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Open Access “Soi-Disant Columbuses”: The Discovery of Dominica’s Boiling Lake and the Commodification of Knowledge in Colonial Societies

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“Soi-Disant Columbuses”: The Discovery of Dominica’s Boiling Lake and the Commodification of Knowledge in Colonial Societies

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

It may indeed be “a truth universally acknowledged” that “no man is an island, entire of itself.” Nonetheless, the entirety upon itself that Donne assumes as a given in connection to islands may be true only as far as geography and geometry are concerned – or perhaps, in the case of the poet, as far as the pure idea, the literary conceit, goes. The truth is that given the pernicious history of European colonization around the world, no island has retained its entirety of itself for very long after being “discovered” by Europeans. One may thus wonder if Donne himself was quite unaware of the irony implicit in his verses. In 1596, more than a quarter century before he penned his famous lines, he had had his own brush with conquest and colonization. In that year, he had enlisted in the Earl of Essex’s unsuccessful privateering expedition against Cadiz, and in 1597 he had sailed with Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh in the near-disastrous Islands Expedition, which had sought to intercept Spanish ships bringing gold and silver from South America as they sailed past the Azores.

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