HIST2F90: Money & Power in the Atlantic World

Winter Term Assignment Options

Second Term assignment Options

In second term, you have a short assignment due Feb 14th. You have choices for each and these are listed below.

Is additional research needed? In some bits and places, yes, but that research should be filling in holes, not the centre of the essay. In all cases, the topics draw on course themes. There, you should be drawing on what you've already learned.

Short assignments:

Option 1 - Text Analysis II:

Use Voyant tools (and your mind!) to compare two compare Two Captivity Narratives, Mary Rowlandson vs. John Gyles.

Captivity narratives were common in the early modern era. As the phrase suggests, they were tales told of an individual's time spent as a captive, usually from warfare. They were very popular. Part adventure tale, part heroic romance, part nationalistic political parable, captivity tales tell us a lot about not only the captives and their captors, but also about the cultural concerns of the societies that gobbled up the tales.In this exercise, we want you to read and compare two colonial North American texts. But we want you to read them in a particular manner. We want you to "pre-read" them first, using only their titles, publication information and your now developing general knowledge, and second using text-mining software (Voyant) as a way to examine the patterns of topics and ideas present in each text: can these "pre-reads" allow you to hypothesize about these texts? To develop questions by which you might approach reading them? Then, finally, read the texts with an eye to both reading it critically and intelligently (as you alway would) but also to testing your hypotheses.   

Your texts are about two New Englanders captured in late 17th-century wars in northeastern North America. Mary Rowlandson was captured in 1676 during King Philips War, while Gyles was captured in 1690 by Mailseet peoples on what is today the Saint John River in New Brunswick. Rowlandson’s account is far more famous (and why is a good question you might ask yourself!), but they are both very similar and very different.Text-mining software like Voyant allow us to "read" text in new and interesting ways. These tools count, organise, and visually represent writing. It allows one to read enter works, even multiple works, that can help us identify patterns of word use, key terms, themes, and even the organisation of ideas and arguments. 

Hint: Here's a video showing you the basics of comparing two texts in Voyant, but you can also use Voyant on each of these texts, one-by-one, to get a handle on each before you move on to the comparison.

Pre-reading allows us to identify important features of these books. To be clear, we still need to read the texts - the software only helps us spot patterns, not doing the actual reading - but it allows us to anticipate language, conceptual terms, associations of ideas, sections of the book where some ideas are present, or not.

Context also helps. Think of your reading on related subjects; bring your learning to bear on this discussion. Do the images help us to understand the stories? The ways the stories were interpreted?

Due 14 February: Write 1200 words about how you used at least two tools from Voyant Tools to "pre-read" these texts and how you might use that in your analysis of the books. Make sure that you include URLs to the output pages of the data analyses and tools that you are describing.

Option 2 - Travel and Reconnaissance:

How can travellers' accounts help us to understand the early modern world? They were first-hand observers (and thus good primary sources!), but not of those communities they were describing (and thus maybe misunderstanding local knowledge?).

While silver, gold, and even fish were profitable commodities, few things were precious than good information on the colonies. How could states - both the European imperial states and the local governments in the colonies - plan their actions without a sure knowledge of their worlds? Much of what Europeans knew about North and South America came from either travellers sojourning through the Americas, missionaries, and sometimes more specialised figures like surveyors.Here, as in your Forum entries, you will continue to practice the analysis of primary sources. Pay particular attention to the perspectives in each document. Just as historians have different interpretations of the same questions, so too did people in the past have different interpretations of their worlds. Who are the authors?  Were these works expressions of their own peculiar interests, their backgrounds, the reasons for their being there in the first place, their audience (whose going to read these books?), on the broader interests (including prejudices) of society? Think about people’s interests, and by interests I mean both what captures their attention and what captures their attention because of who they are: are they are state officials? investors? missionaries?

How can these travel accounts and reports help us to understand the colonial era? What information do they give us? How can that help us to understand both the specific places they describe and the general context of the American in the colonial era. Think too about what they’re describing: natural features of the landscape, altered landscapes, roads, water-routes, resources. Do we see economic activities? Do we see people? Settlers? Indigenous peoples? Indications of past presences? Agriculture? 

Hint: these documents all share a basic similarity: they report on some far off colonial place for a metropolitan audience, but they're also quite different. Think about their similarities and differences.

Hint 2: do you need to do extra research? You don't need to go to the library and read 14 books, but googling the authors, getting some basic information to help you think about context couldn't hurt! And you're in a course where we're thinking about broader themes - that should help you too.

Some of these texts are full of details. Some might be really interesting (you should read them slowly and carefully). On the other hand, some might be far more detail than you can usefully deal with. You might start asking why that detailed information was thought to be important? You may look at descriptions like these and ask, why do they want to communicate that kind of information? In other words, what's their point? 

And don't overlook the obvious: when was it published (what might that tell us about context?), are there hints in the title?

An Option: Use Voyant-Tools to help read these pieces

1200 words, due 14 February 

Option 3 - Film Review

Many regard “The Mission” as one of the best historical films of the past fifty years or so. It’s a film with a major director (Joffe), major stars (Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson), and a soundtrack by perhaps the greatest soundtrack composer ever, Ennio Morricone). So, the seemingly obscure topic of 18th-century missionaries in the interior of South America surprises many people. But, as we know, it’s a major topic in global history, having a major effect on colonisation, on settler-Indigenous relations, and thus on the creation of the modern world. The story explores the relationship between Indigenous people and colonisers, particularly relationship with Jesuit missionaries. It's background is huge: it's set against the backdrop of the Reformation, the realignment of European powers in the era of the Seven Years War, and the role of the Catholic church as both a political power and a sponsor of missions. And one of the film major strengths is that it situates two individuals, two quite different people, against this backdrop to help us see all this through their eyes.

It’s not, however, without controversy.  Many critics, for example, have pointed out that while broadly accurate - like many films this one begins “the historical events represented in this story are true” - the film has a highly idealised take on how we should understand that story.

You've now read some work on missionaries. Using your new background, review the film as a historian. Using the material available to you - in particular, but not only, the materials you read for our Missionaries lesson (plus some sources listed below) - discuss the film’s interpretation of this true story. To be clear, you don’t need to get into all the intrigues of European church-state politics and so on. That part of the story is told reasonably accurately; it simplifies the story, for sure, but that’s necessary in a film like this. What I want you to focus on the film's more important representation: the relationship between the missionaries and their subjects, the Guarani Indigenous people of central South America. 

You've already completed our lesson on Missionaries. Review your notes/readings again before watching the film. Watch the film thinking with your knowledge of missionaries. Most of our readings are on Jesuits, and the film focuses on a Jesuit mission. I expect you all to emerge from our discussions on such missionaries with some thoughts on their role in the colonisation of the Americas. Given that, write about the film and how it represents their role in that story.

Remember, you're writing about the film, but as an historian. When you cite knowledge you acquired in this course, you should cite the source as a good historian would. Do you need to do additional research for this assignment? You're not required to do so, but obviously reading some basic information on Jesuits, on missionaries in early modern Latin America. Part fo the story rests on conflict and diplomacy between Spain and Portugal. You don't need a detailed understanding of that, but understanding the very basic political geography of that story would be helpful.

Let me also add that some people think this assignment is easy because you "just have to watch a movie". That's true, but I can tell you that the last time I offered this option the grades on this question were lower than on the other options. You need to watch a movie, and you need to do so carefully and thoughtfully. You need to think back to our readings on missionaries and on Indigenous peoples; you need to synthesise some of the with the story of the film, and you ned to think about a series of issues related to how this story is told.

For context, you should consult your readings from the missionaries week, plus:

This short piece from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the the place of religious conversion in early modern empires may be helpful (you need read only up to section 3).

The film is obviously sympathetic to how some Jesuits interacted with Guaranis. But it's worth noting that not everyone in 18th-century Europe thought so highly of Jesuit interactions with Indigenous people, and the Guaranis in particular. Guillaume Raynal was one of the great writers of the French Enlightenment, and a major critic of the Jesuits. His perspective in this excerpt from his Histoire des Deux Indes (Amsterdam, 1770) may be helpful in seeing a view critical not only of imperialism but of the Jesuits. Read this excerpt from Guillaume-Thomas-François Raynal, A History of the Two Indies: a Translated Selection of Writings from Raynal’s Histoire Philosophique et Politique Des Établisments Des Européens Dans Les Des Deux Indes. Peter Jimack, ed., (Aldershot, UK, Ashgate, 2006), 115-21.

Find the film here (You need to be signed in to the library).

1200 words, due 14 Feb



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