|World Americas Africa Asia|
Settlement and control of the new world
By the late seventeenth century the Spanish had settled into their role as overseers of the southern portion of the Americas. Unlike the English who supplanted the indigenous peoples with either fellow Englishmen or African slaves, the Spanish moved in alongside them and put them to work on their mines and plantations. The master-servant relationship is captured in the foreground image of this bird's eye view of Acapulco, one of the principal Spanish ports on the Pacific coast. The view is from an illustrated description of the Americas by Arnold Montanus (1625?-1683), a Dutch writer who collected accounts of the new worlds from sea captains in the busy port of Amsterdam. The volume on America was one of a highly popular series of books on Asia, Africa and the Americas issued by Jacob Meurs in the late 1660s and early 1670s, and which were translated and reprinted many times into the eighteenth century.
The Spanish relationship with the Native American people was not simply one of exploitation. From the beginning, the Catholic Church was interested in the native people as potential Christians, and sent missionaries along on Columbus's later voyages. Over time the Church built an impressive network of missions, monasteries and churches. The Spanish priest Baltasar de Medina (d. 1697) used a map of the region surrounding Acapulco to visually document the Church's presence in the province in his history of the diocese.
British engagement in the Americas had been largely limited to semi-official piracy against Spanish shipping until the 1580s when Walter Raleigh unsuccessfully tried to establish a colony in the Carolinas. From that point forward, English efforts in America were focused on building British settlements, rather than on developing trading relations with the native peoples. While there were a number of reasons the British adopted this approach, one of the critical intellectual underpinnings for it was the belief that the inhabitants were morally and intellectually inferior to Europeans, and therefore could be pushed aside. This attitude toward Native Americans is reflected in the first important British atlas of the world, John Speed's Prospect of the most famous parts of the world (1627). Speed's maps were decorated with illustrations depicting the inhabitants of each continent. For the American map, shown here, Speed depicts primitive savages, whereas in his map of Asia, the people are portrayed as being different from Europeans, but still civilized. The American and Asian maps in the exhibition were both originally engraved for the 1627 Prospect, and then included in the 1676 Theatre of the empire of Great-Britain.
By the mid-seventeenth century British settlers were established in a number of colonies along the North American coast and in the Caribbean. One of the most profitable colonies was Barbados, an island occupied by the British in the 1620s. The introduction of sugar production in the 1640s brought prosperity to the island almost overnight. It also brought large numbers of African slaves who were imported to work the fields. This impressionistic map of Barbados, issued with Richard Ligon's 1657 account of the early, heady days of the sugar industry, captures the author's narrative in visual form. By marking out the locations of plantations, the map suggests that there are still opportunities for investment by people in the home country; by including pictures of soldiers, the map emphasizes the English settlers' control of the land.
|Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections|