Saturday, November 26, 2016

Heather Dalton's "Merchants and Explorers"

Heather Dalton is an ARC Early Career Research Fellow in the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne and a member of The Cabot Project at the University of Bristol. The focus of her current project is transnational relationships and family ties in trading networks in the 15th and 16th century Atlantic. As a historian born in England and living in Australia, she is also interested in early contacts between Australasia and Europe.

Dalton applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Merchants and Explorers: Roger Barlow, Sebastian Cabot, and Networks of Atlantic Exchange 1500-1560, and reported the following:
From February 1527 to August 1528, Roger Barlow, merchant and contador to the Spanish king, explored the vast river system of the River Plate in South America with Sebastian Cabot. In doing so, he became the first Englishman to set foot in present day Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, and the first to write a detailed eyewitness account of America.

As well as being an explorer, servant of Charles V, and ally of Sebastian Cabot, Barlow was also an avid proponent of expanding English trading routes. He and Cabot carved out successful careers in Seville at a time when there were fortunes to be made in supporting voyages and supplying Castile’s burgeoning settlements across the Atlantic. They and their companions instigated a voyage of discovery and survived the hardships of months at sea. When both men returned to the British Isles—Barlow around 1531 and Cabot in 1548—they had trading, navigational, and exploratory knowledge that made them truly unique. In 1541 while living in Wales and unsettled by the fall of his patron Thomas Cromwell, Barlow presented Henry VIII with a cosmography in the hope of gaining the king’s support for further voyages. This cosmography contained his personal account of the River Plate.

Page 99 of Merchants and Explorers is representative of my book in that at its core is Atlantic exploration. Halfway down the page is the heading 'A CANNIBAL ‘FEAST'. This signals the fact that in this account, Barlow included a description of how the Guaranís fattened and then ritually slaughtered their prisoners of war before eating them (Guaraní is the word for warrior in the Tupí-Guaraní dialect). This description is the first detailed description by a European to have survived. Barlow wrote it over a decade before the German Hans Staden was captured by the Tupinambá and witnessed a similar ritual. Barlow included the description of cannibalism in order to emphasise the otherness of the New World and, like Staden, to titillate his reader.
Learn more about Merchants and Explorers at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Merchants and Explorers.

--Marshal Zeringue