History 534/English 585
Culture and Contact:  The Atlantic World, 1400-1800

Fall 2007                                     
Wed. 4:00-6:40                                                
Park 532         

Prof. Erik Seeman
Park 534, 645-2181 x534
Office hours: Mon. 1-3

Goals:  Between 1400 and 1800, the peoples of Europe, Africa, North America, and South America became enmeshed in an increasingly dense web of cultural contacts.  Out of curiosity, desire for trade, and lust for power sprung a new entity:  the Atlantic World, with origins in all four continents but with a cultural vocabulary all its own.  Students will engage with this vibrant and growing field in several ways:  through the theoretical literature on cultural contact and colonization; using primary sources written by the colonizers and the colonized; and by reading important secondary works.  The themes we will explore include:  the role of Africans in the Atlantic world and the persistence of African culture in the New World; the role of coercion and domination in the interactions in the Atlantic world; the links between global economic shifts and the lived experience of ordinary people; religion as an agent of imperialism and a buttress of resistance; the role that travel writing and contact narratives played in "possessing" the New World.  This semester, in conjunction with a book I am writing on cross-cultural encounters with death in the New World, we will examine the topic of death throughout the semester.

Assignments:  Requirements for this class are two short papers, a class presentation, one 12-15 page historiographical essay, and informed participation in discussion.  You are also urged to attend two lectures sponsored by the Early Modern Reading Group.

-Three-page review of outside reading:  Pick a week of interest to you and read one book that complements the assigned reading.  Class will begin with a five- or ten-minute presentation on the book you have chosen.  The paper should be a standard critical book review.

-Five-page topic review:  Pick one of the topics we are spending two weeks on (Pre-Contact/Pre-Colonial, Africa in the New World, Representations, Euro-Indian Contact, Europe in the Age of Encounter, or Revolutions).  On the second week of that segment, write a five-page critical review of all the books, articles, and documents we have read on that topic.

-12-15 page historiographical essay:  Choose a topic for outside reading of approximately two books and three articles (secondary sources, preferably) and write an extended critical review of the literature. The subject should be chosen, in consultation with the instructor, by Wednesday November 7.  

-Lecture attendance:  Ideally you will be able to attend the public talks by two scholars who are coming to UB  under the auspices of the Early Modern Reading Group and whose books we are reading this semester:  Jennifer Morgan, New York University, Thursday September 27; and Vincent Carretta, University of Maryland, Thursday October 18.  Both talks are 12:30-2:00pm.

Grading:  Class discussion will constitute the majority of the final grade, with the written assignments making up the balance.

Readings:  The following books are required reading and may be purchased at the University Bookstore.  They are also on reserve at the Undergraduate Library.  All articles are available online through several sources as indicated in the syllabus:
    (BISON): UB’s online course reserve
    (JSTOR): the JSTOR databse, accessible through the UB Libraries webpage
    (HC): History Cooperative, again through UB Libraries webpage
    (MUSE):  Project Muse, through UB Libraries webpage

John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1680, 2d ed. (New York, 1998)

Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women:  Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia, 2004)

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways, ed. Enrique Pupo-Walker (Berkeley, 1993)

Jean de Léry, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, ed. Janet Whatley (Berkeley, 1993)

Vincent Carretta, Equiano, the African:  Biography of a Self-Made Man (New York, 2007)

Stuart B. Schwartz, ed., Victors and Vanquished:  Spanish and Nahua Views of the Conquest of Mexico (Boston, 2000)

Kristina Bross, Dry Bones and Indian Sermons:  Praying Indians in Colonial America (Ithaca, 2004)

Anthony Grafton, New Worlds, Ancient Texts:  The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery (Cambridge, Mass., 1992)

Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions:  The Wonder of the New World (Chicago, 1991)

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided:  The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia, 2000)

Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World:  The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 2004)

Aug. 29:  Introduction

Sept. 5:  Orientations:  Death and the Atlantic World

Bernard Bailyn, "The Idea of Atlantic History," Itinerario 20 (1996): 19-44 (BISON)

David Armitage, “Three Concepts of Atlantic History,” in Armitage and Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (New York, 2002), 11-27 (BISON)

Alison Games, “Atlantic History:  Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities,” American Historical Review 111 (June 2006): 741-57 (HC)

Erik R. Seeman, "Reading Indians' Deathbed Scenes:  Ethnohistorical and Representational Approaches," Journal of American History 88 (June 2001): 17-47 (HC)

Sept. 12:  Pre-contact Americas:  Diversity

Neal Salisbury, "The Indians' Old World:  Native Americans and the Coming of Europeans," William and Mary Quarterly 53 (July 1996): 435-58 (JSTOR)

Kathleen J. Bragdon, Native People of Southern New England, 1500-1650 (Norman, Okla., 1996), 130-39 (BISON)

Inga Clendinnen, "Victims," in Aztecs:  An Interpretation (New York, 1991), 87-110 (BISON)

Jean de Brébeuf, "Of the Solemn Feast of the Dead," in Allan Greer, ed., The Jesuit Relations (Boston, 2000): 37-38, 61-69 (BISON)

Roger Williams, A Key Into the Language of America (London, 1643), 193-205 (BISON)

Sept. 19:  Pre-colonial Africa:  Power  

Thornton, Africa and Africans, 1-125

Ann Hilton, "The Economic, Social, Religious, and Political Environment," in Hilton, The Kingdom of Kongo (Oxford, 1985): 1-31 (BISON)

Pieter de Marees, Description and Historical Account of the Gold Kingdom of Guinea (1602), trans. Albert van Dantzig and Adam Jones (Oxford, 1987): 179-85 (BISON)

Sept. 26:  Africa in the New World:  Women

Morgan, Laboring Women

Bernard Moitt, “In the Shadow of the Plantation:  Women of Color and the Libres de fait of Martinique and Guadeloupe, 1685-1848,” in Beyond Bondage:  Free Women of Color in the Americas, ed. David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine (Urbana, 2004), 37-59 (BISON)

Oct. 3:  Africa in the New World:  Transformations

Thornton, Africa and Africans, 129-334

Erik R. Seeman, “Across the Waters:  African-American Deathways,” unpublished manuscript (BISON)

Oct. 10:  Representations:  Narratives of Contact

"Digest of Columbus's Log Book," in J.M. Cohen, ed., Christopher Columbus:  The Four Voyages (London, 1969): 51-73 (BISON)

Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways

de Léry, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, esp. 51-177

Montaigne, "On the Cannibals," in The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, edited by M. A. Screech (London, 1991), 228-41 (BISON)

Oct. 17:  Representations:  Narratives of Slavery

Carretta, Equiano the African

Narratives of John Marrant and Belinda, in Unchained Voices:  An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-Speaking World of the 18th Century, ed. Vincent Carretta (Lexington, Ky., 2004), 110-33, 142-4(BISON)

Oct. 24:  Euro-Indian Contact:  Mesoamerica

Schwartz, ed., Victors and Vanquished, 1-155, 182-243

Marcy Norton, “Tasting Empire:  Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics,” American Historical Review 111 (June 2006): 660-91 (HC)

Susan Schroeder, "Jesuits, Nahuas, and the Good Death Society in Mexico City, 1710-1767," Hispanic American Historical Review 80 (Feb. 2000): 43-76 (MUSE)

Oct. 31:  Euro-Indian Contact:  North America

Bross, Dry Bones and Indian Sermons

Patricia E. Rubertone, "Retelling Narragansett Lives," in Rubertone, Grave Undertakings:  Roger Williams and the Narragansett Indians (Washington, D.C., 2001), 132-64 (BISON)

Nov. 7:  Europe in the Age of Encounter: Knowledge

Grafton, New Worlds, Ancient Texts

J.H. Elliott, The Old World and the New, 1492-1650 (Cambridge, Eng., 1970), 28-53 (BISON)

Nov. 14:  Europe in the Age of Encounter:  Possession

Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, “The Devil in the New World:  A Transnational Perspective,” in The Atlantic in Global History, 1500-2000, ed. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra and Erik R. Seeman (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2007), 20-37 (BISON)

Nov. 21:  No class—Thanksgiving break

Nov. 28:  Revolution:   Connections

O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided

Trevor Burnard, “Freedom, Migration, and the American Revolution,” in Eliga H. Gould and Peter S. Onuf, eds., Empire and Nation:  The American Revolution in the Atlantic World (Baltimore, 2005), 295-314 (BISON)

Dec. 5:  Revolution:  Saint Domingue

Dubois, Avengers of the New World

John K. Thornton, "'I Am the Subject of the King of Congo':  African Political Ideology and the Haitian Revolution," Journal of World History 4 (1993): 181-214 (BISON)

Dec. 12:  Final paper due by noon in the History Department