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Native Inhabitants: Physical Appearances And Identities

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Chapter Summary

The De Brys followed the interests of the chroniclers, yet not without adding their own flavour. Throughout the first two volumes of the De Bry collection, the captions to the relevant engravings were truly admiring of the eating customs of the native inhabitants the English and the French encountered. This combination of topics must have been closely related to consecutive crop failures in Europe in the early 1590s, as a result of adverse climatic conditions. One final, visual aspect of the physical appearance of the overseas population that may have caught the eye of the contemporary reader was human body posture. As clothing went a long way to determine early modern identity, nakedness, whether total or partial, further implied uniformity. Depicting many inhabitants of the New World and southern Africa in the nude blurred the cultural boundaries between adjacent and even geographically detached indigenous groups.

Keywords: De Bry collection; early modern identity; Europe; human body posture; nakedness; native inhabitants; overseas population; physical appearance



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