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Home > Catalogue > Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance
Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance


  • 12 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 470 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.86 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: n/a
  • Dewey version: n/a
  • LC Classification: GN575 .R83 2000
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Ethnology--Europe--History
    • India, South--Description and travel

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521770552 | ISBN-10: 0521770556)

DOI: 10.2277/0521770556

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

 (Stock level updated: 02:10 GMT, 30 November 2015)


This book, first published in 2000, offers a wide-ranging and ambitious analysis of how European travellers in India developed their perceptions of ethnic, political and religious diversity over three hundred years. It analyses the growth of novel historical and philosophical concerns, from the early and rare examples of medieval travellers such as Marco Polo, through to the more sophisticated narratives of seventeenth-century observers - religious writers such as Jesuit missionaries, or independent antiquarians such as Pietro della Valle. The book's approach combines the detailed contextual analysis of individual narratives with an original long-term interpretation of the role of cross-cultural encounters in the European Renaissance. An extremely wide range of European sources is discussed, including the often neglected but extremely important Iberian and Italian sources. However, the book also discusses a number of non-European sources, Muslim and Hindu, thereby challenging simplistic interpretations of western 'orientalism'.

• A massively-researched and genuinely pioneering account of the interaction between 'west' and 'east' during the period of the European Renaissance and beyond • Combines long-term interpretation of the Renaissance with attention to specific contexts of 'cultural encounter' • A wholly original contribution to the study of the Renaissance, which challenges simplistic interpretations of western 'orientalism'


Preface; 1. The search for India: the empire of Vijayanagara through European eyes; 2. Marco Polo's India and the Latin Christian tradition; 3. Establishing lay science: the merchant and the humanist; 4. The Portuguese and Vijayanagara: politics, religion and classification; 5. The practice of ethnography: Indian customs and castes; 6. The social and political order: Vijayanagara decoded; 7. The historical dimension: from native traditions to European orientalism; 8. The missionary discovery of South Indian religion: opening the doors of idolatry; 9. From humanism to scepticism: the independent traveller in the seventeenth century; 10. Conclusion: before orientalism; Appendix; Bibliography.


'A startling new study of the transforming effects of Indian travel on European culture.' Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The Independent Weekend Review (Book of the Year)

'… [an] impressively erudite, well researched, and eloquently written book'. Peter Burke, University of Cambridge

'… a work of great erudition and high quality. It is impressive both in the range and closeness of its reading of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European accounts of south India, and in the analytical power with which they are discussed. This really does seem to me an important and original contribution to our understanding of the development of European perceptions of the non-European world.' Sir John Elliott, University of Oxford

'… an accomplishment of stunning intellectual and scholarly proportions. It is unique in its effective conceptualisation of a vast cultural terrain, its breathtaking comprehensiveness, and the sensitivity with which the author reads texts … The range of materials studied, most unknown to the ordinary, intelligent reader, alone makes the work something that will long command the field.' John M. Headley, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

'… brilliant' Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The Times Literary Supplement

'Rubies's book is an erudite, engaging and lucid account of travel writing in the Renaissance, particularly with regard to South India. Its lightly worn scholarship allows the reader to engage with the sheer diversity of individual representation.' Dilip Menon, The Hindu

'A richly textures book of great scholarship, which breaks down the walls separating 'Indian' and 'European' history.' The Book Review

'… an intelligent guidebook for anyone who has cause to refer to Renaissance travel writing … it is hoped that it will receive a much larger readership than that.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

'… it will rekindle an interest in some of the most exciting and interesting examples of early European writing.' Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History

'… deep and thought-provoking …' E-Journal of Portuguese History

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