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… quae mihi satis liberalis et humana visa

K. T. S. Klos

Although 16th century Latin travel narratives of the New World's conquerors and colonizers provide a wealth of contemporary perspectives on timeless questions about identity and human nature, these texts are largely neglected because they occupy a space between disciplines; historians of the early modern Americas are rarely trained in Latin, while classicists and medievalists primarily treat pre-modern Europe. Some works, such as Urbain Chauveton's account of early Floridian peregrinations, de Gallorum expeditione in Floridam, et clade ab Hispanis non minus iniuste quam immaniter ipsis illata anno MDLXV brevis historia (published by Theodor de Bry), occasionally receive attention but are often dismissed as too biased or inaccurate to be of any use.
This paper analyzes portrayals of pilgrims and pillagers operating in southeastern North America, published in de Bry's 16th century collections, Partes Americae, to argue for the utility of these texts. By reading these documents as part of a genre of formal complaints alleging a series of actionable injuries, instead of trying to subject them to modern standards of historical objectivity, it becomes possible to sift details about early interactions between groups of French, Spanish, and indigenous peoples. Patently subjective comments, instead of rendering these sources useless, provide insight into an underlying contemporary debate about violent or exploitive treatment of human beings. I closely examine language (in particular, adjectives, substantives, and appositives) used of various groups of peoples, to identify typologies, the rhetoric of conquest, and evolving concepts of self, Other, and humanity in the literature of exploration and exploitation.

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Neo-Latin Texts in the Americas and Europe

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