Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five best: books about historical conquest

David Day, author of Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others, named a five best list of books about historical conquest for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on his list:
Ceremonies of Possession in Europe's Conquest of the New World, 1492-1640
by Patricia Seed
Cambridge, 1995

The assertion of control over newly conquered lands is usually marked by an act that has symbolic meaning, at least for the conquerors. In her landmark history, Patricia Seed describes the competing ways in which European powers asserted their right to territory in the Americas, with each country refusing to recognize the claims of the others. Her book is peppered with fascinating vignettes of Portuguese and Dutch who thought that mastering the navigation of distant seas entitled explorers to seize the lands that their ships chanced upon. In contrast, the British emphasized enclosing and farming as a means of establishing their dominion, while the French preferred to enact a ceremony that mimicked the forms of a coronation back home. As for the Spanish, "it was the words that counted," Seed writes. "A highly formalized and stylized speech known as the Requirement had to be made when encountering indigenous peoples for the first time. The text of the speech was not a request for consent, but a declaration of war."
Read about Number One on Day's list.

Learn more about Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others and the author at the Oxford University Press website and David Day's website.

The Page 99 Test: David Day's Conquest.

--Marshal Zeringue