at Eighteenth-Century Research Seminars – 2021 Programme
This paper explores the vocabularies of Native American languages published as part of the travel accounts written by explorers, traders, and colonial policy-makers in North America, in the course of the eighteenth century.
Starting with the renowned Voyages by the Baron de Lahontan, the aim of this paper is to foreground what these lexicographic compilations reveal about European encounters with societies categorised as radically different from – and less civilised than – the traveller’s own: an ‘otherness’ sometimes exploited as a mirror and term of comparison that challenges the observer’s ethnocentrism.
Drawing on existing scholarship about the cultural history of Euro-American encounters in the modern age, this study puts forward an original analysis of the temporal conceptualisations underpinning vocabularies of ‘savage languages’, both in terms of historical diachronicity and of time as a culturally constructed frame of human experience.
The focus on the lists of words and phrases included in travel accounts, journals and relations makes it possible to question the relationship between the recording of linguistic evidence and travel narratives, and explore the complex negotiations between empirical observation and pre-existing cultural categories and stereotypes.
A close reading of these often understudied primary sources contributes to identify recurrent conceptual tropes and assign a central role to the historicisation of Native Americans within wider processes of cultural construction of a global Europeanness.
This presentation is part of
Eighteenth-Century Research Seminars 2021 Programme
Imagined conflicts-to-come between the nineteenth century and the eve of WWI
By the beginning of the Twentieth century, the imagery related to future wars already had precedents, having been a topic touched upon in future-set narratives across different textual genres since the Seventeenth century. Early examples had used ominous depictions of future invasions and scenarios of armed conflict to argue in favour of specific political options in texts whose primary aim was to influence the political debates of the day.
During the first years of the nineteenth century, however, future-war literary fictions were few in number, while war technologies were of course object of fantastic representations also unrelated to future settings, a notable example being Baron Munchausen’s adventures on battle fields and on cannonballs becoming means of transport across Earthly territories and even to the moon. Future settings were also exploited by prophetic novels imagining remote futures for humanity or one subject as the sole survivor of a catastrophe indebted to Romantic inspiration (e.g. Restif de la Bretonne’s Les Posthumes in 1802, Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville’s Le Dernier homme in 1805, Félix Bodin, Le Roman de l’avenir in 1834). While important milestones were reached in later decades by Louis Geoffroy’s alternative historyNapoleon et la conquête du monde 1812-1832: Histoire de la Monarchie universelle (1836), and by the American Civil War imagined by two American authors, Nathaniel B. Tucker (The Partisan Leader, 1836) and Edmund Ruffin (Anticipations of the Future, 1860), future-war narratives did not become a codified sub-genre until the 1870s.
By then, the presence of intertextual references to similar texts, a shared encyclopaedia of recurring motives and topoi, and textual devices implying a recognition of existing readers’ expectations had gradually led to the sub-genre taking shape, helped by the emergence of a mass market for magazines and books, a rich breeding ground for popular publishing formulas.
Particular attention has been paid by recent scholarship to the seminal role of George T. Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking (1871), given the innovative nature of a setting located in a very near future, and the public debate that followed its publication in England, originating sequels, editions, and translations over a number of European countries and the US. Designed to encourage reform and modernisation in the British army, Chesney’s book was written after the Franco-Prussian War, and envisaged a scenario in which Germany had taken France’s place as the invader able to cross the English Channel. According to Mike Ashley, “Chesney’s alarmist story had catapulted the genre of future-war fiction into the public arena.”
The ensuing decades saw waves of imagined conflicts-to-come especially notable in England and Germany, in the short-story form as well as in serialized long narratives and volume-length novels. Depicted conflicts were consumed between European powers, as well as on a global scale (such as Robida’s La guerre au vingtième siècle, and Giffard and Robida’s La guerre infernale). Invasions from the east were relevant to the codification of the Yellow Peril theme (e.g. M. P. Shiel’s The Yellow Danger, 1898), and threats from mad scientists and terrorist organizations were also imagined (e.g. George Griffith’s The Angel of the Revolution, 1893).
In H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898), the novelty of having extraterrestrials as invaders made explicit the relationship between ideas of progress and the recourse to the future as an imaginative device for conducting hypothetical experiments, informed by conceptualisations of historical time as characterised by a unidirectional flow. As John Rieder has argued, “… Wells asks his English readers to compare the Martian invasion of Earth with the Europeans’ genocidal invasion of the Tasmanians, thus demanding that the colonisers imagine themselves as the colonised, or the about-to-be-colonised. … the analogy rests on the logic prevalent in contemporary anthropology that the indigenous, primitive other’s present is the colonizer’s own past … The confrontation of humans and Martians is thus a kind of anachronism, an incongruous co-habitation of the same moment by people and artefacts from different times.”
In the years immediately preceding World War I, future wars became part of a proto-science fiction repertoire, in works written, published and read as entertainment. Notable cases include William LeQueux’s bestseller The Invasion of 1910 (1906), and Saki [Hector H. Munro]’s When William Came: A Story of London Under the Hohenzollerns (1913), apt examples of the coeval Germanophobia caused in England by the perception of an increasing Teutonic menace. Imagined conflicts became a fairly well-established subgenre, in which technology supplied a spectacular element, while being a focal point for anxieties related to the increasing speed of technological progress and world connections, as well as of international relations characterised by instability and/or by the emergence of non-Western actors such as Japan and China, with their economic and demographic power.
The next post will aim to understand and critically assess the wave(s) of future-war narratives that characterized European illustrated periodicals and book markets before 1914.
 [Rudolf Erich Raspe], Gulliver revived, or The vice of lying properly exposed. … Also an account of a voyage into the moon and Dog-Star; with many extraordinary particulars relative to the cooking animal in those planets, which are there called the human species (London: Printed for C. and G. Kearsley, 1793).
 Marc Angenot, “Science Fiction in France before Verne,” Science Fiction Studies 5, no. 14 (1978): 58-76.
 Published anonymously until 1841; Pierre Versins, Encyclopédie de l’utopie, des voyages extraordinaires & de la science-fiction (Lausanne: L’âge d’homme, 1972), ad vocem.
 Darko Suvin, “Victorian Science Fiction, 1871-85: The Rise of the Alternative History Sub-Genre,” Science-Fiction Studies 10, no. 2, (1983): 148-169; see also Brian M. Stableford, “Future War,” SFE: Science Fiction Encyclopedia, ed. John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, Graham Sleight, 2005, last version 2018, http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/future_war.
 First published in Blackwood’s Magazine, and reprinted as a stand-alone pamphlet. A contemporary edition is in Clarke, British Future Fiction, vol. 6: 1-44; on its reception: I. F. Clarke, “Before and after ‘The Battle of Dorking,’’’ Science Fiction Studies 24, no. 1 (1997): 33-46, see 42-44; on its innovative role see also: Paul K. Alkon, Origins of Futuristic Fiction (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 40.
 Mike Ashley, “The Fear of Invasion,” British Library, Discovering Literature: Romantics & Victorians, 15 May 2014, https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-fear-of-invasion.
 John Rieder, Colonialsm and the Emergence of Science Fiction (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), qt. 5.
 Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 90.
 Cecil D. Eby, The Road to Armageddon: The Martial Spirit in English Popular Literature, 1870-1914 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988), 33 and ff., 80 and ff.
This post is adapted from Giulia Iannuzzi, “The Illustrator and the Global Wars to Come: Albert Robida, La guerre infernale, and the Long History of Imagined Warfare”, Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 22 (2019): 95-136; par. “Techno-apocalypses”, pp. 111-113. DOI: 10.13128/cromohs-11706. Full text available in open access: https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/cromohs/article/view/11706.
Imagined conflicts to come at the 11th Annual Symposium of the Research Network on the History of the Idea of Europe
I’m delighted to take part in Waging War and Making Peace: European Ways of Inciting and Containing Armed Conflict, 1648–2020, the 11th Annual Symposium of the Research Network on the History of the Idea of Europe, which was scheduled to take place in Venice, and it has now been moved online
My presentation will focus on Waging Future Wars: Imagined Techno-Apocalypses and the Birth of a Global Consciousness in the European Mind, adopting speculative fiction as a vantage point to examine fears related to techno-scientific progress and racialized enemies.
Podcasts and webinars to keep in contact with what’s going on in the scholarly community
Here’s a selection of recent and ongoing initiatives and virtual spaces to keep in (social-distanced) contact with current researches and what’s going on in the scholarly community.
PiMo-Globhis,Visual grammars of globalization, virtual seminar: coordinated by Giovanni Tarantino, this seminar was held the 6th of May (I will post an update should a recording be made available). This seminar showcased a series of fascinating early-modern case studies as regards visual and material cultures and globalization processes, tackled through the theoretical lens of Gerd Baumann ‘grammars of identity/alterity’.