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Savages, Romans, and DespotsThinking about Others from Montaigne to Herder$
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Robert Launay

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226575254

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226575421.001.0001

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Maps of Mankind

Maps of Mankind

(p.1) One Maps of Mankind
Savages, Romans, and Despots

Robert Launay

University of Chicago Press

This chapter establishes the importance of a comparative perspective in early modern European thought about others. It critically examines different approaches to understanding these conceptualizations in historical perspective. Progressive disciplinary histories, evaluating authors from prior eras in terms of their contributions to contemporary agendas, are invariably anachronistic, as well as approaches which look for the roots of modern ideas. Postcolonial thought, in the wake of the publication of Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, similarly if less optimistically projects contemporary preoccupations onto past writers. The chapter suggests an approach that treats past authors, not as ancestors, but as interlocutors whose ideas need to be understood in terms of the very different projects they were attempting to formulate, in their own terms rather than in ours.

Keywords:   comparison, early modern Europe, Edward Said, Orientalism, disciplinary history, roots

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