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Europe and the Gift Economies in North America

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the fundamentals of the exchange that occurred in America as it regularized around Indian rules and customs of reciprocity. In many ways, it was the fact that European traders so often adopted not only aspects of Indian culture, but also transcended early modern European traditions of gift giving and market exchanges, that made the Indian trade, gaining pace by the late sixteenth century, controversial and so open to comment, criticism and debate. In a study of Europe's imagination of American trading, a firm understanding of traditional exchange, gift giving and kinship must be laid to better appreciate this encounter of the Old World with the new. The chapter begins with the incident recorded by Gabriel Sagard on his first journey to New France and the disastrous consequences of a ship captain's clumsy gift diplomacy. It ends with the same missionary's departure.

Keywords: European traditions; Gabriel Sagard; Indian trade; inter tribal gift economy; New France; North America



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