Caroline Dodds PennockFeb 26, 2023
On Savage Shores
How Indigenous Americans Discovered Europe
On Savage Shores: How Indigenous Americans Discovered Europe (Knopf, 2023) by Dr. Caroline Dodds Pennock presents a landmark work of narrative history that shatters our Eurocentric understanding of the Age of Discovery.
We have long been taught to presume that modern global history began when the “Old World” encountered the “New”, when Christopher Columbus “discovered” America in 1492. But, as Dr. Pennock conclusively shows in this groundbreaking book, for tens of thousands of Aztecs, Maya, Totonacs, Inuit and others—enslaved people, diplomats, explorers, servants, traders—the reverse was true: they discovered Europe.
For them, Europe comprised savage shores, a land of riches and marvels, yet perplexing for its brutal disparities of wealth and quality of life, and its baffling beliefs. The story of these Indigenous Americans abroad is a story of abduction, loss, cultural appropriation, and, as they saw it, of apocalypse.
From the Brazilian king who met Henry VIII to the Aztecs who mocked up human sacrifice at the court of Charles V; from the Inuk baby who was put on show in a London pub to the mestizo children of Spaniards who returned “home” with their fathers; from the Inuit who harpooned ducks on the Avon river to the many servants employed by Europeans of every rank: here are a people who were rendered exotic, demeaned, and marginalized, but whose worldviews and cultures had a profound impact on European civilization.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.