New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta: Cultural Crossroads
2020 Abstracts & Speaker Bios
(in alphabetical order by author)
Geographical Knowledge as Power: The Role of the Society of Jesus and the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris in the Early Exploration of Louisiana
Institute of Social Sciences, Croatia
Though the French claim to Louisiana was made as early as 1682, it was only the conclusion of the War of the League of Augsburg, in 1697, that enabled Louis XIV of France to take actions in populating Louisiana in order to prevent the English from isolating French settlements in New France (Canada). Real control over the region would only be established after the French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville developed a “Project sur la Caroline,” which included a further exploration of the mouth of the Mississippi and the establishment of the first permanent French settlements in Fort Maurepas (1699) and Fort Louis de la Mobile (1702).
The Society of Jesus, as well as members of other missionary orders, had a prominent role in the early exploration of French Louisiana. From the Jesuit Father Paul Du Ru (1666-1741), who joined the second d’Iberville’s expedition in 1700, thus becoming the first Jesuit to explore the Mississippi from its mouth northward and complement Marquette’s exploration of the upper river, to François Lemaire (c. 1675-1748), a member of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, who conducted extensive field observations in a number of places in the Mississippi valley, producing several maps, to the Jesuit Father François-Xavier Charlevoix (1682-1761), who was one of the first to describe New Orleans in 1721, when the city was only three years old, missionaries had a strong presence in the history of New Orleans and lower Mississippi valley. Their travel narratives and maps offer an early testimony to Louisiana’s rich history, witnessing to the cultural encounter between European settlers and native nations. The paper is based on original research.
Note on Contributor: Dr. Mirela Altić is a chief research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences in Zagreb, Croatia. In the Department of History, University of Zagreb, Dr. Altic holds the rank of full professor and lectures on the history of cartography and historical geography. Besides her specialization in South Eastern and Central European map history, last few years she publishes extensively on the Jesuit cartography of Americas and conducts research in European and American Jesuit archives and libraries. She is the author of twelve books, numerous scholarly papers and a contributor to The History of Cartography Project. She is Vice-Chair of ICA Commission on the History of Cartography and President of SHD.
Gendered Place Naming Practices of North America in a Settler-Colonial Context
Dr. Lauren Beck
Mount Allison University
This study considers how women are represented in place names and the impacts of masculinist approaches to place nomenclature while contrasting Indigenous approaches to toponymy and the European reception of Indigenous place names in the Americas, with a focus on North America. The rich fabric of place names knitting together the Americas is woven into a complex intercultural network of naming practices that span thousands of years as well as the globe. Indigenous, European, and settler communities each bestowed names upon places near and far whose meanings may be descriptive of the place, its resources, or one’s experiences there. Names can define the people who occupy a place, as the land of Mi’magi (the Mi’kmaq people of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) demonstrates. They can commemorate an event or person, as the city and state of Washington show us. This last place name also evidences the gendered nature of place naming in the Americas and especially after 1492 when European-settlers set out to know or bestow the place nomenclature for this entire region of the world through a predominately masculine lens.
Note on Contributor: Dr. Lauren Beck holds the Canada Research Chair in Intercultural Encounter and is Professor of Hispanic Studies at Mount Allison University, Canada. She researches early modern visual culture and word and image studies, particularly in the Atlantic world, and pursues questions arising from race, gender, and place of origin in the settler-colonial milieu. Her present work examines the place name and emblem practices of the Americas. Her recent books include Illustrating el Cid, 1498-Today (McGill-Queens UP, 2019), Firsting in the Early Modern Atlantic World (Routledge, 2019), and, with Christina Ionescu, Visualizing the Text: From Manuscript Culture to Caricature (Delaware UP, 2017); she served as editor of Terrae Incognitae (2013-2018). Her research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Canada Research Chair programme.
Delisle’s Maps of North America, the Mississippi Valley and the West
Wesley A. Brown
Before Guillaume Delisle’s mapping efforts, Vincenzo Maria Coronelli’s celebrated 1688 map of North America presented the most widely respected view of the Mississippi River, shown draining into the Gulf of Mexico near the Rio Grande, 600 miles west of its true position! Guillaume was born into the map business whose father, Claude Delisle, was a geographer for the French Royal Academy. Using exacting research, Guillaume and his father produced pioneering maps of North America in 1700 and 1703 that started to unravel the mystery of the course of the Mississippi River. As his prestige grew, he became geographer to French King Louis XIV, providing access to accounts of the latest French explorations in the Mississippi Valley and the west. Using this first-hand knowledge, he published a map of the North American interior in 1718. This Carte de la Louisiane et due Cours du Mississippi finally revealed the lower course of the Mississippi river, its correct longitudinal position as it enters the Gulf of Mexico, and its complex delta. By expanding the reach of the Mississippi and its tributaries claiming vast territory for France, Delisle set off a cartographic war of exaggeration that was quickly answered by the British. Delisle’s maps also provide a remarkable insight into the mapping of California as an island with Delisle’s early doubts about this myth’s authenticity. These maps would also shed new light on the mapping of New Mexico and the rivers of the interior west. The 1718 map was copied for the next sixty years and was not be truly improved upon until the last decade of the 18th century. This paper and Powerpoint presentation will investigate these important maps and the key features of the continent’s interior they reveal.
Note on Contributor: Wesley A. Brown has been a collector and student of old maps for over 40 years. He has published about a dozen papers on the subject and has given presentations to historical groups and map societies about 75 times. He co-founded the Rocky Mountain Map Society in 1991 serving as initial President for 7 years and as Treasurer ever since participating in organizing about 200 map lectures. He served on the Steering Committee of the Philips Society of the Library of Congress for 22 years.
Self-Creation: The Creation of the Free African American Class of New Orleans prior to the American Civil War, 1790-1860
Anthony J. Cade II
George Washington University
Prior to the start of the American Civil War, New Orleans, Louisiana had the largest free African American society in the American South. In his presentation, AJ Cade describes the various ways the free class of New Orleans was created from manumission to those who freed themselves through military merit. In doing so, he shows how they created their own class and their own society through their own will versus having it given to them. Free blacks in New Orleans had to fight, some very literally, not only for their freedom and that of their family members, but also to create and preserve their own society in a city that was progressively becoming more racist and discriminatory towards African Americans leading up to the Civil War. This free class had many who were educated, skilled, and determined, and because of those traits, they earned their way into the highest echelons of the city, setting the foundation for much of culture that is still expressed in New Orleans today.
Note on Contributor: Anthony J. Cade II is a retired United States Marine, PhD Candidate at the George Washington University, and a historian with the United States Army Center of Military History. His current research is focused on the creation and use of African American Regiments from the city of New Orleans, Louisiana during the American Civil War.
The Choctaw-Apache Community of Sabine Parish, Louisiana
Robert B. Caldwell, Jr.
Katrin H. Lamon Fellow, School of Advanced Research
During the first decade of the 19th century, the ethnic group now known as Choctaw-Apache Community of Ebarb coalesced along the Camino Real de los Tejas, an old cultural crossroads, in a shifting Louisiana-Texas borderland between empires and new nations. The distinct community emerged when Native peoples incorporated the mixed-blood Spanish and French-speaking frontier population in western Louisiana. The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana characterizes the community as a synthesis of immigrant tribes, but a close examination of the tribe’s genealogy proves more complicated. The beginning of the tribe’s coalescence can be traced to soldier-settlers at 18th century Spanish presidios and missions of East Texas, including Los Adaes, the Adai (Adayes) a local tribe for whom the mission was named, the infusion of emancipated Lipan Apache captives, French metis and small westward-moving bands of Choctaw hunters that Indian agent John Sibley resettled in the region after Americans took possession of Louisiana. Archival records of the late French, Spanish and early American periods of Louisiana indicate that from 1714-1821, ongoing cultural encounters, reciprocity, rapid geopolitical changes, economic, ecological, and epidemiological pressures created the specific conditions that brought this unique community together.
Note on Contributor: Biography and curriculum vitae at https://robertbcaldwell.com/
“Fit for Geographical Purposes:” Objectivity vs the Ineffable in Andrew Ellicott’s Surveys Related to the Southern Border of the United States, 1796-1800.
Gary A. Davis
University of Minnesota
In 1796 Andrew Ellicott was appointed by George Washington as the U.S. Commissioner for surveying and marking the boundary between what was then the southern United States and the Spanish territories of West and East Florida. He was also the lead “practical astronomer” responsible for making and reducing the astronomical observations used to determine the latitudes and longitudes of important places. To estimate longitude Ellicott used timings of the eclipses of three of Jupiter’s satellites, Io, Europa, and Ganymede, along with the lunar distance method used by sea-going navigators, and when estimates from more than one of these sources were available Ellicott had to decide how best to combine them. For example, while in New Orleans, during the winter 1798-1799, Ellicott observed two eclipses of Io and one of Europa, and for his final longitude estimate he gave the Io observations twice the weight he gave that for Europa. That is, the final estimate was computed as if he were averaging four observations from Io with one from Europa. The estimated longitude for the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, made during the winter of 1796-1797, treated eclipses from Ganymede as equal to lunar distance estimates, and each of these as worth 1⁄2 the weight given to a eclipse for Io, while at Natchez, during 1797-1798, lunar distance estimates were treated as of equal value to Io and Europa eclipses but estimates from Ganymede’s eclipses were excluded because of “the imperfection of the theory.” Philosopher/historian Zeno Swijtink has noted “The information provided by an observation is partly propositional, impersonal, and objective, partly ineffable and subjective,” and that the “’problem of outliers’…is a prime example of the impossibility of devising rules with an exactly described domain of application.” The problem of selecting and weighting observations with different accuracy/precision was recognized but not solved at the time of Ellicott’s survey, and so workers in the field were required to supplement limited objective procedures with judgement. In Ellicott’s work one can see (1) the tension between the desire for objective methods and the need to use judgment, and (2) an evolution, over the course of the survey, of Ellicott’s judgments regarding the relative value of different observations. One can also see that Ellicott distinguished between those observations acceptable “for common geographical purposes” and those acceptable for locating the boundary line. Using samples of lunar distance observations made during Vancouver’s exploration of the North American coast, and Jupiter eclipse observations made at the Madras observatory during 1798-1800, it is also possible to compute modern estimates of precision, and compare these to Ellicott’s judgements. We can see that (1) Ellicott’s premodern judgments tended to be qualitatively consistent with modern objective procedures, and (2) Ellicott revised his judgments in light of experience with the methods.
Note on Contributor: Gary A. Davis is the Richard P. Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. His recent article,” Mapping the Middle Ground: Exploratory Surveying as Distributed Cognition” was published in the Society’s peer-reviewed journal Terrae Incognitae 49 (2017).
The Voyage and the Grammar of Identity
Textual scholars have given much attention to the ways particular subjects are constructed in early modern tales of European maritime exploration: eyewitnesses, experts, explorers, characters, memoirists, protagonists, “singular, atypical individuals,” in the words of Jonathan Lamb (2001, p. 202). Yet accounts of voyages form the largest body of first-person plural narration in the European textual tradition. When, for example, William Dampier describes the “making” of a landmark in what today is Nicaragua, he uses the “we”—“We supposed it to be Volcan Vejo by the smoke which ascended from its top … we steered in north and made it plainer, and then knew it … [we] brought this mountain to bear” (1697, p. 216)—to elide processes of collaborative labor and negotiation across multiple captains and ships into an undifferentiated narrative of collective supposition, collective decision-making, collective cognition, and, finally, collective action.
This paper begins with Dampier’s narrative and asks what we might learn about 18th-century practices of reading by taking this textual phenomenon as an interpretive starting point. We may find the reader gazing at the coastlines of distant continents not through the perspective of a specific, concrete, individual sailor but through a kind of multiply-embodied point of view: one that enables him or her to trace the imagined communities of the nation through moments of collective vision, reaching for collective recognition.
Note on Contributor: Samuel Diener is a PhD candidate in English at Harvard University, with a secondary field in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. He specializes in early modern and eighteenth-century British and American literature, culture, and history of the book, informed by the new materialisms and affect theory, and does comparative work in Spanish and Portuguese. His dissertation considers maritime exploration narratives from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, focusing on the ways that readers articulated national identity, inflected by race, gender, and class, both on and with the physical books they used.
The Circulation of a Tale of Shipwreck through Three Early Modern Knowledge Projects
University of Oslo
In mid-January 1431, 16 Venetian sailors stumbled ashore on a deserted island in the Røst archipelago of Northern Norway. They were exhausted after having been exposed to the storms in the North Atlantic for weeks before they finally abandoned ship in the middle of December. The tale of Pietro Querini’s shipwreck is presented in two slightly different versions by the Venetian editor and compiler Giovanni Battista Ramusio in vol. 3 of his Navigationi et Viaggi (1557). The same story is published by Samuel Purchas in Hakluytus Posthumous or Purchas his Pilgrime (1626), and then again by the Norwegian historian Gerhard Schøning in the journal of the Norwegian Academy of Science in 1767. In this paper I will discuss the circulation of this text through 3 different national contexts of knowledge-making. I conclude that despite being the same text different contexts colour how the text is understood.
Note on Contributor: Anne Helness is lecturer in intellectual history at Department of Philosophy, History of Art and Ideas, and Classics, at the University of Oslo. She has published several articles in the Norwegian journal of the history of ideas, Arr, the last one being “Et tidligmoderne politiske verdensbilde: Ramusio, Venezia og havet” (An early modern political world picture: Ramusio, Venice and the Sea) (nr. ¾-2018), and contributed to the anthology Kritikk før 1814 (Critique before 1814) (2014) with articles on the Danish Enlightenment critics and historians Jacob Baden and Peter Fredrik Suhm. She is currently researching travel collections as sources of the early modern order of knowledge with special attention being paid to Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s Navigationi et viaggi (1550–1559).
Hiding in Plain Sight: Louis XIV’s Secret Project to Control the Western Hemisphere
Craig P. Howard and Richard Gross
Historical discovery is not only geographic but factual. In this case, it is the discovery of facts that encompass a very large geography. Archival sources, misread and misrepresented since 1697, prove that:
(1) Jean Baptiste Colbert, Minister of Finance and Minister of Marine and Colonies for Louis XIV, kept the discovery of the Mississippi River a state secret when he first learned of it in the opening days of 1675.
(2) Colbert protected the river in 1676, when a member of the naval department wrote a petition for a disgraced ex-governor of New Mexico to settle on the Mississippi or a tributary as a prelude to attacking the unknown Spanish provinces of Quivira and Theguayo.
(3) Colbert protected the river again when Louis Jolliet petitioned for a fur trading post in the Illinois country he explored in 1673.
(4) In 1677 the resurgent French navy, rebuilt by Colbert, swept the Dutch from West Africa and the Caribbean, making possible a domination of transatlantic commerce.
(5) In 1677 Jean Baptiste Patoulet, commissary for the French fleet, recommended a naval base in the Americas to repair ships and provide victuals and medical help for sailors.
(6) In the spring of 1678, La Salle presented a petition to protect the Canadian fur trade, which Iroquois were redirecting to New England.
(7) Colbert redirected La Salle to the mouth of the Mississippi, where he was to establish the seaport settlement to sustain the naval base Patoulet had suggested.
(8) As Colbert hammered out his agreement with La Salle, Colbert’s son, the Marquis de Seignelay, gave a frigate and 250 soldiers to a naval captain to seize Dutch forts on the African coast in preparation for taking over the slave trade.
(9) Colbert arranged for an investor to help La Salle cover costs of his 3,000-mile supply line through the American wilderness.
(10) This 10-year partnership was with a man who had held the slave trade monopoly briefly in 1675 and would again be part of that monopoly in 1679 as a director of the Company of Senegal.
(11) The clear intention was for the investor to deliver slaves to the French Caribbean islands, pick up sugar and tobacco, sail to La Salle’s seaport and pick up the bison hides that were La Salle’s monopoly and the sole commodity for repaying the investor.
(12) La Salle himself estimated the annual revenue from the leather of this hide monopoly at 2.5 million livre, and he spoke on two occasions of using African slave labor, presumably supplied by the investor, to establish a tannery at Montreal.
(13) During a host of setbacks, most of which were calculated by Jesuit missionaries to prevent civil authority in the far Great Lakes, La Salle used his accumulated understanding of Indigenous culture to fashion the largest coalition of Indigenous peoples north of the Aztec Empire.
(14) When La Salle reached the Gulf, poor maps and instruments and several other indicators misled him to think himself near Mexico.
(15) When La Salle confidently returned to France for assistance in setting up the seaport, France and Spain were at war, and La Salle offered to use his native allies as a strike force against Spanish silver mines he believed lay near the Mississippi.
(16) La Salle’s plan was accepted and modified to include naval forces, and La Salle expected to confirm the war status with Spain before taking coordinated action.
(17) France’s development of a weapon of mass destruction, used to kill 700 people in Algiers in 1683 and pulverize Genoa in the spring of 1684, was ready to unleash devastation from La Salle’s secure naval base against coastal cities in America — Cartagena, Panama, Vera Cruz, Havana, New York, Boston, Philadelphia.
All of this, of course, requires context. But it also required an open mind to read archival documents, the curiosity to ask simple questions, the use of timelines, and the determination to look beyond the highly prejudicial historiography that buried the actual history. We have also been helped by unpublished translations and access to sources unavailable to most scholars. No history is a “true” retelling of thoughts, feelings, and intentions. But there is contextual truth in our conclusions that differs from speculative labeling, which is what has been the case with La Salle.
La Salle, a trusted territorial governor and an ex-Jesuit priest, has generally been called a mentally unbalanced character, paranoid to a fault, particularly where the Jesuits were concerned. He has been labeled a scheming entrepreneur who meant to be an impresario in the Mississippi Valley and, when things didn’t work out, a liar who fudged the course of the Mississippi in order to ride the coattails of that disgraced ex-governor of New Mexico. Instead, it was La Salle and his associates who exposed the Spaniard as a fraud. The complaints about the Jesuits have a strong basis in truth, but they have been muted, particularly by Jesuit historians, notably Pierre Francis Xavier Charlevoix in the 18th century, John Gilmary Shea in the late 19th century and Jean Delanglez in the mid-20th century
Notes on the Contributors: As a teenager, Richard Gross participated in an authentic reenactment by high school students of La Salle’s 1682 journey from Montreal to the Gulf of Mexico. His fifteen years of research underpin archeological searches for La Salle’s lost ship Le Griffon in Lake Michigan and Fort Crevecoeur in Illinois. He has helped the Detroit Public Library’s PDF publication of its 1915-era English translation of archival documents related to the history of New France. His work has firmly established La Salle’s discovery of the Ohio River, the location of lost Lake Pimiteoui on the Illinois River, and the location of the Grand Village of the Illinois along the Sangamon River. And he has provided mathematical and cartographic support for Peter H. Wood’s explanation for La Salle’s mistaken 1684 course to Texas.
During his eight-year collaboration with Richard Gross, Craig P. Howard also chronicled the epic, Bicentennial adventure canoe adventure of which Gross was a part in Hard Rivers: The Untold Saga of La Salle: Expedition II (2016). He has uncovered the value of La Salle’s bison hide monopoly, the transatlantic commercial connections between La Salle and slave trade shipping, and the hemispheric threat posed by France if La Salle’s last mission had succeeded. A longtime newspaper editor, he is a member of the Organization of American Historians and the National Council for History Education.
Mapping the Mekong: The French Expedition of 1866-1868
Harold E. Meinheit
One of the great rivers of Southeast Asia, the Mekong was still largely unknown to European explorers and cartographers in the middle of the 19th century. The river’s exact course and source, the people and natural resources in the Mekong basin, and the river’s commercial potential were all open questions. In 1866 a French expedition set out to resolve these mysteries. Led by two naval officers, Captain Doudart de Lagrée and Lieutenant Francis Garnier, the expedition accurately charted the course of Mekong up to the point where it entered China and explored large swaths of the river valley. The primary motivation behind the expedition was economic, to determine whether the Mekong River was a navigable trade route linking the French colony of Cochin China to what was thought to be a lucrative China market. But perhaps just as important to both Lagrée and Garnier, was the lure of exploring the unknown and being the first to chart a mighty river.
The official report of the expedition included an atlas, published in 1873, with two general maps of Southeast Asia and ten detailed maps following the expedition’s progress up the Mekong river valley. This paper will examine these maps to trace the expedition’s journey and highlight some of its accomplishments. It will conclude that although the expedition found the Mekong would not be a viable trade route with China, it made a major contribution to the cartography of the region. For the first time, the course of the Mekong through Southeast Asia was accurately charted, and the expedition’s work would be incorporated into future Western maps.
Note on Contributor: Harold E. Meinheit is a former Foreign Service officer with extensive experience in Southeast Asia, including service in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has worked on a variety of projects, primarily related to Asia, and has devoted much of his time to research and writing on early maps of Southeast Asia. His articles and book reviews appear regularly in The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society. His most recent article served as the basis for a lecture sponsored by the Library of Congress on February 25, 2020 and entitled “Boundaries and Brigands: James McCarthy and the Mapping of Siam.” In addition, he has submitted two articles for the forthcoming History of Cartography, Volume V (19th Century). These articles — “Administrative Cartography in Southeast Asia” and “Boundary Surveying and Mapping in Southeast Asia” — are currently with the editorial team at the University of Wisconsin. Mr. Meinheit is a member of the Society for the History of Discoveries; the Washington Map Society (currently serving as secretary); the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography; and the International Map Collectors’ Society.
Issues in Historical and Contemporary Perceptions and Adaptations of Indigenous/Native American Medicine and Healthways
University of Texas at Arlington
This paper and proposed presentation explores three areas of analysis: traditional healthways of pre and post-contact Native American peoples of Meso and North America, early colonial Latin American experiences with disease outbreaks such as those of smallpox and cocoliztli, and the modern adaptations and reevaluation of these medical traditions. As part of the decolonization movement, in this historical narrative, I aim to show that while some healthways and traditional medicines available to North American Indigenous cultures since time immemorial are now shown to be beneficial by Western Medicine, the historical portrayal, attitudes, and perception of these medicinal traditions have been detrimental not only culturally but also in terms of medical discovery. Further, I aim to adjust the popular “guns, germs, and steel” perspective to rehumanize the portrayal of such histories and better represent the agency of Native American peoples during first contact with the ensuing catastrophes of pandemic disease. This includes showing that beyond immunity and technology, the spread of disease was aided by societal collapse and the loss of traditional sanitation and medicinal practices.
Note on Contributor: While volunteering at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, J. Albert Nungaray found his love for teaching, history, and anthropology. At El Paso Community College, he gained acceptance into Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and a scholarship to Texas Christian University. At TCU, he co-founded the Native and Indigenous Students Association and was instrumental in the placement of a memorial land acknowledgment for the Native American community. He soon gained acceptance into the Lambda Alpha Anthropology and Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Societies, on his way to a double major B.A. Today, he is a public speaker, activist, and proud to be a History Ph.D student at the University of Texas at Arlington. Looking to honor his heritage and bring his traditional upbringing into academia, he specializes in Native American and Colonial Latin American History, with a special focus on first contact along the upper Rio Grande Valley among Pueblos through the contestation of space, culture, religion, and politics in the region.
The Reguli Strategy: Diminutive Kingship and the Ideology of Late Renaissance Imperial Planning
Peter Jakob Olsen-Harbich
College of William and Mary
This paper introduces an entirely unexplored facet of the anthropology employed by Renaissance Europeans: the concept of “diminutive kingship.” This concept of small-scale and materially impoverished kingly states, which derived from the Latin typology of classical empire, was employed in the writings of both Richard Hakluyt, André Thevet, Peter Martyr, and many other renaissance intellectuals who sought to categorize the polities of North America and prescribe their conquest. This paper uses philological methods to reconstruct the meaning of diminutive kingship and its implications in early conquest plans. It primarily asserts that the contradictions of diminutive kingship—which recognized Indigenous polities while simultaneously denigrating and anachronizing them—acted as a concise expression of Europe’s general approach to American Indigenes. In resuscitating the lost language of diminutive kingship, we edge closer towards grasping the conceptual foundations of imperial policies towards Indigenes, especially systems of tributary rule.
Note on Contributor: Peter Jakob Olsen-Harbich is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Lyon G. Tyler Department of History at William & Mary. He is currently a 2019-2021 Advisory Council Dissertation Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania. His work has been additionally supported by the American Philosophical Society, the John Carter Brown Library, the Huntington Library, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. Peter researches the history of early contact and European settlement in North America, with a particular focus on the influence of Indigenous political structures upon the realization of early English colonies. He is interested both in how early historic North American Indigenes organized themselves politically, and in how Europeans who encountered these organizations conceived of them. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Jan Nieuhoff and East Asia: The Experiences of a Dutch United East India Company Agent, 1665-1672
The University of Texas at Arlington
For twenty-eight years of his life, Jan Nieuhoff (1618-1672), the son of a German middle class merchant family, was an agent in the field across the Dutch Empire for the “Chartered West India Company” (WIC) or for the “United East India Company” (VOC). As such, he was an active participant in the progress and transformation of Dutch and global capitalism at the dawning of a new age of Western imperialism. For the WIC, he served in the failed enterprise of Dutch Brazil, trading not only for sugar, indigo, tobacco, slaves, cocoa, pineapple, and dyewood, but exploring into the interior as well. As a VOC representative, he served in the East Indies, China, and India, dealing in pepper, cloves, cinnamon, opium, ginger, slaves, cotton, and pearls and gemstones and exploring some of the more isolated islands of the East Indies. Ultimately, he vanished without a trace on Madagascar on his third voyage to the East Indies.
Nieuhoff’s adventures for the WIC and the role he played in the failed VOC trade embassy to Peking in 1655-1657 are covered in two other papers, respectively. The first was presented at the SHD meeting in 2017, and the second is yet to be completed. This paper will take up Nieuhoff’s experiences as an East India outside of the China trade mission and will be accompanied by an appropriate PowerPoint presentation.
In 1602, the VOC came to replace the “Company of the Far Lands,” which had sponsored early trading voyages to the East Indies. The VOC was given an initial renewable monopoly of twenty-one years over the Dutch trade with East Africa and Asia. On his three voyages around the Cape of Good Hope for the VOC Nieuhoff functioned not only as one of its senior agents in various capacities, including diplomacy, but also defacto took on the roles of explorer and ethnologist. In addition to his activities and broader observations in context, this paper will consider his contributions the seventeenth century European age of exploration and our understanding of it.
Notes on Contributor: Dennis Reinhartz received his BA and MA degrees in history from Rutgers University and his PhD from New York University. After a university career of over forty years and having retired to Santa Fe in 2008, he is an emeritus professor of history and Russian at The University of Texas at Arlington. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, is a past president of The Society for the History of Discoveries, Arid Lands Studies Association, Western Social Science Association, and Texas Map Society, and is the current president of the Historical Society of New Mexico.
The Colonial Land Surveys of Spanish Louisiana: a Website, Webmap, and Mobile App
Louisiana State University
Surveys of Spanish land grants in Louisiana dating to the eighteenth and early nineteenth century facilitate historical scholarship on environmental and social patterns and processes. Each document consists of a parcel map showing the concession and text describing its boundaries, vegetation, flora, water bodies, and land uses as well as the ethnic, racial, and genealogical information inherent in documents about named individuals. The project presents an H-GIS (Historic Geographic Information System) that precisely locates the 709 unique parcel surveys in the Pintado Papers of the LSU Special Collections. They range in size from city lots to rural concessions ranging up to thousands of acres. The website gives users access to the H-GIS so they can search by combinations of dozens of different variables, create custom maps and tables of the results, and access images of the primary documents. The mobile app allows users to locate specific colonial concessions on the ground. While this phase of the project has focused on the Pintado Papers, thousands more such survey documents are extant in other archives, including HNOC, and could be integrated into to provide a spatially extensive, systematic overview of the patterns of land and life on the eve of the Louisiana Purchase. Other types of data such as traveler’s accounts and censuses could also be layered on top of the survey map layer.
Note on Contributor: Andrew Sluyter is a Professor in the Geography and Anthropology Department of the Louisiana State University. He has authored over a hundred publications on the peoples and places of the Americas and the Atlantic World, including three research monographs: Colonialism and Landscape (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002); Black Ranching Frontiers (Yale University Press, 2012); and Hispanic and Latino New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015). Honors include the 2017 Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Conference of Latin American Geography, the 2015 J. B. Jackson Book Prize from the American Association of Geographers, and a 2012 Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. He is past editor of the Journal of Historical Geography.
The Rizo Family of Portolans and the 13th-Century Revolution in Navigation
A major 13th century portolan has long been hiding from scholars in plain sight. Much of its content is well-known from an early printing by Bernardino Rizo in 1490, but that version and two previously identified versions were updated and corrupted in ways that obscured the age of their core contents. This study pulls back the curtain to reveal a much larger Rizo family of portolans, expanding the known sources from three to ten. Among these are three manuscripts that preserve the earliest known type of Rizo-family portolan, estimated to have been completed in about 1270.
The oldest manuscript of this type is at the James Ford Bell library in Minneapolis. It was studied by David Jacoby in 2011, who correctly discerned the text’s deep age, noticing a reference to Clarentza, a Peloponnesian port founded in the 1260s, as a new city. But Jacoby missed that most of the sentences he quoted are also in the Rizo portolan, and he didn’t publish anything more on the topic before his death in 2018. Last year, page images of two very similar manuscripts were published online by the Vatican library. These were incorrectly dismissed as late by Konrad Kretschmer in 1909 and have been ignored ever since.
Compared to its mid-13th century predecessor the Compasso de Navegare, the early Rizo-family portolan advanced its genre with a more detailed description of coastlines and a more precise and standardized 32-point terminology for compass bearings. Dating that terminology to 1270 forces a parallel re-dating of the introduction of the 32-point dry compass, which has traditionally been put at around 1300. I argue that the Compasso has more bearings data than could plausibly have been collected with inconvenient floating compasses. Thus the dry compass must have been in use by the 1240s and the 32-point compass by the 1260s.
This earlier chronology of compass technology better fits with the beginning of regular off-season open-sea navigation in the 1270s. The new confidence to navigate in poor visibility depended both on using a compass and on others having previously used compasses to record bearing and distance data. No single portolan made the advance possible, but the early type of Rizo-family portolan deserves to be seen as our best record of the state of nautical knowledge during the 1270s revolution in navigation. I highlight the close relationships between early-type Rizo-family portolans, the Compasso de Navegare and the Carta Pisana, the earliest extant portolan chart.
The Rizo family of portolans remained in use for centuries. By the late 15th century there were four types of Rizo-family portolans circulating simultaneously, including late copies of the early type, a second version exemplified by the Rizo portolan with newer material on western Europe, and two twice-revised versions each with different newer material on eastern regions. Unfortunately, no known Rizo-family manuscript of any type is older than the 15th century. All manuscripts are riddled with corruptions and some have additional minor updates. A critical edition is very much to be desired.
Note on Contributor: Thomas Warner is an independent historian with a special interest in the history of people’s conceptions of the world and universe they live in.
“And also what an honorable thynge, Both to the realme and to the kynge, To haue had his domynyon extendynge,” John Rastell: a case study of English interest in the New World during the reign of Henry VIII
University of Texas at Arlington
It has been said that John Rastell was a man before his times, that his “enterprising and versatile spirit” would have been better suited to the Elizabethan era than the Henrician, and had he lived in the Elizabethan era he would have flourished and probably even be remembered as one of the founding voices of English colonialism. Rather than arguing that Rastell is an anomaly, a man before his times, this paper argues that Rastell exemplifies a growing movement within the Henrician era, defined by men who possessed an “enterprising and versatile spirit.” They recognized the growing possibilities of the Atlantic world, not just for the enterprising individual but for the greater good of the commonweal. However, like so many of his contemporaries among the educated elite, Rastell found himself consumed by the Reformation and his diverse interests quickly whittled down by the all-consuming issue of shaping the Church of England and navigating the rapidly changing political environment.
Rastell is a case-study for the educated elite in England. While his colonizing voyage of 1517 is normally written off as a failure with no real impact on English history, it demonstrates English interest in colonization as more than a passing curiosity to find a westward passage to Cathay. For Rastell, North America, not a Northwest Passage, represented England’s future. His voyage, the reasons Rastell embarked on it, the reasons it failed, and why Rastell did not undertake a second voyage, adds to our understanding of attitudes within Henry’s Court towards colonization and help reveal why England seemingly was uninterested in colonization until the Elizabethan era. This paper will analyze Rastell’s life to further our understanding of English interests in the Americas during the start of the English Reformation.
Note on Contributor: Dr. Lydia Towns received her PhD from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research on John Rastell is related to her dissertation, “The Opening of the Atlantic World: England’s Transatlantic Interests During the Reign of Henry VIII” which was the 2020 winner of the Wolfskill Ph.D. Award. She currently serves as Executive Secretary of the Society for the History of Discoveries.
Re-Interpreting Discovery: Revisions to the New World in an Unstudied World Map of c. 1535
Chet Van Duzer
University of Rochester
British Library, Sloane MS 117, ff. 1r-4r contains a manuscript world map in two hemispheres that has been dated to about 1530 and has been mentioned in the cartographic literature several times, but never properly studied. The most remarkable feature of the map are the revisions in the hemisphere devoted to the New World, which can be seen in multi-spectral images of these folios. Originally the map showed the New World as separate from Asia, but it was changed to show the New World as being connected to Asia. The map thus vividly demonstrates the difficulty Europeans faced in interpreting the new discoveries in the West, and in deciding what the relationship was between those discoveries and Asia—this confusion dates back to Christopher Columbus, of course, who thought that the lands he encountered after crossing the Atlantic were in Asia.
It has not been previously noted that the two hemispheres, prior to the revisions, were based on the inset hemispheric maps at the top of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map: not only are they visually similar to Waldseemüller’s inset maps, but some of the texts on the hemispheric maps were copied from elsewhere on the 1507 map. It seems likely that the hemispheric maps were produced in the workshop of the Swiss humanist Henricus Glareanus (1488-1563), as their visual style is similar to that of Glareanus’s other maps, and Glareanus made multiple manuscript copies of Waldseemüller’s maps. Justin Windsor and Henry Harrisse had suggested that the details of the revised New World map were copied from Oronce Fine’s 1530 world map, but in fact they were copied from Fine’s 1534 world map, as is demonstrated by some texts and place names on the map. The revision of the map is dramatic visual demonstration of the difficulty of interpreting discoveries. Unfortunately it is not clear who made the revision, or what that cartographer’s specific reasons were for abandoning Columbus’s conception of the New World.
Note on Contributor: Chet Van Duzer is a board member of the Lazarus Project at the University of Rochester, which brings multi-spectral imaging to cultural institutions around the world. He has published extensively on medieval and Renaissance maps. His 2017 NEH-Mellon project at the Library of Congress was a study of the annotations in a heavily annotated copy of the 1525 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography; he recently completed a David Rumsey Research Fellowship at Stanford and the John Carter Brown Library studying Urbano Monte’s manuscript world map of 1587. His current project is a book about cartographic cartouches.
The Mississippi Delta and Louisiana as Contested Regions in Early 18th-Century Maps of North America
Herman Moll was the foremost British mapmaker of the early 18th century. Guillaume Delisle was his French counterpart. Geographers to their respective monarchs, George I and Louis XV, their maps foregrounded Britain’s and France’s foreign economic and political interests in an age of fierce imperial rivalries and they sought to legitimize the territorial claims of their respective nations in North America. Each drew, engraved, and published maps of North America after 1700 that asserted different boundaries to English/British and French territorial claims. They were aware of each other’s maps and engaged in a “map war” over imperial space in North America. I am particularly interested in showing how Delisle finally established the location of the Mississippi Delta and how he and Moll defined and contested space, boundaries, and border-making in what came to be called “Louisiana” in a series of maps that they published. They feature the routes of European explorers and traders in the region as well as the location of powerful Native American nations with whom they formed alliances and with whom they entered into hostilities.
Their maps show that the region of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta was a frontier, an interracial, inter-ethnic, and inter-political contact zone. Such zones often occurred in what historians Colin Calloway, Claudio Saunt, and Juliana Barr call native “homelands,” sovereign and bordered indigenous realms. Delisle’s and Moll’s maps made clear that not all frontier contact zones in 18th-century North America were marked by borders and not all borders created frontiers. This paper will argue that Moll and Delisle defined and contested territorial space, boundaries, and border-making in and around Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta in a number of crucial maps that focused on European claims to territory and were silent on the territoriality of native realms which, while indicated on their maps of North America, existed as borderless domains. Finally, this talk will examine how the inset images and comments on their maps crucially shaped the cartographic spaces that formed the central visual field of their maps.
Note on Contributor: Alex Zukas received his Ph.D. in Modern History from the University of California, Irvine and is Professor of History at National University in San Diego, California. Dr. Zukas has written on modern working-class and environmental history, European imperialism and colonialism, the history of poverty, teaching history using the Internet, and the phenomenology and political economy of cyberspace. He has published articles in a number of journals, including Environment-Space-Place, Journal of World History, World History Connected, World History Bulletin, Contemporary European History, Labour History Review, International Journal of Social Education, Radical History Review, and The History Teacher and he has written a chapter each for Lived Topographies and their Mediational Forces (Lexington Books, 2005), Ecoscapes: Geographical Patternings of Relations (Lexington Books, 2006), Colonial and Global Interfacings (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007), Symbolic Landscapes (Springer, 2009), Global Economies, Cultural Currencies of the Eighteenth Century (AMS Press, 2012), and Negotiating Waters (Wilmington: Vernon Press, 2020). He is currently researching and writing a book on British imperial interests in the maps of the 18th-century Anglo-German geographer Herman Moll with the tentative title, Herman Moll and the Entangled Cartography of the British Empire, under contract with Lexington Books.