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Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Early Modern World (NCHHI673)

30 Credits

This course explores encounters between Europeans and the wider world during the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century period of discovery, conquest, and colonization. An exploration of the mentalities that accompanied and justified early-modern European expansion is crucial to understanding the age. We consider multiple cultural and interracial encounters, studying the narratives about and attitudes towards them, and the ways of negotiating cultural difference.

We concentrate first on the Spanish encounters with the Mexíca and the Maya: the motivations of the conquistadors, native American accounts, and the efforts of missionaries. We then explore the English in North America, considering early sixteenth-century texts like Hariot and Ralegh, but also later seventeenth-century accounts of settlement and the relations between the settlers and native peoples, including European captivity narratives. We then examine travel writing about the ‘Orient’, and the attempts to trade, convert, and colonize in Asia. We consider the Jesuit missions to Japan, and we also look at how Black communities lived through Europe during that time before turning our interest to the cross-cultural exchanges between Christian and Muslim countries (European countries and the Ottoman and Moroccan Empires).

Above all, this course takes as its subject the cross-cultural encounters between different peoples, and the often-problematic narratives about such moments, where propaganda, self-justification, rhetoric, and self-fashioning all played their part in the construction of ideas.