At the dawn of the Franco-Indian and the Seven-Years Wars – which would place the North Atlantic at the centre of a new, global balance between European powers – the North American space is fought over by means of historical narrations and forms of geographic-historical knowledge.
In cartographic representations as well as in accounts of travels and explorations written in English and published on both side of the Atlantic, often with the explicit aim of assisting the administration and economic development of the colonies, the history of the American “savages” becomes an arena for competing with the French authors, in which stereotypical elements cohabit with a proto-ethnographic curiosity for the radical otherness of American societies.
The relationship with the Francophone sources of authors such as John Lawson, Cadwallader Colden, and Jonathan Carver, is better understood against the backdrop of broader issues regarding the circulation of knowledge and news in the “new world”.
Amerindian systems of communication and registration of the past led European actors to interrogate their methodology, and to incorporate (or obliterate) the role of translators and interpreters, of oral sources, and of intelligence on territories produced outside the disciplinary borders of the European system of knowledge.
The quote in the title of this post is from Carver’s Three years Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America […] (1778; Philadelphia, 1796), i.
I look forward to give a paper on this topic during this year SeminArno: Seminario interuniversitario di ricerca storica Firenze-Pisa. Circolazione dei saperi e costruzione delle identità dal Medioevo all’età contemporanea.
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