Catalogue

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Subject matter : technology, the body, and science on the Anglo-American frontier, 1500-1676 /
Joyce E. Chaplin.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001.
description
xiii, 411 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0674004531
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001.
isbn
0674004531
catalogue key
4474505
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Joyce E. Chaplin is Professor of History at Harvard University.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2001-11-01:
This book does well what few books manage to accomplish even crudely--taking a historical context that at first seems familiar and showing new and interesting complications, contradictions, and still-pending questions. It also develops a number of subthemes in unexpected but convincing ways, providing a truly fresh perspective. Among the several strands that Chaplin (Harvard) artfully interweaves are race, weaponry, adaptation, the physical environment, the nature of science, English ideas about the human body, dissimilarities with the Spanish national character, and a host of other themes. In brief, a major emphasis is how early English admiration for the Native ("Indian") population of North America gradually shifted to scorn and denigration as the settlers gained confidence in their ability to dominate the continent. This is not light reading, but it provides rich rewards and fascinating serendipity for anyone who cares about the subject. General and academic readers. D. B. Heath Brown University
Reviews
Review Quotes
In this wide-ranging and highly suggestive book, Joyce E. Chaplin, makes a stimulating contribution to scholarship on the origins of American ideas of racial difference. Subject Matter, compliments current work in several ways...Where most scholars, like Winthrop Jordan in his path-breaking White over Black, have focused mainly on Anglo-American ideas of African racial difference, here the author is primarily concerned with Anglo-American ideas of Amerindian difference...The significance of the book and the author's appointment cannot be underestimated. She has become the Perry Miller of academia's next generation, replacing his 'New England Mind' with her 'Anglo-American Body'...Like Mr. Miller's The New England Mind, Subject Matter is an impressively thought-provoking achievement destined to serve as a touchstone of debate for some time to come. The author's style is measured, her concerns moral, and her scholarship daring.
This book does well what few books manage to accomplish even crudely--taking a historical context that at first seems familiar and showing new and interesting complications, contradictions, and still-pending questions. It also develops a number of subthemes in unexpected but convincing ways, providing a truly fresh perspective. Among the several strands that Chaplin artfully interweaves are race, weaponry, adaptation, the physical environment, the nature of science, English ideas about the human body, dissimilarities with the Spanish national character, and a host of other themes...[This book] provides rich rewards and fascinating serendipity.
The range of sources that Chaplin employs is very impressive. Geographically, she ranges from the Arctic to South America. She is versed in the narratives of exploration, colonization, and European science. Subject Matter engages the material world and the cultural world and stresses complex and mutual influences. It is a cultural history, but the book is also much more. Read as an environmental history, the book is the most sophisticated demonstration of the centrality of gender to analysis of nature and the environment that I have yet seen. It is a book that I will be thinking about and recommending to others for quite some time.
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 2001
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Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
This work alters the historical view of the origins of English presumptions of racial superiority, and of the role science and technology played.
Main Description
With this sweeping reinterpretation of early cultural encounters between the English and American natives, Joyce E. Chaplin thoroughly alters our historical view of the origins of English presumptions of racial superiority, and of the role science and technology played in shaping these notions. By placing the history of science and medicine at the very center of the story of early English colonization, Chaplin shows how contemporary European theories of nature and science dramatically influenced relations between the English and Indians within the formation of the British Empire. In Chaplin's account of the earliest contacts, we find the English--impressed by the Indians' way with food, tools, and iron--inclined to consider Indians as partners in the conquest and control of nature. Only when it came to the Indians' bodies, so susceptible to disease, were the English confident in their superiority. Chaplin traces the way in which this tentative notion of racial inferiority hardened and expanded to include the Indians' once admirable mental and technical capacities. Here we see how the English, beginning from a sense of bodily superiority, moved little by little toward the idea of their mastery over nature, America, and the Indians--and how this progression is inextricably linked to the impetus and rationale for empire.
Unpaid Annotation
By placing the history of science and medicine at the very center of the story of early English colonization, Chaplin shows how contemporary European theories of nature and science dramatically influenced relations between the English and Indians within the formation of the British Empire.
Table of Contents
List of Tables and Figuresp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Prologue: Noses, or The Tip of the Problemp. 1
Approaching America, 1500-1585
Transatlantic Backgroundp. 7
Technology versus Idolatry?p. 36
Invading America, 1585-1660
No Magic Bullets: Archery, Ethnography, and Military Intelligencep. 79
Domesticating Americap. 116
Death and the Birth of Racep. 157
Conquering America, 1640-1676
How Improvement Trumped Hybridityp. 201
Gender and the Artificial Indian Bodyp. 243
Matter and Manitoup. 280
Codap. 321
Notesp. 327
Indexp. 391
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

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