Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic
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Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic

Peter C. Mancall

212 pages | 7 x 10 | 12 color, 51 b/w illus.
Cloth 2017 | ISBN 9780812249668 | Add to cart $29.95s | Outside N. America £24.99
Ebook 2017 | ISBN 9780812294590 | Add to cart $29.95s | £19.50 | About
A volume in the series Early Modern Americas
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"Brilliantly illustrated and written with flashes of wit and humor, Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic traces the shift in people's thinking about nature from the medieval to the modern period. Peter C. Mancall brings his encyclopedic knowledge of the primary and secondary sources to bear on monsters, insects, tropical forests, and indigenous peoples and shows that a new fascination with the material spectacle of the New World contributed to secular explanations of natural phenomena."—Donald Worster, author of Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance

"Peter C. Mancall's Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic introduces the reader to a wondrous variety of ways that individuals, both individually and collectively, attempted to view and conceptualize the early modern Atlantic ecological world, from insects to maps and from imagined monsters to actual peoples. Abundantly illustrated, it is a tour de force of creative synthesis, engagingly drawing us into an era marked by a complex meeting of beliefs and ideas, and setting the stage for the intellectual traditions that would follow in its wake."—Joanne Pillsbury, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"In this compact, learned, and beautifully illustrated book, Mancall probes a wide array of written, oral and art historical sources on the real and imagined flora and fauna of the Americas in the sixteenth century, examining everything from monsters to mosquitoes. He shows in exquisite detail how the integration of the Atlantic world unsettled sensibilities toward nature."—J. R. McNeill, author of Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640-1914

In the sixteenth-century Atlantic world, nature and culture swirled in people's minds to produce fantastic images. In the South of France, a cloister's painted wooden panels greeted parishioners with vivid depictions of unicorns, dragons, and centaurs, while Mayans in the Yucatan created openings to buildings that resembled a fierce animal's jaws, known to archaeologists as serpent-column portals.

In Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic, historian Peter C. Mancall reveals how Europeans and Native Americans thought about a natural world undergoing rapid change in the century following the historic voyages of Christopher Columbus. Through innovative use of oral history and folklore maintained for centuries by Native Americans, as well as original use of spectacular manuscript atlases, paintings that depict on-the-spot European representations of nature, and texts that circulated imperfectly across the ocean, he reveals how the encounter between the old world and the new changed the fate of millions of individuals.

This inspired work of Atlantic, European, and American history begins with medieval concepts of nature and ends in an age when the printed book became the primary avenue for the dissemination of scientific information. Throughout the sixteenth century, the borders between the natural world and the supernatural were more porous than modern readers might realize. Native Americans and Europeans alike thought about monsters, spirits, and insects in considerable depth. In Mancall's vivid narrative, the modern world emerged as a result of the myriad encounters between peoples who inhabited the Atlantic basin in this period. The centuries that followed can be comprehended only by exploring how culture in its many forms—stories, paintings, books—shaped human understanding of the natural world.

Peter C. Mancall is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, the Linda and Harlan Martens Director of the Early Modern Studies Institute, and Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California. He is author of numerous books, including Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson—A Tale of Mutiny and Murder in the Arctic and Hakluyt's Promise: An Elizabethan's Obsession for an English America.

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