European Debates on the Conquest of the Americas Criticism: English Perceptions Of Native Americans - Essay

Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr. (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Berkhofer, Robert F., Jr. “French and English Terms and Images.” In The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present, pp. 12-22. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.

[In the following excerpt, Berkhofer discusses terminology the French and English used to categorize Native Americans—most notably the English tendency to label natives as “savages”—and how such categorization reflected European conceptions of Christianity and civilization.]

To what extent … conceptions bequeathed by the Spanish to other Europeans became the preconceptions of the French and English in their subsequent contact with Native Americans is...

(The entire section is 5435 words.)

Alden T. Vaughan (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Vaughan, Alden T. “Early English Paradigms for New World Natives.” In Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience, pp. 34-54. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Vaughan analyzes five of the most common paradigms the English used to describe Native Americans, ranging from viewing them as wildmen or even monsters to considering them one of the lost tribes of Israel.]

Even before Christopher Columbus returned from his revolutionary voyage of 1492-93, he began to describe for European readers the people he had encountered on the other side of the world. At times he portrayed the Indians in some detail,...

(The entire section is 10945 words.)

Gesa MacKenthun (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: MacKenthun, Gesa. “Books for Empire: The Colonial Program of Richard Hakluyt.” In Metaphors of Dispossession: American Beginnings and the Translation of Empire, 1492-1637, pp. 22-70. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, MacKenthun argues that English adventurers and colonists, like the Spanish before them, became fixated on images of American Indians as cannibals to justify conquest, and perhaps, to even mask their own cruelty and savagery.]

My analysis of the Madoc story has shown the function of narrative in the historical legitimation of a national-colonial project, while my reading of the golden-age trope has traced its...

(The entire section is 11055 words.)