This is the story of Indigenous Americans abroad; a story of abduction, loss, cultural appropriation, and, as they saw it, of apocalypse – a story that has largely been absent from our collective imagination of the times.
We have long been taught to presume that modern global history began when the 'Old World' encountered the 'New', when Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America in 1492. But, as Caroline Dodds Pennock conclusively shows in this groundbreaking book, for tens of thousands of Aztecs, Maya, Totonacs, Inuit and others – enslaved people, diplomats, explorers, servants, traders – the reverse was true: they discovered Europe. For them, Europe comprised savage shores, a land of riches and marvels, yet perplexing for its brutal disparities of wealth and quality of life, and its baffling beliefs.
From the Brazilian king who met Henry VIII, to the Aztecs who mocked up human sacrifice at the court of Charles V, to the many servants employed by Europeans of every rank: here are a people who were rendered exotic, demeaned, and marginalised, but whose world-views and cultures had a profound impact on European civilisation.
Drawing on their surviving literature and poetry and subtly layering European eyewitness accounts against the grain, Pennock gives us a sweeping account of the Indigenous American presence in, and impact on, early modern Europe.