Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories)

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9781316547441: Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories)

Giants, cannibals and other monsters were a regular feature of Renaissance illustrated maps, inhabiting the Americas alongside other indigenous peoples. In a new approach to views of distant peoples, Surekha Davies analyzes this archive alongside prints, costume books and geographical writing. Using sources from Iberia, France, the German lands, the Low Countries, Italy and England, Davies argues that mapmakers and viewers saw these maps as careful syntheses that enabled viewers to compare different peoples. In an age when scholars, missionaries, native peoples and colonial officials debated whether New World inhabitants could - or should - be converted or enslaved, maps were uniquely suited for assessing the impact of environment on bodies and temperaments. Through innovative interdisciplinary methods connecting the European Renaissance to the Atlantic world, Davies uses new sources and questions to explore science as a visual pursuit, revealing how debates about the relationship between humans and monstrous peoples challenged colonial expansion.

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Book Description:

Surekha Davies examines how Renaissance illustrated maps shaped ideas about peoples of the Americas, revealing how mapmakers devised detailed images and descriptions that placed peoples within a hierarchy of civility and savagery. Davies shows how ideas about monstrosity were crucial for early modern ethnology and, consequently, for colonial expansion.

About the Author:

Surekha Davies is a cultural historian and historian of science at Western Connecticut State University. Her interests include exploration, observational sciences, cultural encounters, monstrosity and the history of mentalities c.1400-1800. Formerly a British Library Curator and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, she is a Founding Editor of the series 'Maps, Spaces, Cultures' (Brill). She has held fellowships at the John Carter Brown Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library of Congress and the Newberry Library, and been funded by the American Historical Association and the American Philosophical Society. Her publications include articles in The Historical Journal, History and Anthropology, Renaissance Studies and The Journal of Early Modern History.

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