Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic – Lecture by Peter C. Mancall


NEIL SAFIER: Good
evening, everyone, and welcome to the John
Carter Brown Library. My name is Neil Safier. I’m the director of the library. And tonight, we are competing
with the Renaissance Society for America’s annual meeting,
which is in New Orleans. I reached out to a lot of
the early modern community here at Brown, and
frankly, I can’t figure out why anyone would want to go to
New Orleans from New England this time of the year. But somehow, they had
other reasons to do that. In any case, we’re thrilled
to have you here this evening, and we’re thrilled to
have our guest Peter Mancall, who is no stranger to
the John Carter Brown Library. Anytime would be
a great occasion to have Peter speak
at the library since the themes
that have coursed through his scholarship over
a very extended and prolific career are especially
germane to this library and its collection– the European exploration
of the Americas, the English colonization
of North America in particular, indigenous
history, environmental history, and the list goes on and on. In fact, it seems with every
book that Peter produces, he moves into different areas
of current historiography, which is one of the reasons why
his career is especially fascinating to follow. Especially poignant for our
interest in Peter’s work is our own focus on the
early environmental history of the Americas here at the JCB. For the last several
years, the library has focused on that particular
aspect of our collection. We’ve been purchasing
materials that have something to say especially
about the relationship between human inhabitants and
their natural environment. We have been hosting special
fellowships, one of whom will be in residence as a
postdoctoral fellow at Brown for the next couple of years. And we have put on special
exhibitions, one entitled Subterranean Worlds about
mining in the early Americas, another on the air
called Air America. Last year, we had
the America on Fire. And this year, we’ve
invited three guest curators to put on an exhibition
entitled Bodies of Water, Bodies at Work. We’ve done this in
part in collaboration with the Institute at Brown
for Environment and Society, which has also been doing
a special four-year program on these topics. There are some
seats in the front, by the way, for those
of you who are arriving. This particular program will
be kicking off a two-week focus on water called
the Water’s Edge. And, in fact, the JCB is
hosting the first event in that series
entitled Fluidity– Knowing Water in the Americas. That will take place on
April 3 with Katherine Ibbett from the University of
Oxford, Bathsheba Demuth from the History Department
and IBIS here at Brown, Noor Johnson, who is a research
scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center,
and John Lopez, who is here as a long-term
fellow at the JCB. In any case, all of this
work that we’ve been doing is directly related
to the theme and topic of Peter’s talk tonight and his
recently produced book Nature and Culture in the
Early Modern Atlantic. He ranges extremely
widely in this book, from a church in Fréjus to the
pages of the Vallard Atlas held at the Huntington Library
from the Drake Manuscript at the Morgan Library to
a Tupinambá headdress held by the National
Museum of Copenhagen. In the book, he is
constantly challenging the boundaries
between the objects and the epistemologies of
those who interpreted them in the early modern world. And one of the particular
contemporary theorists or scholars that it
would be interesting as a preview to probably what my
own question will be at the end is related to anthropologists
such as Philippe Descola, who are looking at the boundary
between nature and culture and trying to challenge
that epistemological break, if you will, by looking at the
ways that indigenous peoples today challenge these
kinds of connections. So I look forward to talking
about that afterwards. Peter Mancall is currently
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, professor
of history and anthropology, Linda and Harlan Martens
Director of the USC Huntington Early Modern Studies
Institute, and Divisional Dean for the Humanities at
the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Luckily, he’s not a
long-term fellow at the JCB because that would
just be too many things to add on to this long list. As I mentioned, his
research focuses on the history of early America,
the early modern Atlantic World, the history of medicine,
environmental history, and Native American history. He has another book
coming out, The Trials of Thomas Morton, which will
be published by Yale in fall of 2019, and is currently
writing Volume 1 of the Oxford History of the United States– American Origins,
as part of which– although he may
be done by then– he will be in residence as
the Harmsworth Professor of American History
at Oxford University. It gives me great pleasure
to welcome Peter and hope that you will join me as well. [APPLAUSE] PETER MANCALL: That
was very generous. Thanks. Can we dim the
lights a little so we can pick up some of
the color on the images? Do I control that? NEIL SAFIER: No. PETER MANCALL: OK. It’s fine. It’s good. OK, thanks. I’m delighted to be here. I love coming to the JCB
and looking at a front row of old friends of mine. In fact, Gordon was here when I
talked about nature at the JCB maybe 10 or 15 years ago to
go along with an exhibit. It’s great to see
Gordon and Tim and Jack and Amy and Kevin and everyone. And this place is so amazing,
great fellows who are here, the world-class collections. And that just makes
me think, oh, poor me, I have to live in
Southern California and deal with the
Huntington Library. It’s OK. I will survive. But it’s just
wonderful to be here. In 2012, I gave a series
of lectures at Penn, and the book just came out
about now two months ago. So when Neil invited
me, it was like, yeah, I’d love to talk
about this new book. I’m not really going to read. If I did the lectures
in real time, we’d be here for
three or four hours. Don’t worry. But I want to show you
some of the images. That’s really what my
talk today is about. I want to set some images
into context and talk briefly about what
this book is about. At the base, what the book is– Neil’s looked at
it, here it is– it’s about a series
of images and texts. Some of them are very well-known
to early American historians. You will see them in here. Some of them are
somewhat well known to specialists in the 16th
century Atlantic World. And some of the ones
at the beginning, I have yet to run into
anyone else who has seen– now this is a very
sophisticated audience, and maybe someone will say,
I’ve been to this place, and we can talk about it– this
church in Fréjus in the south of France. I use the sets of images to make
certain points about nature, and the goal of my
now book is twofold. It’s to say first, what did
people know about nature? Seems fairly straightforward. But as we just this
week or last week mourned the passing of
Alfred Crosby, who came up with the idea of the Columbian
Exchange, part of the book sort of goes and challenges some
of what Professor Crosby did in that book. So part of the book is
about what did people know, and I go into this with a
fairly broad idea about what nature is. And so nature is not
just what you can see, but nature is also, in
the way I think of it, the forces behind things. How did things come to
be the way that they are? And the second
part of the book– and it really is just a
simple two-part model– the second part of the book
is to say, how did people know what they know about nature? So I get into various kinds
of texts and literature. The book is really
on some level, I hope, going to spark
conversations certainly among early modern
Atlanticists, but I really hope among environmental
historians, in part by forcing environmental
historians to look more closely at the 16th century, to
make people think about how to use visual
images as evidence, and to think about oral
history, especially Native American
stories, folklore, and how to integrate them. There are sort of issues about
all of these kinds of sources, which I’m familiar with,
and we’ll sort of, I think, address this as
I go along today. So that’s basically it. It’s a two-part thing. What do people do about nature? And how did they know it? Now before I start, this is
an age of confessional wars that I talk about,
so I’m going to start with three confessions. They’re not earth-shattering
confessions. [LAUGHTER] First, most of what I know
comes from European sources. That includes what I know
about Native American views about nature, which come to us
through these European sources. Second, for a book about
the Atlantic World, there is very little
about Africa in this book. I know that. I’m aware of it. I talk about why that
is in the book a bit. But it’s primarily about
the Americas on the one hand and Europe on the other hand. And third– and I think this is
very important to sort of think about, it was part of one
of Allison Bigelow’s talk yesterday– there are issues of
any modern scholars when dealing with indigenous
bodies of knowledge, and so I just want to tell
you how I do what I do. This’ll take 10 seconds. Before I was at USC, I
was in Lawrence, Kansas. And Lawrence,
Kansas, is the home of the University of Kansas
and Haskell Indian Nations University. And I was there for
12 years, and we’ve had a lot of conversations
across the town. And I’d meet a lot of
people from Haskell, and I was there when
KU and Haskell tried to put together a program. Then in the midst
of my time there, I went down to New Zealand
for a few months. I’d written a book about
Native American alcohol use, and I was invited down
by the Maori section of their equivalent of a
National Institute of Health to talk about Maori alcohol use. There are certain parallels to
North American Native alcohol use. In my experiences
at both in Lawrence and then in New Zealand,
I became very aware of the nature of how
one uses oral history. And so I made the
very deliberate choice in this book to say
that, yes, I am drawing on indigenous knowledge, but
the only indigenous knowledge I draw on here is
printed knowledge. And I do so because
of the issues which are in play in
indigenous communities around the world about who
can tell these stories. So I’m very aware that when I
draw on indigenous knowledge here, I am using an
approximation of it. I’m going to talk today. I’m going to use a 19th
century antiquarian story that he gathered, for example. I’m very aware of these
kinds of limitations, but I think this is important. And in this day
and age, it seems especially important to make
those sorts of confessions clear, OK? That’s kind of what
the book is about. And now I want to take
a look at some pictures. So if I remember
how to use this. This is the kind of
map that all of us who study the 16th century
are familiar with, right? It comes from these great
atlases from the 16th century. And we look at this and we
think, OK, that’s Iceland, and then there are all
these sea monsters there. And so for a long
time, people have said, real, fake, imaginary? Are they sort of
artistic devices? Why are they there? And I thought, hmm,
it’s a good way to sort of think about how
to start a project that talks about nature and nature
in a really broad sense. Because these monsters are
going to keep coming up in what I talk about
today, this other sort of worldly existence,
an existence which we think sort of
disappeared, but remains through this colonial period. So that in mind,
let’s go on a tour. This is Valle des Nymphes. It’s a church, an
11th century church, which was falling down
in the 13th century, and so buttresses
were added to it. It’s in the south of
France in the Rhone Alp. It was situated where
it is– and this picture is quite deliberate–
because of the water. There’s actually a
sacred stream that runs– has anyone been to this place? OK, this wasn’t even
the surprise place. But anyway, this place
is cool to go to. There’s a sacred stream
that runs behind it, and the water from that
forms this pool, which is hundreds of years old,
and the church is there. The church, there’s
no one around this. The community moved away
hundreds of years ago. So people who go
there now are people like me, scholars and people
sort of out on a day trip. What this picture
represents to me– and it’s just a reminder
as I get into this– is that when
Europeans were placing churches in the Middle Ages– I’m marriage to a
medieval historian– they were often looking
for powerful places on the landscape,
places where there were pre-Christian sacred things. Sacred springs
were fairly common. And so this church is at
this place for that reason. Now we could have a long
discussion, maybe a question and answer, and we can talk
about why medieval Europeans are doing this, but it’s placed
there for a specific reason, OK? So that’s an 11th
century church, with buttresses added
in the 13th century. Just that. Here’s the place that
forms a good chunk of the beginning of my book. This is the cathedral
in Fréjus, France. Anyone been? Right. You know why you’ve never been? Because it’s halfway between
Cannes and Saint-Tropez, and no one is going
to go to this town instead of going to
Cannes and Saint-Tropez. It’s completely off
the tourist circuit. It is an old working class
town with this church in the middle of it. The church has a
Roman foundation. I was with my wife. She wanted to look
at a baptismal font from the 5th century,
and I said, OK. We went there. Baptismal font 5th
century not very exciting to an early
American historian. Maybe you guys are into it. Anyway, so I said, OK,
great, I’ve seen this. I’m going to wander
around this church. I’ve never heard of
this place before. And I wander into the
cloister of this church, and in the cloister
of this church, I encounter these paintings. The paintings are like this big. They’re on wooden panels. They’ve been exposed to
the air for 700 years. They were painted
between 1354 and 1366. They were painted
immediately after plague came through this area,
and there were about 1,200 of these panels
painted in that period. About half of them,
maybe a third of them, you can’t see anything on
them anymore because the sun has basically faded them out. You can’t see them. But a number of them you can
see exactly what is going on. So let’s see, I have a couple
of pictures here hoping to get a little closer. So I’m wandering
around, and there is no order to these pictures. There’s none. They’re on these
interlocking panels so you could move them
around, but there’s no records that suggest that
they were ever moved around. They seemed to have been in this
place in the physical location for hundreds of years. So I start to look at
these pictures, and some of the pictures, some
of these panels– they’re about 10
feet off the ground– are exactly what you would think
you would find in a church. A painting of monks,
tonsured monks. OK, that makes sense. Maybe these three brothers
were of this church in the 14th century, and
maybe they were there. And then you look around
some of the other images, and you see scenes
of daily life. There are people who are
probably patrons of the church. There’s one woman having
her hair brushed by another. There are cows and
fish and acrobats and all sorts of things. And then there is a series of
image all interspersed in here, which you would read
iconographically, right? A sort of Christian
symbolism, right? This lamb carrying this cross. And you could read
some that way, and you could read some of
the images and you could say, OK, this is a way of getting
at certain Christian ideas. Fine. But a huge number of
the pictures that remain are of these monstrous
hybrids, and they are interspersed with all
of these other pictures. So what I talk about in
the book is basically you walk through
this cloister, which is about the size from
that table to that rope and about the size of
where you’re sitting around an open courtyard. And I thought to myself, this
is something you never see. This is a depiction of how a
population understood the world at a specific historic moment,
the middle of the 14th century. It doesn’t necessarily
make sense to us. We don’t have an
explanation for it. But there was one monster– I’m just giving you one monster. So I’m thinking,
OK, what do I do with this kind of information? And it sort of set
me on a path to try to think about how people
thought about nature, and it made me rethink
some of the pictures that we deal with
as 16th century scholars of the Atlantic Basin. This is from Sebastian
Münster’s Cosmography. This picture is actually
on the cover of the book. These are the
monsters of the sea. Now, I don’t know how
many of you know Münster, but Münster’s was one of the
great intellectual products of the mid-16th century. It was translated into
multiple languages. It was printed and reprinted
across the continent. It was this great
source of knowledge. If you look at it now,
it’s a little crazy. It’s hard to figure out
the internal organization. It seemed that he tried
to depict the whole world. So he has this image. It’s a drop into the book. So what I’m not
showing you is that on the other side of this
fold, if you put it together, each of those little
letters describes what those creatures are. So you might say, well,
this makes no sense, this is not real. His description
is, these are real, and let me tell you about them. And he describes each of these. So sometimes you
can look at these, you could say, well, that’s
a depiction of a whale or whatever. But in some of these images,
like that, what is that, right? So if I were rethinking
some of the images for this, I could show you– you may know what
this looks like. If you know what an ore
fish is– does anyone know an ore fish? Right. So ore fish, every now and then,
come up onto the shore, right? And you always see
the same picture. There are like 30 people
lined up on the beach, and they’re all holding it. It’s this gigantically
long snake-like fish that comes up periodically. Could an ore fish come up
and wrap itself around a boat and take it down? Likely no. But if you were on that
boat in the 16th century and you saw something
like that and you worried about the dangers
of the sea, you might reasonably
think that that’s exactly what it could do. And so as that information
moves, all these mariners are going out into the sea
and they’re coming back and they’re sharing
these stories, that information starts to get
embedded into visual images. And so we have to look
at these visual images not just to dismiss them as
sort of artistic figments, artistic things on
the edge of a map, but as trying to depict nature. So that’s where I try to go, OK? So now an image, this
audience will know this image. Yes, you recognize this? This is the first image
from late 1493, 1494, that was accompanied in one of
the printings of the Columbus letter that announces the
European discovery of the New World. It’s a great image. It’s worth teaching about this. This is Columbus and
other Europeans coming, and they’re
confronting the Taínos. And the image is very
important, right? You can read all sorts of
things in here, but basically– without going into it because
I want to get to other things– basically sophisticated
Europeans with this very elaborate ship, who are
inquisitive, leaning forward, coming onto the shore, and these
naked primitive Taínos who were recoiling, who are timid. That’s how this artist
depicts that image. If you know Columbus’s text,
the text of that letter– which is reprinted across the
continent in the six or seven years after Columbus
comes back, that letter– Columbus in two
places in that letter says, “I expected to see
monsters, but there were none.” Why does he say that? He says that because he comes
from a world in which Europeans believed in the monstrous
races at the edge of the world. This from the Nuremberg
Chronicle from 1493, right around the
time of Columbus. OK, so Columbus’s point is,
well, I went into this place that you guys don’t know about,
and there were people there. But some of these old ideas,
they don’t die very easily. And so in the mid-1490s,
another illustrated version of Columbus’s letter comes
out, and the text is adverse. It’s Italian. It’s lovely. And here is the image
that’s associated. Columbus does not talk
about these creatures, but the artists,
[INAUDIBLE],, believe that they were still
out there, all the sort of most famous monsters
of the monstrous race, and so there are two images. But here you have a
cyclops, and you have this. This is the sciopedi. This is a guy, he’s famous. He’s a monster who
lies on his back and has one giant foot to
shade himself from the sun. He’s one of most popular
figures in the 16th century. He appears everywhere. So this artist reading
this text, which says, I expected monsters,
but there weren’t, puts monsters in the
illustration to go along with the text, right? Because the artist was
not willing at that point to dislodge, to get rid of
that idea about these things that were out there. For me, this was an opening to
think about how do people think and describe the natural world. The natural world– the
physical environment, the people that
inhabit it, and what are the forces
that are out there, the ideas that people
have that they’re unwilling to get rid of. Historians of science
have written at length about this great
transition that took place from about 1500 to 1700. In 1500, there are monsters in
all sorts of scientific texts. By 1700, they seem
to be disappearing. But the crucial
thing is in 1500, they’re described in the
texts as basically God has done this, right? These are punishments. I mean, there’s long
categories of analysis. By 1700, people had
begun to explain this as sort of accidents
or quirks of nature. But in 1600, in the
midpoint of this– and what my book
is mostly about– we’re in this
transitional period, where new information is
coming in, especially information from the encounter
with the Western hemisphere, and people are
wrestling with, how does this change our sensibilities? What does this mean for us? OK. So part of that then,
what I’ve just told you, is something that a historian of
science of 16th century Europe could say this are
in the sources. What I tried to do in
the book is then say, OK, now let’s see what Native
Americans think about this. My body of information
is very different, but for example, how
do people explain the world as they see it? In 1871, an antiquarian
named Deacon Phineas Field– may be familiar to people here,
I forget where in New England he was working– recorded a story
of native peoples in Western Massachusetts. He doesn’t identify
which indigenous group he was talking with. And the story he
records basically says that there were people out,
there was this local community, and they tried to go fishing. But every time they
tried to go fishing, this big beaver kept
showing up and blocked them from getting the fish. And so they summoned a
monster named Hobmuck, and Hobmuck came and
had an epic battle with this terrible beaver. And finally, Hobmuck rips out an
oak tree and smacks the beaver, and the beaver goes flying
and he sinks into a pond. And you know the story
is true, so this guy wrote, because the Pocumtuck
Range in Western Massachusetts is the head and the
body of that beaver. The landscape is
explained by this battle with these otherworldly forces. Now, I’ll give you a
more famous example. Many of you will
probably recognize Devils Tower in Wyoming. If you don’t recognize
it from that, I will guarantee you
will recognize it from this, which
is Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is
what’s set there, all right? N. Scott Momaday,
the great Kiowa poet, talks about this place. And he says there was a
time when there was a boy and he had seven sisters, and he
chased after his seven sisters. And as he chased after
them, he turned into a bear. And they ran up a tall tree,
and he scurried up after them. And they get to the
top, and to escape him, they go into the cosmos and
they become the Big Dipper, and that bear’s claws
explain why what we call Devil’s Tower
looks the way that it does. Another supernatural explanation
for a natural phenomena. I tell some of these
stories in this book. And the point I’m
trying to make is not that before 1500, Europeans
and Native Americans thought about nature
or spiritual forces in the same way. What I tried to
say in the book is they thought about
nature in ways that was animated by forces
that we don’t necessarily see as natural– supernatural, gods, monsters,
things that we tend to dismiss, but were very much alive on both
sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This book of mine
has a narrative. It goes from that
moment, a chapter which I call “Boundaries,”
trying to figure out what are the
boundaries of nature, into a second chapter, a
second chapter in which I try to rethink aspects of the
Columbian Exchange model by looking at things over time. So if you don’t remember– I know every historian
probably knows this– but The Columbian Exchange was
Crosby’s brilliant model that says basically after Columbus,
Europeans came to the Americas, some Native Americans
went to Europe. The Europeans take out
of America all sorts of natural resources, and
they bring into the Western Hemisphere all sorts
of old [INAUDIBLE] Eurasian diseases, which
have a devastating impact. And so it helps explain
the quick depopulation of much of Western Hemisphere. It’s a great model. I mean, it is a wonderful model. It’s great to teach with. My reading of it,
it’s a little static. So what I thought I would do
in the book is try to say, how do conceptions
of nature evolve over the course of the 16th century? So to do that, I decided I would
focus on certain manuscripts. And so I’m going to show
you some pictures of those. So one of the manuscripts
Neil mentioned is the Vallard, or
Vay-yard, Atlas, which is at the Huntington. I’m going to show
you some pictures, but this is one of
these great things. This has been available online
high resolution for years at a place called the
Digital Scriptorium, so you can go and look at
these pictures for yourself. I’m going to show
you some of them. It’s a folio-size atlas. It’s big,
hand-painted, gorgeous. Obviously, a presentation
copy was never on a boat. This is what some of
the maps look like. It’s famous among
historians of cartography. I suppose this is the
place to talk about this. This might or might
not have the earliest European representation
of a coast of Australia. This is a debatable point, but
there are Portuguese historians of cartography who argue that
that’s what that image depicts. We could debate that. It’s not really my central
argument in this book. What I’m most interested in is
how the Vallard depicts nature. We don’t know who painted it. Vallard was the person who
gathered these maps together and put them together in Dieppe. So we don’t know the artists. There’s not a lot of texts
that go along with this, but there are these images. So that’s Europe, right? And so one of the first
things to realize, that in the middle of the
16th century, the Mercator projection that we
take for granted had not yet been accepted
because that, to us, is upside down, right? North is at the bottom,
and south is at the top. So it tells us something about
the state of cartography that they’re still working out
ideas that we take for granted, but he didn’t. And so he has this image. So here is from Mexico City
to [INAUDIBLE] through Central America into northern
South America. There are five images
in the book that deal with the Western hemisphere. They are lined with all of
these little [INAUDIBLE] and all of these names. Most of this was probably
made up information. If you look closely– and
I would encourage you to go online because you
can see better– if you look at some
of these coastlines, you can see little
dots, little red dots. And the information
that gets back to Dieppe, which was
a great map-making center in the middle
of the 16th century, the information that gets back
is, where is it safe to sail? And those dots are
shoals and reefs trying to warn people
away from specific places. Because if you’ve crossed the
Atlantic Ocean and your ship runs aground, you may
not be coming home. In fact, there’s
a high likelihood. What’s amazing about the Vallard
is the interiors are entirely made up, right? So we have a body of
information about the outside, and then we have
European travel accounts which have described
things on the inside, like the city in the
lake, for example. And then we have these artists
in the coast of France, these fine artists, who are
producing these images that makes it look like there’s
this vast body of knowledge, but a lot of these
are these scenes that they’ve just conjured up. Here is South America from
Brazil heading southward. Great image. I’m going to show you a
couple of details of it, but that’s what the
two-page spread looks like. If you get a little
closer into it, you can see this would be south. This would essentially be–
thinking in your minds– Antarctica, which they
don’t know about yet. And this is basically
sort of a whole myth of the Patagonian giants,
these people who roamed around out there, who some artists
just filled in right there. But the more central part
of this particular picture is this panel, which
is essentially Brazil. This is based on European
information coming out of Brazil since the earliest
years of the 16th century, and it very vividly
tries to show people looking at this the
resources to be extracted and the people they
might find who are there. And so here you see classic
16th century depiction. The Europeans show up
always fully dressed. This very finely
dressed man, he’s carrying a mirror in his hand. He is dragging this bucket
of axes and hatches. Here is someone else
presenting them. The natives, these
are Tupinambás, are depicted as naked, as Native
Americans often are in 16th century images. This Tupinambá headband–
Neil made a comment about the headdress– this Tupinambá
is wearing this feathered headdress. Feathers were an object
of enormous fascination for Europeans in
the 16th century, as were trees or wood that
could be used to produce dye. So what this image is basically
trying to show is here are these people who are
uncivilized, they’re naked, but they’re not
necessarily dangerous. We can work with them to
extract the resources of nature to get these real
products of nature. And at the same
time, we can start to teach them our culture. This would be an idea
that would become embedded and that would be one
of the dominant tropes from the late
mid-16th century on. You can determine when
you think it ended. Here is a close-up of that. Sorry, that was the close-up
I meant to show you before. The people in France– this is of the coast of France– understandably were very
interested in Cartier– in Cartier and
Roberval, I should say. These texts of
Cartier– so Cartier goes twice in the 1530s,
once in the 1540s, Roberval goes once
in the 1540s– there are no illustrations
that they left behind. They came back with
these manuscripts that describe the New France,
manuscripts which at first were not available in France. Cartier’s three
narratives, two of them first appeared in Ramusio’s
account in Italian before they were even
published in France. So this information circulates,
and this is their view of it. So they’re reading Cartier. I don’t know if you’ve read the
Cartier-Roberval narratives, but they’re reading this. Again, we have these
well-dressed Europeans. Cartier, at one point,
talks about building a fort. And here are these
Native peoples. Now here they’re not
naked because it’s cold, so they’re wearing furs. But they’re barefoot
because they’re savages– sauvage. So this is very
important because one of the things that Europeans
wanted in the 16th century were furs because the
Old World supply of furs was so decimated by
the Old World fur trade that now what we know
as Canada or New England was a great source of this. This helps establish
the image idea that the French could go to this
place and extract these furs. In the midst of this– this
is the last sort of image of Western Hemisphere, here
is the Western Hemisphere here on your far right there– there’s this lovely, beautiful
image of these compass roses and these rum lines. And then you begin to realize– you’ve sort of
realized this if you’ve looked at a lot of old maps– they are trying to
represent visually the ways one gets across
the Atlantic Ocean, by trying to figure out what are
the markers at a certain point to catch the currents. This was a big important thing
in the 16th century Europeans figured out, which
helps explain why by the end of the
16th century, there are many more people making
the round trip successfully because they
figured out the wind patterns, the
currents, the tides. This is an effort to
try to depict that. Now this atlas, the Vallard,
was never on a boat. No one took over
these parchments, did these beautiful paintings. This is produced
on land by people who were gathering
this information, and they’re doing it for
probably a royal patron. Probably the king. We don’t know for sure. But other information
is circulating for what you might
think of as the public. So Jean de Léry,
Huguenot missionary, goes to Brazil middle
of the century. When de Bry does his
illustrations, 1592, this picture is in it. I imagine a lot of you
have read Jean de Léry, so I won’t go into it in depth. But one of his visual
scenes that he creates is he said, we’re sailing
across the Atlantic Ocean and it’s amazing,
and you can do this because there are certain
places where the fish will jump up and land on the decks. In other words, you
don’t have to worry about making it across
the ocean because nature– or God, to interpret
it as well– is doing it for us. And then the de Bry
workshop creates this image of these flying
fish landing on the deck. Now, we could have a long debate
about who is seeing these books and pictures, but part of what’s
going on here in the workshop– and I’m going to talk about
the workshop in a few minutes– part of what’s
going on is to try to visualize these sources
that are just in texts. And this is happening
at a point when we all know literacy is relatively
lower, much lower then than it would become later on. Vallard is mid-16th century. The other manuscript
in this chapter about how things evolved
is at the Morgan, the so-called Drake, the
Histoire Naturelle Des Indes. This is a lovely book, but
this is a very small book. And if you’ve seen
it at the Morgan, then you know it’s
like this big. It’s been reprinted in a
facsimile that came out now 30 years ago, I suppose. It’s a manuscript. Not printed at the time. Of uncertain origin. There are various clues. We’re not entirely sure
whose voyages they were. But it depicts nature,
and most of the pictures have a depiction of, say, garlic
or herb and then a little text that goes along with it. Now these are fantastic
delicate little watercolors. I mean, they’re just beautiful. This is tobacco. Now this is not a coincidence. So this is a manuscript created
end of the 16th century. This is the wonder drug
of the 16th century. Tobacco was going to
cure all human ailments, and people have already been
writing about this for 20 years by the time this manuscript
starts to circulate. But among the many health
producing properties of tobacco was one that Europeans
hadn’t written about before, and that is when someone,
say if your friend shoots you in the side with an arrow–
probably more like your enemy shot you in the side
with the arrow– you would lie on a hammock–
they were fascinated with hammocks– you
would lie on a hammock, and someone would
burn tobacco leaves and the smoke from the tobacco
leaves would heal your wound. That’s pretty useful, right? I mean, that’s a very
good thing to have. Now it’s coming at a time
when Europeans, I’d say, already have a sense about
the utility of tobacco, but Europeans are also
afraid of tobacco. So they have text. There’s a great physician in
Seville named Nicolás Monardes who writes about the
wonders of the New World. They have texts which say,
this is how great tobacco is. And then they have images
which basically say, whoa, this stuff is used
in these rituals that we, Europeans,
have observed. You can see the Europeans in
the top right observing this Tupinambán ritual, right? And so part of the question
that Europeans had was, was tobacco safe? And of course,
famously, the King of England in the beginning
of the 17th century thought tobacco was
a very bad idea, even though the English
colonists would eventually become somewhat addicted to it. So the Drake Manuscript
then expands our knowledge, their knowledge, about tobacco. But where it’s really
useful is it shows how indigenous people in the
Caribbean on the coast of South America understood
the physical world they inhabited, and it
does so through a series of images which
were sure to draw the attention of Europeans. This is how they mined
for gold in one picture. This is how they capture
conies or rabbits in another by burning. By this time, by the
late 16th century, no European is
setting fires in order to drive game into
a particular place. That was fairly common in
parts of North America, and the artist of this
also picked up on it. There’s these
fabulous descriptions of these guys out on a boat
with these very thin fibers draped over their
ears as they’re fishing so they could
feel the slightest tug and catch the fish there. They wrote about how they
captured birds and kept them in trees for their
feathers and to eat them. An image which is well known– a lot of it’s in a
lot of books now– talks about how these Natives
could go under the water, hold their breath for
minutes at a time, and come up with whole
batches of pearls. It’s a series of
images which show– very specific point– show
the nature here is amazing, and these people, these
unidentified people, they have figured out
how to extract it. Planting a seed, which would
become more evident as I get to it, that if Native
Americans can do it, imagine what Europeans could
do in the same kind of a place. Now, there were dangers in the
Caribbean and in the Pacific. There were dangers of places
with these wild creatures who they didn’t quite know what
to do with, these crocodiles and whatever. But there was also the
potential for change. And one of the
quirkier images in this is this depiction of this
“vache brave,” this new cow, and the caption basically
tells us this was the product of a European cow
and a native deer or something, right? I mean, it’s basically
suggesting in some fantasy world that the
physical world was going to change when the
Europeans came and made it better. But it wasn’t just
that Europeans would come with animals. Europeans would
also bring ideas. And one of the ideas Europeans
would bring was Christianity, and Christianity would
allow Native peoples to break out of the thrall
of these demonic forces that terrified them, depicted
in this image of this demon out in the woods
and the European grabbing the hand of the
Native and walking out and basically saying, I
will guide you forward, you have nothing to worry
about, this is not real. Let us sort of lead
you, this whole model of cultural evolution. That’s essentially what the
second chapter of the book was In the third chapter– only three chapters and
a little bit at the end– the third chapter I go
to talk about a text that every American
historian knows, and it is Thomas
Harriot’s Briefe and True Report of the New
Found Land of Virginia. This is the cover of the
1590 edition of the book. This is actually the third
printing of the book. It had been printed twice
without illustrations– once as a small pamphlet
in 1588, once again in Hakluyt’s Principall
Navigations in 1589. But this becomes one
of the defining texts. And I would say it is
a law of publishing that every American history
textbook must have pictures from this book, either the
engraving or the John White watercolors on which it’s based. So what we know– and we know a lot about this– there’s an artist named
John White that goes over to the Outer Banks of
Carolina at Roanoke, 1585, does a series of images. They’re going to be on the left
in this series that I show you. Has people posed in
ways that are actually familiar in European
portraiture. Has them posed. These pictures come back. They make it to London. From London, they make
it onto the workshop of de Bry in Frankfurt-am-Main,
and then the workshop engravers create these scenes, which
are very familiar to us. Now, a lot of historians who
aren’t thinking of the images as evidence typically
will say these are the engraved versions
of the paintings. But when you put
them side by side, there’s a vast amount
of information here which is not in the
painting, right? The painting has someone
standing essentially against a blank background. They’ve invented this
whole background. They have imagined
the other side of him, and it goes on and on with
these images, one after another. And the engraved
version of the text isn’t the exact same thing
as earlier printed versions because the text goes– I should have had you pull one
of your copies of the Briefe and True Report. Sorry. If you can imagine the
Briefe and True Report, a number of you have
probably seen it, yes? All right. Well, OK, I’ll tell you. The Briefe and True Report
starts with a lot of text. It has that cover image,
then a series of texts, and then you get to
the end of the text that Harriott wrote and you get
to the first sets of images. And the first sets of
images have these captions, but the captions are not
necessarily from Harriott. The captions are invented
in the printing process. So this is another
layer of information not from the
original text, which is meant to explain what
the viewer is seeing in the engraved version
of the painting, and the engraved version adds
all sorts of information that is not in the painting. So art historians can
look now, they can say, yes, the de Bry
people are really trying to evoke these sort of
classical ideas about beauty, and it’s telling us
something about bodies and how Europeans see
Native American bodies. That’s all true. Absolutely. But there’s a lot
going on here, and I don’t think that these
engravings are just because of artistic things. There is an economy to this. This is an invented
landscape behind him. John White didn’t paint this. But by doing this
in a single sheet, or in the 18 or so sheets,
they could convey a huge amount of visual information
[INAUDIBLE],, which is inferred
from the text itself. And so it goes on and
on, and it’s fantastic. And so, I mean, take
this one of this head lady and her daughter, right? It changes even
what’s in our hands, let alone that it adds all of
this background information. Here is the tomb
of the Werowances. This was basically a place
for the Carolina Algonquins. So Harriott wrote in the
text the Carolina Algonquins would take headmen– this was not a burial scene. This is where the headmen
would be spread out, a fire would be tended
underneath them for a year, as their flesh melted away. And at the end of that
year, their families would come and gather the bones
and take the bones with them where they went. And once a year, they
would polish these bones. What the de Bry workshop
people invented, they create this structure. Now I’m going to come
back to this picture because this turns
out to be a very sort of popular picture
to Europeans who want to depict the Americas. On and on you can sort
of see these inventions. Now one of the useful
things about this text is it is Harriott trying to
show Native religious practice. So imagine it’s 1590. This text is published in Latin,
German, English, and French. This text is published so
a vast number of Europeans can read it as well
as understand it. And you can look
at these pictures, and you could say to
yourself, these people do not practice
religion like we do. But in the text itself, Harriott
has written, some religion they have already, and though
it be far from the truth, they’ll be the more
easier reformed. That is, since they already have
an idea of the spiritual world, what needs to happen is for
more sophisticated people, the Europeans, to
come and alter it. It’d be almost impossible
to teach people about the concept of God
if they didn’t have it. But if they have it and they
have rituals and practices and idols as they do, how
much easier would it be to get them to live the way you want? Because Europeans who read this
texts have an idea in mind, and that sets up my last
few images of this text. On the left is John White’s
depiction of fishing. Looks like a pretty good
place to go fishing, to be honest, right? [INAUDIBLE] And here comes the
engraved version of it. There are way more fish here. The traps that you
can see on the left have become much
more elaborate here. This is sending an even
more specific message about the enormous
abundance of nature in this place and the ability
of these people to harness it. Same thing happens with the
picture of the town of Secota, which is essentially
a compilation of some of the images that
appear in the text. There’s a series of
things here, and then you get to the engraved
version, all of a sudden, there’s much more there. You read the text, and
it’s setting up an idea, and the idea is here
is this place where this indigenous population,
these Caroline Algonquins, have gotten all these
resources from nature. They know how to do this. And this is a place where
we could make things better. But the coup de
grace in the book– for those of you
who know it, you’ll know where I’m going here– is that then a
series of engravings at the end of the book
which have nothing to do with Virginia, and
that is the depiction of the Picts, or the
ancient Britains, with the text that sets
up these images that said, the people of ancient
Britain in times past have been as savage as those of
America, or those of Virginia. And the point is that this
series of images you’ve now worked through– the
great abundance of nature, these Native peoples
who have sorted it out– and then you get to
this as a way of saying, not only are we, Europeans,
going to go to this place, but these people, these Native
peoples are going to become us. It’s a model of
cultural evolution that people are
malleable and can change. Now when I’m teaching my course
on Native American history, I talk about this
at great length because it is not a model– we could have a long debate
about the biases, the arrogance that goes into that– but it is not a
model that says, we want to come and
eliminate these people. It’s a model that says we want
to come and make these people us. It’s embedded in
the series of images when you read them
into that sequence. So 1590, this series
of images comes. They become really important,
and they set the stage. But curiously enough, other
books start to emerge. And this is a cover
page of Raleigh when he goes up the
Orinoco, a text which– many of you may remember– Raleigh goes up the
Orinoco, a very clever text, and he says basically, I didn’t
see any monsters out there, but I heard there were
monsters out there. And he describes in this
kind of secondhand way these monsters, these Amazons,
these people with heads on their chest, these familiar
monsters to 16th century Europeans, and then the
printer of this copy puts those monsters
on the cover. So those monsters
who had been existing since before the time of
Columbus now come back. They’re still in the
Americas somewhere. They’re not in Virginia,
but maybe they’re somewhere in the Orinoco. The de Bry images have
this remarkable afterlife. They keep being used
and used and used. John Smith, 1624– I have a laser pointer,
but [INAUDIBLE]—- these images at the top there
are extracted directly from Harriott’s text. So there’s the title
page, and then– I’m sorry, I’m going
to reach over here– they’ve replaced the
top with this drawn from 1624, drawn from Harriott. Robert Beverly,
more than 100 years after the original
drawings, this is his depiction of Virginia. Now, what’s amazing about
this, when Robert Beverly does this picture of Virginia,
there is a Virginia and it does not
include the Virginia of 1585, which is a separate
place by the time he does this. But they reuse the same images. They re-engrave them
for his History, too. And the picture of that
so-called tomb of the Weroances that keeps appearing until it
appears in Bernard Picart’s magnificent encyclopedia
of the religions of the world in the 1730s. And various specific
images keep appearing. So a tattooed man in 1610,
an English author says, here is what these tattoos mean. And you get to
the 19th century– and I know this is a
really weak picture– but you get to the 19th
century, and there’s this completely strange book. [INAUDIBLE] books all the time,
but this one is really weird. In the 19th century,
someone decided to basically new drawings
of the Harriott things, and he was doing them
because these are old. These are people of the
Aboriginals of America. They redo the images. There’s no new research here. They’re convinced that
these Native peoples are disappearing. It’s a popular literary
trope in the 19th century, and then here is this
text to illustrate it. They could have just
reprinted the things. But instead, they
sort of hand do it. So chapter three
of this book– now I’m going to near my
conclusion here– chapter three of this book is
basically talking about how this idea of the
interaction between nature and culture has evolved over
the course of the 16th century. I end the book with a
short section on insects. It’s a postscript. It wasn’t one of
the lectures I gave. And in this postscript, I
basically compare two texts. I compare one from
16th century Mexico with Muffet’s Theatre of
Insects, a curious text, and I talk about those. But the last picture
I want to show you takes us back to the
Drake Manuscript, and it sort of points to
how to think about nature. The creator of this
goes to the island, goes to the
[INAUDIBLE],, and they are tortured by mosquitoes. But they can’t see them. There’s no microscope to sort
of grab this and look at this and do that. They don’t know how to do that. And so they want to depict
this, this ravishing storm of torment, and all
they managed to do it– and if you see this– it’s
a series of dots on a page. And yet, you get an
immediate sense– oh my god, I don’t
want to be there to experience these things. That is, the visual
makes a point that the text is
incapable of making. 16th and 17th century Europeans
were terrified of mosquitoes. Arctic explorers write at
length about [INAUDIBLE],, that the mosquitoes and
other biting insects are worse than the
cold sometimes. This image sort of gets at that
in this way that is just so– I don’t know, I
wouldn’t say it’s delicious– in a way that’s
like, all these are just dots on a page, and
yet they’re conveying this sort of broad image. That’s what the book is about. It’s about tracing
these ideas about nature over the course
of a hundred years and leaving readers at the end– I hope– with sort
of thinking, well, that’s a more complicated story
than I thought going into it. And I’m going to just leave you
to think about the mosquitoes. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] NEIL SAFIER: We
haven’t seen mosquitoes in a while in New England, so
this is actually kind of a– [LAUGHTER] –A vision of hope. We have plenty of time
for questions and comments for Peter. So please [INAUDIBLE]
respond directly. PETER MANCALL: Please. AUDIENCE: Can you
go back to the image where you were
talking about bringing new ideas, that Europeans
were going to bring new ideas. It had three figures in it. PETER MANCALL:
You tell me when I get to the image you want
because I’m not sure which one you have in mind. That? Is that it? AUDIENCE: That’s it. PETER MANCALL: OK. AUDIENCE: Is that a black
person on the right? PETER MANCALL: That’s a demon. That’s a demon with horns. Now, there is a whole European
discourse about blackness, so it’s not a coincidence. But it is depicting an
otherworldly terrorizing force that comes out at
night out of the woods and scares these unidentified
Native peoples back into their houses. But it’s not white, right. I mean, so you could read
a lot into that image. But the text is basically,
this is a demon. AUDIENCE: So having said that
with the caveat that Africa is not fully integrated
into this book, as you were talking about
the great manuscript, one of the things I particularly
pick on and notice in it is the depiction
of various Africans who are the people
diving for pearls or who are doing some of
the mining as depicted. And I was wondering if
by this time, the 1570s, if some of those Africans
have been in the New World long enough to almost have
become naturalized and a part of and not– PETER MANCALL: Yeah, so
the captions in the Drake, so we know from
very historical work that there are Africans who
show up in the Americas. They’re showing up in
Hispaniola in the first decades of the 16th century. So we know that
they’re there, and we know that there’s
been this destruction of indigenous Caribbean
peoples early on. I mean, Hispaniola by,
what, 1525, 1530, so there’s replacement of it. But my reading of the
Drake is I think along where you’re going,
which is they’ve become sort of naturalized
into this environment. Because I think
what the Drake is trying to show less
about African labors– I mean, that’s a
great way to read it– but more about indigenous
American knowledge about how to take
advantage of what’s here. But I think one of the
challenges of the Drake is we don’t know a lot of
what’s going on there, right? But I do think that, yes, it’s
absolutely reasonable to infer. My point at the beginning about
not having a lot of Africa– I mean, I talk about Africa
in parts of the manuscript. Not very much. And in part, that’s a reflection
of African environmental history, and early modern
African environmental history is really a post-1600 phenomena,
and I just didn’t find. So I’ve looked at Black Rice. I’ve looked at things. So that’s why I say
upfront, I admit there should be
more than there is. [INAUDIBLE] I think
that’d be a good way to have thought about that. Yeah, thank you. Please. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] monsters. PETER MANCALL: Yeah. AUDIENCE: I mean, I noticed
that one of the things you said was that they start to
disappear for a while, then they come back. I just wondered,
is there a change– PETER MANCALL: So I think
they never actually disappear, and I think that what happens
is that they’re always lurking there. And this is where Drake
is useful for us, right? Here is this text. This text was a
very important text. I mean, it’s got political
ramifications to it. He is going into the 16th,
beginning of the 17th century, and he’s sailing. He’s lost all the time. He’s tortured. It’s not fun to be with him. And he’s afraid– I mean, one could
infer– but he never says he sees these things. So part of what I
think is going on is over the course
of the 16th century– and you can see it in
the title of the Briefe and True Report is there is a
growing number of people who used “true” or a variant of it
in the title of their works, and they’re trying to
establish their legitimacy by being eyewitnesses. That is, they’re
not saying, hey, I’m not Mandeville sitting in
my study reading this stuff and pretending I
traveled the world. They’re saying, I went
and saw these things, and you can count on me. I’m not lying to you. These other people
are lying to you. And I think that you see over
the course of the 16th century in these texts this desire to
come more closely to what they see, but they’re still unwilling
to dislodge this idea of what might be out there. And I think the Drake
gives you that moment where you kind of see it. And then the printer slapping
those images on the cover is also trying to make a point. He’s also trying to
sell books, right? And so those are not
original monsters, right? These people, the
[INAUDIBLE] with their heads on their chest and the Amazons,
these are ancient ideas. You see these things in
Fréjus, among other places. But they’re recycling them,
and it’s always just out there. In chapter 1, I trace these
ideas from Pliny and Isidore through this incredible
range of European sources about the monsters that
are always over there. It’s incredibly rich work. And there’s this phenomenal– that must be seven years old– [INAUDIBLE] essay about the
monsters in Marvels of the East from the [INAUDIBLE]. It just is encyclopedic
in how many people do it. There’s no doubt that when
Columbus goes sailing, this is established knowledge. It’s not fantasy. It’s knowledge. Over the course of
the 16th century, as peoples I believe on both
sides of the Atlantic Ocean become– I sort of hint
this in the book– move towards what we would think
of as modern sensibilities– we could debate what that means
about modern sensibilities– these ideas become more
dangerous because people aren’t witnessing with their
eyes, and the publishers want what is the
newest information. We can step back– in this talk I admit
this straight upfront– I collapsed Europeans. But of course, in 16th
century, especially after the Reformation,
these people are in competition
with each other. And so they’re all
trying to tell the truth. They’re all trying to
get patrons and sponsors. They’re all trying to go into
a world that is out there. They have these
stubborn beliefs. And sometimes you look at them
and you think, no, these things don’t exist. And then you look at, say, the
depictions of the Northeast and Northwest Passages– I don’t talk about
this in the book– of these northern routes, which
they’re always looking for– I wrote a book about
Henry Hudson, who died looking for the
Northwest Passage, as did plenty of other
people, and people died looking for the
Northeast Passage. And at some point, you
say, can’t you get it? It doesn’t exist. But of course, with climate
change, they do exist. They were just 300 years
too early to see it. Maybe the monsters are out
there and we haven’t seen them. I don’t mean to pitch
an X-Files episode. But I think these
things come together. There’s competition for eyes,
for audiences, printers trying to tell true things, and
then artists in Europe depicting things that they
don’t see with their own eyes based on verbal reports. Like the Vallard, which is based
on people reading manuscripts– not even printed books– and trying to understand
what it all means. Amy. AUDIENCE: Did you see
only the books that have fine illustrations? PETER MANCALL: Oh, in
the text, in what I do? I mean, I show those. But no, I describe things
which are not illustrations. I don’t limit it to illustrated
works, if that’s the question. AUDIENCE: Because I’m
wondering sometimes there would be a
European who reports what the Indians are saying to
him about what they believe. PETER MANCALL: Right. AUDIENCE: And perhaps they
were illustrated or not. I’m not really sure. I’m thinking about [INAUDIBLE]
and the [INAUDIBLE],, the creature that the Indians
report to him from the Texas coast who torments them
and must be some kind of a monster or a demon. But this is never
illustrated that I know of. PETER MANCALL: Right. And so I don’t use [INAUDIBLE]. I am using [INAUDIBLE]
in the book that I’m writing at
the moment, but I don’t use him for this one. I do include, as historians have
been trying to do for a while now– in fact, I think of one of
Jack’s former students, Jim Merrill, who years ago
when he was writing about the [INAUDIBLE] is
basically also saying, how do we reread
some of these texts to find indigenous perspectives? So I do report stories
that Native peoples have told to Europeans for which
there is no visual information. So that was one of the
frustrations in the book. So I do have a picture of the
book of the Pocomtuc ranch in Western Massachusetts
to illustrate this story about this big beaver
and this monster that they summoned
to come, but I don’t have a lot because
for North America, I didn’t have a lot of things. And that’s where
I’m more comfortable with the visual stuff. And this was very much
not sort of a grand view of all of nature. These were these lectures that
I wanted to sort of open up ways of opposing questions. So not trying to dodge it, but
I don’t know of a lot of things. The visual things I
know from North America tend not to be representational,
these sort of abstract things that we see that we
try to make sense of. But I don’t know of any, so I
didn’t have any that I used. I do talk about
other parts Americas, but the stories for North
America weren’t illustrated. NEIL SAFIER: Maybe one or two. PETER MANCALL: Randall
had a question. AUDIENCE: Sure. I was fascinated there
when you were showing the instance of the process
of an artist converting and adapting those
watercolors of White into a more elaborate
copper-plated engraving. And to me, on one hand,
it’s easy to understand this idea of
retention, that it’s difficult to dislodge the
suspicion that out there somewhere there are
still these monsters. So in a way that’s kind of
one thing, this phenomena of retention of knowledge. But it’s something
quite different, what you’re describing
with the insertion of kind of an idyllic natural time in
the background of those copper plates. And I wondered if you might
elaborate a bit more of what you think is going on there. Is it propagandistic? [INAUDIBLE] this that
they’re [INAUDIBLE].. PETER MANCALL: OK,
great questions. In some sense, it’s hard for
us to tease apart science from propaganda, right? I mean, if you read Harriott’s
Briefe and True Report, it seems like a very
detailed catalog of nature, a detailed catalog of things
that Europeans can extract, and how people live. He describes things,
and every now and then you get his things. When it gets into
the printing shop, the text basically
stays the same. This is invention,
and I think what’s going on is that the
printers and the people at the de Bry workshop,
which did this with a lot of the images– I mean, they produced 38 volumes
by the time they’re done– it’s not efficient just
to put that guy there. It’s more efficient to
create this whole landscape. And I think one could read
these landscapes as places where sometimes there’s battles
going on in the background, some there’s a hunt going
on in the background. It’s not describing
the caption, it’s not describing the texts
at all, but it’s sending this other information. That is, they’re
using the visual to expand upon the actual
knowledge they have. But they’re not doing it
by inventing new text. They’re doing it by
just sort of saying, this is what this kind
of must’ve looked like. That workshop is
responsible for so many of our ideas of the
late 16th, early 17th century about how Native peoples
across the hemisphere– I mean, they go
and redo Columbus and these other things. I mean, this workshop is
just churning out volume after volume. But the first
volume they put out and the only one they
put out in four languages is Harriott’s Briefe
and True Report. After that, they never published
in English or French again. They only published
in German and Latin. Infer that [INAUDIBLE]
wouldn’t buy it. I don’t know what
the answer would be. But I think it was really
a printer’s strategy from trying to give more
information than the text had, to guess. I don’t think anyone has a
definitive answer to that. AUDIENCE: Is there
another one there? NEIL SAFIER: There is, yes. We can do at least
two last questions. AUDIENCE: All right. So I noticed that a lot
of the monsters depicted were some mutation
of the human form, aside from the sea
monsters, and I was wondering if there
is a conscious mentality behind that propagation
of humanoid monsters when there are many
others to choose from– PETER MANCALL: So
that’s a great question. A lot of them are these hybrid
creatures who look like humans, but they’re not humans. So the trick in reading
them is they are depicted, in this thinking
as monstrous races, that these are entities
that exist [INAUDIBLE],, and Europeans in
the 16th century are trying to figure
out why they exist. I mean, I could show
you all their pictures which would come
closer to your thing. That is, pictures, say, from
Münster in which he talks about sort of basically what we would
think of as people with various kinds of birth anomalies that
he describes as monsters. The Krakow monster is
one that he has in there. Most of the pictures
of the monsters are not saying these
are people that are going to evolve into people. There is a real break between
the humans on the one hand, the Picts, who are
savage but human, and the Blemmy who has the head
on his chest, who is a monster and is never going
to become civilized. So there is a break. But they do take on these
various human characteristics, although some of
them are super– this is a terrible thing for
[INAUDIBLE]—- super weird. I mean, there’s one of these
creatures at Fréjus which has this body of this animal
and then this long neck, and then it ends up the
head is a fleur-de-lis. There is no head. It’s just this abstract symbol. What is going on there? So anyway, Tim, last question. AUDIENCE: Because I was
going to ask about the Picts because it strikes me that the
ideology behind that, the way you showed that it
is contested, and I wondered if you could say– PETER MANCALL: Contested. AUDIENCE: Contested. PETER MANCALL: I know. I heard you. Yes, I’m listening. AUDIENCE: Because they
do make that argument for [INAUDIBLE],, that we
can eventually civilize these people [INAUDIBLE]. We just need to live
in this agriculture, make them live like
English people, and they will become like us. But of course, they know by the
1590s that that’s not working, and there are arguments that
they can never become like us. And actually if we intermix with
them, we will be degenerative. We will [INAUDIBLE]. PETER MANCALL: We’ll become
the Old Irish, the Old English, whatever the phrase was. Right. AUDIENCE: And likewise,
with the Picts, I mean, there is the
argument that you see in the early 17th
century that the reason why the Scots are so awful is
because they’re descended from the Picts and
they could never become like us because
they’re Pictish. And so I’m just wondering, you
got one side in that debate– PETER MANCALL: I do. [INTERPOSING VOICES] PETER MANCALL: Yeah,
I’m willing [INAUDIBLE].. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] the Native
Americans are seen as naked? Because they can become like us,
whereas the [INAUDIBLE] and so many other things. They’ve got Catholicism. They’ve got everything else. And this is a naked thing you
can work with, and you can– PETER MANCALL: So I would
say that though there could be a debate about the
Picts and the Scots, it’s still in the 17th century
that the Briefe and True Report is really the end
of a hundred-year narrative of this idea of the malleability
of Native Americans. So that text comes out. That text comes out when the
English are not necessarily all in on colonizing, all
in on making an investment. And it is– this goes
to Randall’s point– there is a promotional aspect
to this, and part of that is to say, this will work. So the Picts are used in this
texts as, we were savage– “we”, English were savage– now we’re not. It’s not part of
that other debate about peoples of the north. There’s this other
phrase for it I forget, this sort of these wild peoples. I’m not engaging
in that because I’m looking more to the Americans. I mean, it’s a great question. I could’ve perhaps
engaged in it, but I didn’t because
I see this as part of this American
narrative that goes back from basically Columbus and the
[INAUDIBLE] reaching forward to the Carolina Algonquins, as
we can civilize these people. And it happens on
multiple layers, and it helps change this idea
of what the natural world is and how we live in it. AUDIENCE: It was
interesting they could keep thinking like
that even though they must know [INAUDIBLE]. PETER MANCALL: They keep
thinking about the monsters, too. NEIL SAFIER: So we have
a wonderful reception that we cordially invite
you to partake in. While you are enjoying
the refreshments, we also have a
wonderful exhibition that is currently on, which
is called Rooms of Their Own– Dwellings of the
Enslaved and the Free in the Early Americas, which
brings Africa into this story. And it’s put on by our
curator of maps and prints, newly arrived
Bertie Mandelblatt. So please enjoy that. And finally, I do want to
say that although we did not do a special exhibition
of some of the books that Peter discussed,
we fortunately on that side of the room
have the Petit and Grand Voyage of de Bry that
were ripped apart in the 19th century and placed
in those spectacular red Moroccan bindings. And with the assistance of Stijn
Van Rossem, our new curator of European books, whom I
am volunteering to help me, we can take one of
those out and show anybody who has
never seen them live and in the flesh over there
for the first 10 minutes or so if you would
like to see one. For those of you who
just want to have drinks, just stay on this side. So join me in thanking
Peter Mancall. [APPLAUSE] PETER MANCALL: Thank you.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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