On Savage Shores: How America Discovered the World by Dr Caroline Dodds Pennock
(Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2021)

On Savage Shores: How America Discovered the World

by Dr Caroline Dodds Pennock

The story of the sixteenth century is one of movement and meetings, of iconic explorers crossing great oceans and setting foot on strange shores, sowing the seeds of our modern global world. When we think of this period, we imagine Christopher Columbus ‘discovering’ America in 1492. But at the same instant, the great civilisations of the Americas discovered Europe. Tens of thousands of Native Americans made the journey across the Atlantic from the very moment of that first encounter, but their experiences have been written out of popular understandings of the past: from the Brazilian king who met Henry VIII, to the Inuit who harpooned ducks on the Avon; from the Aztecs who mocked up human sacrifice at the court of Charles V, to the Inuk baby who was put on show in a London pub; from the Maya nobles who made chocolate for the Spanish king, to the thousands of enslaved Indigenous people and servants who laboured in European households. They forged the course of European civilisation, just as surely as Europe changed America. For such Indigenous travellers, of course, Europe was the savage shore.

Dr Caroline Dodds Pennock, one of the world’s foremost historians of Mesoamerican culture, will tell this epic story from the American perspective. We’ll hear about Indigenous people such as the Aztecs, Maya, Tupi and Algonquians, both through their surviving literature and poetry and through the eyewitness accounts of the Europeans who met them. Dodds Pennock will read against the grain of the contemporary accounts, and tell a sweeping history of early modern Europe focused on these forgotten explorers, servants, enslaved people, diplomats, entertainers and traders. Theirs is a story of discovery, but it is also an incredibly moving account of inconceivable loss, of abduction, of cultural dislocation and apocalypse.