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Author: Benjamin Breen

Abstract

The 1600-1800 period was an era of global travel and encounters. Yet this “early modern globalization” was highly unstable, characterized by miscommunications and doubts regarding the credibility of both individual witnesses and the facts they adduced. The Formosan hoax of George Psalmanazar (1679?-1763) offers a unique perspective on these themes. Although Psalmanazar was a fraud, his inventions about the island of Formosa circulated widely in different languages, nations, and inscriptive contexts. The divergence between Psalmanazar’s personal credibility and the longevity of his invented facts sheds light on the nature of evidence and information networks in early modern globalization. This episode highlights the imperfect and contested nature of early modern communication networks.

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Author: Benjamin Breen

Historians have long overlooked the role played by animals in cross-cultural interactions in the American borderlands. Yet domesticated animals - and the social practices that accompanied them - were central both to the ‘civilizing mission’ of colonizers and to indigenous American resistance. This paper examines these themes within the context of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi region between 1670 and 1730. Drawing evidence from Algonquian and Iroquoian languages and cultural practices as well as from the accounts of French missionaries and voyageurs, I show that the indigenous peoples of the Pays d’en Haut rejected the positive connotations that domestication held for Europeans, and instead equated domestication with enslavement. The resulting conflicts between conceptions of nature, ownership and tameness had an enduring influence on European-Indian relations. Although this study examines specific patterns of interaction on the New French frontier, it also raises broad questions relating to environmental history and European-indigenous interactions throughout the New World.

In: Journal of Early American History