“Savages”, Anglo-French competition, and the circulation of knowledge in the eighteenth-century North Atlantic
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.
Lists of words and expressions in translation from European languages to “savage” idioms – and sometimes viceversa – have been been a key feature of travel accounts since the earliest contacts between European travellers and American societies.
These vocabularies today tell us a lot about how European observers saw, represented, and interacted with their Amerindian interlocutors. Under a typographical organisation which usually suggests an objective registration of equivalences between different languages, these lists more often reflect trade jargons and pidgins, and inclusions and absences might reveal prejudices and curiosities that shaped the European explorers’ – and later colonial administrators’s – perspectives on the “New Indies” (as the telling quote in the title, from Jacques Sagard’s Grand Voyagedu Pays des Hurons, 1632, suggests).
Preparing this paper for 2020 edition of Translating Cultures gave me the chance to focus on the linguistic issues connected with the conceptualisation of Amerindian societies in eighteenth-century European culture.
About Translating Cultures (from the official website): “Started in 2009 by Rolando Minuti and Antonella Romano as a joint seminar for History PhD students in the Dipartimento di studi storici e geografici (University of Florence) and the Department of History and Civilization (European University Institute), the workshop is now developing into an extended, permanent programme and a network of projects and initiatives that converge on the topic of cultural interaction”.
Cite this article as: Giulia Iannuzzi, "“Me veux-tu manger? – Dyoutsenten”: “Savage” phrasebooks for European travellers in the early-modern North Atlantic," in Geographies of Time, 01/03/2020, https://ian.hypotheses.org/962.
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“We are fond of searching into remote Antiquity, to know the Manners of our earliest Progenitors; and, if I am not mistaken, the Indians are living Images of them.”
I presented this paper – titled “The Indians are a People that never value their time”: Mappature dei “selvaggi” e concettualizzazioni del tempo storiconello spazio nordatlantico del primo Settecento – at the 2019 conference of the Italian Society for the Study of the XVIII century (L’invenzione del passato nel XVIII secolo, 27-29 May 2019).
Aim of this research is to look at and locate conceptions of time as part of the processes that characterized European encounters with populations perceived and represented as ‘others’ during the eighteenth century, in order to lay bare the connections between the development of new ideas of time and the geographical expansion of Western colonial powers.
At the postgraduate conference “Forme e linguaggi della comunicazione storica, dall’antichità all’epoca contemporanea” in 2019 I delivered a paper drawing on Cadwallader Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations (1727, 1747) to reflect on textual genealogies and translations in the late-modern Nord Atlantic.
In this research I came across quite a few significant loci in which the history of American “savages” became a competing ground between English and French authors, and the Indian eloquence a fascinating topic for Eighteenth-century travellers and writers to argue the status of American societies as instances of humanity in its infancy.
The conference was organized by some colleagues from the PhD course in Historical Studies at the University of Florence. They did an amazing job putting together a programme across disciplinary boundaries.