Roman theories of men as rational beings, who constituted among themselves a world-wide community. The American Indians, by showing their capacity for social existence, had vindicated their right to membership in the club.

    The club could not be reserved for Christians only, for all rational men were citizens of 'the whole world, which in a certain way constitutes a single republic'. Inevitably it began to be blurred, and its significance as a divisive force to decline. Tefilo Urdnoz Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, vol. In his Relation of the Lords of New Spain, written some time before , Alonso de Zorita, for example, notes the discrepancy between Corts's eulogistic descriptions of the achievements of the Aztecs, and his persistent tendency to call them 'barbarians'.

    The use of the word 'barbarian' in this context may have arisen, he thought, 'from the fact that we are accustomed to calling infidels "barbarians" in conformity with the usage of the Psalmist, as in Psalm , where the Egyptians are called barbarians because they were idolaters. Because of this great innocence of the Indians, those who trade with them can cheat them very easily But we could also call the Spaniards barbarians in this sense, for at the present day, even in the best-governed cities, little toy swords and horses, and brass whistles, and little wire snakes, and castanets with bells, are sold in the streets Let those who call [the Indians] barbarians consider that by.

    Keen, Rutgers, ; London, , pp. Zorita's discussion of the nature of barbarism suggests how their experience of other peoples was forcing Europeans to see themselves in a new, and sometimes unexpected, light. But this would have been much more difficult, and might never have happened, if Europe's own cultural traditions had not included certain elements and characteristics which at least created a predisposition to react in this way. The JudeoChristian and the classical traditions were sufficiently disparate, and sufficiently rich and varied in themselves, to have brought a large number of different, and often incompatible ideas, into uneasy coexistence within a single frame of thought.

    Some of these ideas might for long have been recessive, and others dominant. But a sudden external shock, like the discovery of the peoples of America, could upset the prevailing kaleidoscopic pattern and bring alternative ideas, or combinations of ideas, into view. There was, for instance, perfectly good scriptural authority for the relativism implicit in Zorita's approach to barbarism, in the form of a passage from 1Corinthians : 'There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without significance.

    Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. But 'those traditions proved rich enough, on exploration, to provide them with answers to at least some of the puzzling questions raised by America. Their veneration for classical antiquity made them aware of the existence of other civilizations which had been superior to their own. Christian and Stoic thought had given them an idea of the fundamental unity of mankind.

    Aristotle had taught them to think of man as essentially a social being. All this enabled some of them at least to view their own society with a measure of detachment, and to seek to determine the nature of the relationship between themselves and the other peoples of the world, with some degree of success.

    In this enterprise the contribution of Aristotelian doctrine proved to be critical. Aristotle may have furnished Seplveda with his arguments in favour of the natural inferiority of the Indian; but it was Aristotle, too, who enabled Vitoria to argue for the inalienable prerogatives of heathen societies, and it was the Aristotelian system which made possible the two greatest attempts of the sixteenth century to incorporate America within a unified vision of the world, man, and history those of Las Casas and Acosta.

    Las Casas's massive Apologtica Historia, probably written during the s, is an unread masterpiece unread partly because it is nearly unreadable, and partly because it had to wait until the twentieth century to see the light of day. Its neglect is unfortunate because, for all its faults, it represents an extraordinarily ambitious and erudite attempt to embrace the peoples of the New World within a global survey of human civilization.

    In order to prove his thesis that the Indian is a fully rational being, perfectly equipped both to govern himself and to receive the gospel, Las Casas examines him from both the physical and the moral standpoint, in conformity with the criteria adduced by Aristotle. The results of his analysis of Indian societies can then be compared with those obtained from a similar analysis of the societies of the Old World, and especially but by no means exclusively those of the Greeks and the Romans.

    Las Casas's study therefore becomes a great essay in comparative cultural anthropology, in which the social and religious habits of Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, ancient Gauls and ancient Britons, are examined alongside those of the Aztecs and the Incas, generally to the advantage of the latter. But there was one potentially embarrassing problem which Las Casas had to face.

    He could produce a formidable battery of arguments and examples to prove the complete rationality of those Indian peoples who lived in organized polities. But what of those who were so barbarous that they lived like beasts of the forest? After considering various possible reasons for man to live outside society, such as the settlement of new lands, or the absence of danger from other men or wild beasts, Las Casas found his answer in Cicero's formulation of the Stoic doctrine that 'all the peoples of the world are men; and there is only one definition of each and every man, and that is that he is rational'.

    If this was so if man was indeed a rational being then even the most barbarous of men could in due course, with care and persistence, be induced to live in an ordered polity. This argument implied the existence of varying degrees of barbarism and civility; and Las Casas in fact concluded his History by analysing the meaning of 'barbarian', and dividing barbarians into a number of. But 'barbarian' could also be applied to people who were so out of their minds as to behave like brutes; to those who refused to subject themselves to laws and social life; and to those who lacked the art of writing and spoke strange languages.

    To some extent the Indians might be deemed to come into this last category, although, as far as language was concerned, 'we are just as barbarous to them as they to us. This process of classification was taken a stage further by Acosta in his De Procuranda Indorum Salute, written in For Acosta, the highest category of barbarians were those who, like the Chinese and Japanese, lived in stable republics and had magistrates, cities and books.

    In the middle category were those who lacked the art of writing and 'civil and philosophical knowledge', like the Mexicans and Peruvians, but possessed admirable forms of government. The third and lowest were those peoples who lived 'without king, without compacts, without magistrates or republic, and who changed their dwelling-place, or if it were fixed had one that resembled the cave of a wild beast'. By adopting classifications of this kind, Las Casas and Acosta were in effect re-opening, on the basis of all the fresh evidence from America, a question which had long perplexed and fascinated Europeans that of cultural diversity.

    The traditional answer, reformulated for the sixteenth century by Bodin, placed a heavy emphasis on geography and climate. But observation of the peoples of the New World helped to focus attention on alternative explanations, such as the importance of migration. If the inhabitants of America were indeed descendants of Noah, as orthodox thought insisted that they must be, [2] it was clear that they must have forgotten the social virtues in the course of their wanderings. Acosta, who held that they came to the New World overland from Asia, believed that they had turned into hunters during their migration.

    Then, by degrees, some of them collected together in certain regions of America, recovered the habit of social life, and began to constitute polities. Also, pp. This argument postulated a sequence of development from barbarism to civility. This sequence was clearly stated by Acosta for man in America,. Too little was known about other contemporary non-European societies to allow very elaborate comparisons between them and those of America. But there had been much comparison between American customs and those of past European societies, and this comparison had revealed some striking similarities.

    The logical deduction was that the sequence was not necessarily confined to America, and that the ancestors of modern Europeans had once been like the present inhabitants of America. The natives of Florida, wrote Las Casas, were still 'in that first rude state which all other nations were in, before there was anyone to teach them We ought to consider what we, and all the other nations of the world were like, before Jesus Christ came to visit us. Kendrick, British Antiquity London, pp.


    • Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, 1492–1650;
    • Pflanzenreich solms-laubach rafflesiaceae.
    • Early Globalization: The Atlantic World, – – U.S. History!
    • The old world and the new 1492-1650.
    • Dr Peter Burke kindly drew my attention to this reference. The same point is made by Rowe, 'Ethnography and Ethnology'. By the end of the sixteenth century, then, the experience of America had provided Europe with at least the faint outlines of a theory of social development.