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9-08-2015, 18:25

Europe in the world, 1600–1789

B y a century after Columbus’s fi rst expedition, his voyages were already history. Authors and editors in many parts of Europe had used his journals and letters, along with those of other captains, mariners, soldiers, and missionaries, to weave a story of travel, exploration, and conquest, and then commented on that story, literally transforming it into history. Two English clergymen, Thomas Hakluyt (1552–1616) and Samuel Purchas (1575?–1626), were important creators of that history. As a student at Oxford, Hakluyt read everything he could about European explorations, began giving lectures on geography, and published a history of voyages, highlighting those made under the English fl ag. This brought him to the attention of members of court, and he was sent as the chaplain with an English delegation to Paris, where he was to listen for information about French and Spanish actions in the New World and anything else that might prove helpful to English interests. He continued to gather stories, translated and published a French history of voyages to Florida, wrote several works in Latin, and on returning to England published the fi rst edition of his chief work, The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589), which he later expanded to three volumes. The Principal Navigations includes texts written by many voyagers, famous and largely unknown, which Hakluyt reports that he included “word for word,” rescuing them from “musty darkness . . . misty corners . . . and perpetual oblivion.” His prefaces make clear that he hoped these works would encourage more English voyages to the west, which would help spread Christianity, allow England to obtain tropical products such as silk and spices on its own, widen the market for English cloth, and transform England into a powerful nation. Hakluyt’s promotion of exploration was not limited to writing. He became an advisor to the British East India Company and an important voice in the group urging King James to found colonies in North America. He gained the position of vicar in the Anglican Church of the next English settlement in North America whenever it was founded, which, like most clerical posts (of which Hakluyt already had several), brought an income. When that settlement – named, unsurprisingly, Jamestown – was actually established in 1607, Hakluyt sent a curate to carry out the actual clerical duties, a standard pattern in the Anglican Church. His various church positions made him a wealthy man, and he invested in overseas voyages, becoming, in the word used at the time, an “adventurer.” He also continued to translate and publish reports of voyages, and encouraged the translation of all types of works on the world beyond Europe. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, a high honor. Samuel Purchas was not as fortunate as Hakluyt, though their careers followed similar paths. Like Hakluyt, he also became interested in the voyages of exploration while a student and held a series of church positions, writing two works of what we might term comparative religious history based on reading Hakluyt and other works: Purchas, his Pilgrimage; or, Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages (1613) and Purchas, his Pilgrim. Microcosmus, or the histories of Man. Relating the wonders of his Generation, vanities in his Degeneration, Necessity of his Regeneration (1619). The two men met in 1613, but personal disagreements apparently kept Purchas from acquiring Hakluyt’s voluminous papers until after his death. Those papers – both Hakluyt’s own unpublished notes and the many journals, log-books, and other sources he had collected – formed the basis for Purchas’s huge multiple-volume work: Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes, contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Lande Travells, by Englishmen and others (1625–6). Purchas was not as careful an editor as Hakluyt, but most of the original manuscripts on which he based his work have been lost, so the book contains information available nowhere else. Hakluytus Posthumus also includes Purchas’s refl ections on the history he was telling and that Hakluyt helped to make. Purchas commented that Europe was the smallest continent, but that “the Qualitie of Europe exceeds her Quantitie” in many things: If I speake of Arts and Inventions (which are Men’s properest goods, immortall Inheritance to our mortalitie) what have the rest of the world comparable? First the Liberall Arts are most liberall to us, having long since forsaken their Seminaries in Asia and Afrike, and here erected Colleges and Universities. And if one Athens in the east (the antient Europaean glory) now by Turkish Barbarisme be infected, how many Christian Athenses have wee in the west for it. As for Mechanicall Sciences, I could reckon . . . the many artifi cial Mazes and Labyrinths in our watches, the great heavenly Orbes and motions installed in so small a model . . . Who ever tooke possession of the huge Ocean, and made procession round about the vast Earth? Who ever discovered new Constellations, saluted the Frozen Poles, subjected the Burning Zones? … And is this all? Is Europe onely a fruitfull Field, a well watered garden, a pleasant Paradise in Nature? A continued Citie for habitation? Queene of the World for power? A School of Arts Liberall, Shop of Mechnicall, tents of Military, Arsenall of Weapons and shipping? Nay, these are the least of Her praises, or His rather, who hath given Europe more than Eagle’s wings, and lifted her up above the Starres … Europe is taught the way to scale Heaven, not by Mathematicall principles, but by Divine veritie. Jesus Christ is their way, their truth, their life; who hath long since given a Bill of Divorce to ungrateful Asia where hee was borne, and Africa the place of his fl ight and refuge, and is become almost wholly and onely European. 1 Purchas’s comments about Europe’s taking “possession of the whole Ocean” were a bit premature in 1625. At that point, the Spanish controlled most of Central America, Peru, the Philippines, and some islands in the Caribbean, and loosely held the north and west coast of South America. The Dutch and the Portuguese shared the coast of Brazil and some fortifi ed trading posts on islands and coasts in the Indian Ocean and western Africa. However, the French colony in Quebec had a total population of eightyfi ve, and the two English colonies in North America, Jamestown and Plymouth, and the one Dutch colony, New Netherland, were also tiny and brand new. English sailors had just landed on Barbados, but there were no settlers there yet. By 1789 the picture was very different. Spain and Portugal had effective control of much of South America, and Spanish holdings in Central America stretched into early modern europe, 1450–1789 North America; Portugal had several trading colonies on the African coasts, and Goa in India. The French Empire around the world had been signifi cantly reduced by its losses in the Seven Years War (1756–63), but still included well-populated islands in the Caribbean, French Guiana in South America, and smaller colonies around the Indian Ocean and the Pacifi c and along the coast of Africa. Dutch power had declined since its seventeenth-century heights, and Dutch trade had been severely disrupted during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–4), but the Dutch still held most of the East Indies, Ceylon, several islands in the Caribbean, and Surinam in South America. Purchas’s own Britain was doing the best. Though it had recently lost some of its North American holdings in the War of American Independence (1775–83), it still held much of North America, many of the islands in the Caribbean, and a small colony in Central America. A British company had direct rule of part of India, and indirect rule of more. Britain claimed islands in the Pacifi c, had a fort on Vancouver Island on the west coast of North America, and had just established the fi rst colony in Australia. European ventures throughout the world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were similar in many ways to those in the sixteenth century that we traced in chapter 7 , but they also involved new themes and players. Explorers continued to search for routes from Europe to Asia, but also gathered scientifi c information and pushed further into the interiors of North and South America. Rulers continued to support exploration and colonization, but private companies became more important, providing fi nancial backing, ships, and personnel. In some places these private companies became the actual territorial rulers, working with or displacing indigenous authorities. Colonies continued to provide wealth to monarchs and private investors through the extraction of natural resources such as precious metals and furs, but plantations of tropical crops using slave labor or other types of forced labor systems became the most signifi cant engines of wealth. The European presence in some parts of the world remained limited to small isolated trading posts, but in other areas large numbers of Europeans and their descendants, along with people from other continents brought in by Europeans, came to vastly outnumber indigenous peoples. In every colonial area, Europeans developed systems of defi ning and regulating the various peoples under their control based on conceptualizations of difference that changed during this period.

 

 

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