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Implicit Understandings: Observing,…
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Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting and Reflecting on the…

by Stuart B. Schwartz (Editor)

Other authors: Rolena Adorno (Contributor), Diane Bell (Contributor), James A. Boon (Contributor), Chandra Richard de Silva (Contributor), Greg Dening (Contributor)14 more, John B. Friedman (Contributor), Mary W. Helms (Contributor), Peter Hulme (Contributor), Miguel Angel Ladero Quesada (Contributor), James Lockhart (Contributor), Wyatt MacGaffey (Contributor), David Morgan (Contributor), Willard J. Peterson (Contributor), Seymour Phillips (Contributor), Anthony Reid (Contributor), Ronald P. Toby (Contributor), Eduardo Aznar Vallejo (Contributor), Ann Waltner (Contributor), Peter H. Wood (Contributor)

Series: Studies in Comparative Early Modern History (1994)

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Schwartz sets up the post-modern problematic nicely in the introduction to this collection. He asks us, in essence, whether narratives merely tell us about the narrator or can we still learn something about the subject of the narration? It's the old objectivity question all over again...

In the concept of "implicit understandings," we can rescue something of the objectivity of ages gone by ...

"Members of each society held ideas, often unstated, of themselves and 'others' and the things that gave them such identities: language, color, ethnicity, kinship, gender, religion, and so on. These understandings were often implicit in the sense of being unstated or assumed, a kind of common knowledge or common sense that did not have to be articulated or codified but that permeated the way in which people thought and acted." (p. 3)

On the European side, the ideas of the Reformation and then the Enlightenment led to universalist ideologies and theories of development which posited that some people were "more" and others "less" developed. But the tensions between universalism and exceptionalism are not unique to the Early Modern Europeans, but rather a common trope in many civilizations (Schwartz points to the Chinese history).

Seymour Phillips argues that European understandings were based upon observations of other peoples but that they were also conditioned by a powerful mythology, religious beliefs and ancient texts. The superiority which the Europeans brought to the new world was practiced in the anteroom of Europe before crossing the seas, with Irish and Welch and Baltic peoples already cast as inferiors in Europe itself.

John Friedman studies Medieval Maps to understand the conceptions of the world they reveal. He discovers, unsurprisingly, that the maps of Medieval Europe demonstrate the centrality of Christianity and the Europeans themselves.

Peter Hulme's study of the Canary Islands as a precursor to the conquest of the Caribbean is enlightening. The Canaries provided both a mental and a military proving ground for conceptions of "the other". The inhabitants were pagan, undressed and "bestial" to the Europeans. When Columbus sailed from the Canaries en route to the "new world," he was carrying with him images of "savages" conditioned by this experience. Indeed, the European conception of gender aided him in categorizing Arawaks as "feminine" and Caribs as "masculine".
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Schwartz, Stuart B.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adorno, RolenaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, DianeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boon, James A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Silva, Chandra RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dening, GregContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Friedman, John B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Helms, Mary W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hulme, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ladero Quesada, Miguel AngelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lockhart, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacGaffey, WyattContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morgan, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peterson, Willard J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phillips, SeymourContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reid, AnthonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Toby, Ronald P.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vallejo, Eduardo AznarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waltner, AnnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wood, Peter H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521458803, Paperback)

This volume brings together the work of twenty scholars who have tried to examine the nature of the encounter between Europeans and the other peoples of the world from roughly 1450 to 1800, the Early Modern era. This volume is world-wide in scope but is unified by the central underlying theme that implicit understandings influence every culture's ideas about itself and others. These understandings, however, are changed by experience in a constantly shifting process in which both sides participate, and that makes such encounters complex historical events and moments of discovery.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:47 -0400)

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