European Perceptions of Terra Australis

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The essays provide updates on contemporary debates in the field, bring into focus some little-known texts, and provide fresh interdisciplinary insights on a fascinating field. Anne M. He has published widely on Renaissance poetry and drama. Not Enabled. No customer reviews. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers.

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Amazon Inspire Digital Educational Resources. The happiness of humans — a secular version of salvation — or the fulfilment of the providential or historical destiny of a people, were seen as being dependent on the accomplishment of "civilized" ways of life. Regular encounters between what were considered to be less-developed and more-developed societies appeared to support this concept of a hierarchy of civilizational development.

While European Enlightenment thought also contained scepticism towards the idea of European society as the pinnacle of human development, it ultimately paved the way for positivistic and evolutionist theories in the 19th century. Encounters with non-Europeans, which had had a strong Eurocentric aspect from the beginning, seemed to confirm the ideas of the Europeans regarding their place in the hierarchy of civilizational development.

During the 18th and the 19th centuries, Eurocentric thinking further developed pre-existing ideas of European racial, cultural, scientific and technological superiority. The idea of the "White Man's Burden" not only justified the conquest of non-European peoples, but interpreted it as the duty of Europeans to spread their superior culture. From the late 17th century onward, Europe had encountered new populations in two other geographical areas: sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific.

After the initial Portuguese involvement on the Atlantic coast , European involvement in sub-Saharan Africa was later maintained by the French and, in particular, by the British, who dominated African trade during the 18th century. The interior of Africa remained unknown for a long time and European encounters were confined to the coastal regions. Negative views and generalizations dominated European perceptions. Africa was depicted as a land of despotism and of abject, immutable, and pervasive "savagery" — a subject better befitting natural sciences than history.

Two predominant factors influenced this perception. Blackness and the slave trade combined created a negative image of the African peoples in European minds. For Europeans, dark skin was a vivid and immutable symbol of difference and, together with many other physical details, reinforced European notions about the difference, the inferiority, of Africans.

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From the late 17th century, the origin of dark-coloured skin became the object of intense anatomical, physiological and medical debate, which went beyond previous explanations, such as the "curse on Cain" and climatic factors. The supposed connection between external racial physical traits, and moral and intellectual qualities as discussed in Buffon and, in more overtly racial terms, in Hume and Edward Long — was not defined as a direct cause-and-effect relationship until the late 18th century, when the monogenetic unity of mankind and the equality of the human races were fundamentally questioned.

While several important travel accounts from the late 17th century offered a more nuanced view of western Africa with its political entities, and ethnic and historical complexities, Europeans continued to consider black Africans in terms of old stereotypes: uncivilized, barbarian, indolent, unreliable, mentally and materially enslaved and lacking any of the virtues — especially religious virtues — required for progress.

Slavery apologists went so far as to maintain that Africans were destined to be victims of Arab slave-traders or despotic local rulers, and would thus be better off under European masters.


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Some voyagers and authors, however, offered more complex — even positive — portrayals of west African societies, such as the French naturalist Michel Adanson — , and the Scottish philosophers John Millar — and Lord Henry Kames — Towards the end of the 18th century, a more balanced and informed depiction of Africa began to emerge thanks to abolition campaigners such as Anthony Benezet — [ ] , as well as explorers such as Mungo Park — [ ].

Park's exploration of the Niger region in the s produced revelations in geography and, especially, in ethnology. His portrayal of the population of the region as having well-established political structures contradicted the traditional view of this population as uncivilized. In general, abolitionist writing drew on primitivist examples when describing African peoples, frequently depicting them as innocent victims whom rapacious Europeans had torn from their simple and natural way of life. In other areas which gradually became the object of European observation, such as South Africa, aboriginal populations 15 were regarded until well into the 19th century as the most degraded representatives of the human kind, an example of extreme barbarity, and even sub-human.

Having been denied a place in the historiography of the Enlightenment and having been ignored by the Hegelian idealist philosophy of history, in the 19th century Africa continued to appear as a land of great contradictions to Europeans. Its interior contained legendary primitive populations such as the Congo Pygmies first encountered by German botanist and ethnologist Georg Schweinfurth — in the early s, while the southern and eastern regions of the Horn revealed highly organized, militarily formidable populations capable of challenging European expansion and even inflicting defeats on weaker European powers, as witnessed by the Italian experience in Ethiopia.

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This was not, however, enough to fundamentally change prevailing negative stereotypes of Africa as socially and economically backward, and generally inferior. The subsequent development of physical anthropology, with its obsession with the measurement, definition and classification of human races, strengthened the association between exterior appearance, moral qualities and potential for civilization in the minds of Westerners.

During the period between the end of the Seven Years War and the outbreak of the French Revolution, Europeans greatly expanded their knowledge of the Pacific Ocean thanks to navigators and scientists such as George Anson — , John Byron — , Samuel Wallis — and Philip Carteret — , Louis-Antoine de Bougainville — , Johann Reinhold Forster — and his son Georg — The three epic voyages of James Cook — [ ] between and , typical scientific expeditions organized by the Royal Society, enormously increased the European knowledge of the Pacific routes and wind patterns, island systems, flora and fauna, and populations.

They also paved the way to the British colonization of Australia, which was to become the second largest British settlement colony, and to the discovery of the Terra Australis Incognita. Such encounters brought Europeans into contact with peoples which they believed had experienced little or no external contact before.

While historical genetics has since established the migration paths and mixing of populations of the Australian landmass and in the Pacific region, Europeans in the 18th century believed the Pacific Islanders and the Australian Aborigines had lived in complete isolation. The belief that these populations had been isolated from European culture and influences was supported in the minds of the Europeans by their perception of the Pacific Islanders as extremely primitive and barely human other than in their physical appearance.

As discussed above, the adoption of European culture was a prerequisite for the attainment of civilization according to prevalent European attitudes. In spite of similarities, attitudes were not identical in the various European countries. French explorers tended towards a sentimental, idealizing interpretation. The British were also enchanted by Tahitian life, but were less inclined to view it as a natural, unspoiled, joyful society. They noted examples of inequality, oppression and strife. While describing Tahiti and Tonga in terms of a paradise, perceptive scholarly voyagers such as Johann Reinhold and Georg Forster could not help dwelling on more substantial problems, such as "the Causes of the Difference in the Races of Men in the South Seas, their Origin and Migration" 16 and pondering the possible consequences of European intrusion.

Subsequent encounters with the less hospitable Maori populations in New Zealand and the Australian Aborigines appeared to confirm the Europeans' initial ambivalence towards the native populations they were encountering for the first time. The killing of James Cook in during his third voyage served to reinforce misgivings further. Encounters with peoples of the Pacific Ocean and particularly with the Tahitian natives had an important impact on the European imagination, 17 as did direct contact with Tahitians such as Aoutourou and Omai ca.

In France , the reaction was influenced by primitivism and the revival of the "noble savage" stereotype, as witnessed by Denis Diderot's — Supplement au voyage de Bougainville In Britain , a more scientific and practical attitude prevailed, as exemplified by Johann Reinhold and Georg Forster's travel account Scottish philosophers of history incorporated the peoples of the Pacific into their ongoing discussions of the stages in the evolution of societies and of the relationships between environment and progress.

The newly encountered peoples of the Pacific were viewed as living proof of the superiority of Western civilization, though what was perceived as their benign innocence also elicited many sympathetic relativistic comparisons. The South Seas explorations of the late 18th century thus contributed to European philosophical debates as well as preparing the way for trade, missionary activity and colonization in the region. The voyages also added new examples and new varieties to the catalogue of "savage" peoples.

Europe's relationship with the rest of the Eurasian continent was defined by a different dynamic. The discoveries were no less important from a European perspective, but encounters there — which were the starting point of longstanding relationships — were primarily with populous, highly advanced, powerful countries. Furthermore, these encounters were influenced to a greater extent by European knowledge and attitudes which had developed over centuries.

European knowledge of southern and eastern Asia had been garnered from encounters beginning with Alexander the Great — BC , and continuing with the Roman Empire and the travels of medieval merchants and missionaries. Attitudes to the orient were also shaped by a travel literature which owed a good deal to legend and myth. In 15th-century Europe, the existence of ancient and powerful civilizations in Asia was broadly accepted, though dependable knowledge about them was scarce.

Naval exploration from the late 15th century brought Europe into increasingly close contact with the Far East , as first the Dutch — then the French, the English and other nations — became involved in a region which to European eyes was vast and complex. Trade and religion were the primary concerns of the Europeans from the start and coloured their initial impressions.

From the voyage of Vasco da Gama ca.

Exploration art: skewed reality, or flawed perceptions?

Secondly, they discovered how closely interconnected the Asian economy was, stretching from China and Indonesia to eastern Africa, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea up to northern Egypt and the Mediterranean coast of Syria. Thirdly, they discovered how impenetrable China was, and Japan also —after a promising start. It proved very difficult to gain access to China's domestic market and China's centre of political power remained remote and inaccessible.

It was also very difficult to break into the highly structured maritime trade linking India to southern China, the Philippines , Japan and Korea. While the Portuguese had more success than others in establishing themselves as a maritime power in Asia, the experiences of the first three centuries of renewed contact with Asia taught Europeans that Asian civilizations were perfectly capable of rivalling the Western newcomers.

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In Safawid Persia , Mughal India, and especially in Qing China, the degree of political and administrative organization, the economic resources, population sizes, architecture and urban centres, as well as the technological and manufacturing skills, and cultural and artistic refinement were on a par with — or surpassed — anything in Europe.

The European encounter with the Orient during the early modern era was mainly the work of individuals or small groups. Europeans — lay and clerical — residing in Asia numbered in the hundreds, rather than thousands.

Until the late 18th century, Dutch Batavia and Spanish Manila were the only large colonial towns with a consistent European population. Sojourns in Asia were normally comparatively short due to health difficulties caused by the climate and tropical diseases. Before the 19th century, direct, intensive contact at the local level was rare. This also applied to European governors, diplomats and officials, who regulated European trade and financial activity in the region.

Representatives of European trading companies cooperated in their daily activities with local banyans Hindu trader , merchants, bankers, interpreters and domestic servants.

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Co-habitation and intermarriage was less common, except in Dutch Batavia, where it was encouraged from quite early on. Examples of Anglo-Indian intermarriage and social relations only began to emerge from the late 18th century onwards. Official representatives of the East India Company and members of their staffs in towns across India began to socialize with, and even marry, Hindu or Muslim bibi name for a lady in Urdu and Persian or courtesans and mistresses, adopting Indian customs as a result.

The phenomenon of the "white Mughals" represented a "succession of unexpected and unplanned minglings of peoples and cultures and ideas". Until the late 18th century, then, the European encounter with the Orient was not — with the partial exception of Dutch Indonesian possessions — characterized by large-scale white settlement, territorial acquisitions and political control; and subsequent European involvement in the region involved these phenomena to a considerably lesser degree than elsewhere in the world.

Trade in Asian goods and fabrics had a profound effect on the economic, political, diplomatic and social spheres in Europe. European consumption patterns and social habits were increasingly shaped by new products coming over from Asia, which came into vogue: spices, tea, tulips, fine printed muslins and calicoes, silk garments and accessories such as pyjamas, shawls or fans, wallpaper, furniture in exotic and lacquered woods, fine blue porcelains, Oriental gardening, later opium.