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  • Borders and Travellers in Early Modern Europe
  • M. G. Aune
Thomas Betteridge , ed. Borders and Travellers in Early Modern Europe. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007. vii + 196 pp. index. illus. $99.95.ISBN: 978–0–7546–5351–6.

After almost two decades of active scholarship, travel and travel writing have emerged as an important and active interdisciplinary subfield for scholars of early modern Europe, and Ashgate has consistently shown a willingness to publish monographs and collections that help to perpetuate it.

The latest collection engages with borders and boundaries and their paradoxical function of preventing and stimulating crossings. In his introduction, Thomas Betteridge posits a conflict "between travel and borders, at once antagonistic and supportive" that links the essays in the book (1). The cannibal is his dominant trope, a figure that occupies the borders between fact and anecdote, civilized and barbarous, "explorer and explored, colonizer and colonized" (2). In simplest terms, the cannibal marks difference, and recalls the concern over similitude. To greater and lesser extents, the book' s nine chapters each concern a literal, metaphorical, or ideological border and how and why it functions and how and why it is crossed.

The first of three sections, "Borders," contains three essays concerning borders and international travel. The first, by Margaret Healy, demonstrates how the location of hospitals on or near the borders of cities magnified their already ambiguous status within civic culture. According to Duncan Salkeld' s second [End Page 955] chapter, Continental travelers to London discovered that while perhaps less publicly visible, prostitutes were an important part of urban culture making England' s capital not quite so different from Venice. The third chapter provides a case study of perhaps the most romanticized of border-crossers, pirates. By examining the representation of two Elizabethan pirates in contemporary and Jacobean texts, Claire Jowitt finds a subtle critique of English imperial rhetoric.

"Europe," the book' s second part, perhaps best lives up to the back cover' s claim that the collection is "trans-European and interdisciplinary." Mike Pincombe' s study of Sir Philip Sidney' s contemporary Bálint Balassi, provides a careful reading of the unfortunately little-known Hungarian aristocrat' s poetry of fighting on the Hungarian-Ottoman border. Humanism and its enabling and disabling effects on borders link the next two chapters. Historian Maria R. Boes shows how civic leaders in Frankfurt responded to humanist ideas and reforms by placing new restrictions on Gypsies and Jews. Next, rather than tracing a person, Andrew Pettegree traces the travels of a text, the Spanish epic Amadis de Gaule. Comparing the work to humanist and religious texts, which found wide translation and circulation in early modern Europe, Pettegree finds that popular texts aroused similar levels of interest and were often translated and transformed to fit the tastes of local audiences.

The final part profiles four travelers. David J. Baker' s study of Thomas Coryate argues against the Englishman' s professed apolitical stance. Rather, Baker finds that Coryate pursued a sort of politics of friendship that placed his personal relationships and his reputation at the center of his narratives. Melanie Ord provides a somewhat contrary understanding of diplomat and ambassador Sir Henry Wotton. Though he was well-traveled, Ord argues that Wotton upon his return to England worked to shake off his cosmopolitan outlook, better to acculturate to his new position as provost of Eton. In the final chapter anthropologist Neil L. Whitehead continues his work on the German traveler Hans Staden, comparing his narrative of South America with that of Walter Ralegh. Whitehead takes up Ralegh' s and Staden' s tropes of gold and cannibals and traces their importance as points of difference in travel writing across the centuries to the present day.

A brief afterword by Andrew Hadfield concludes the collection. It returns to Betteridge' s opening trope to ask, did cannibals have a renaissance? The answer is clearly yes, though the encounter with the New World changed its function. The cannibal came to represent not just the border between the human and nonhuman, but also between Catholic and Protestant, among other differences. Thus, in Hadfield' s words, the reemergence of the cannibal "demonstrates that expansion can also mean...


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pp. 955-957
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Archived 2009
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