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A New World for a new nation: The promotion of America in early modern England

Francisco Jose Borge, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the 1580s, almost a century after Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World, England could not make any substantial claims to the rich territories there. Less than a century later, England had not only founded an overseas empire but had also managed to challenge her most powerful rivals in the international arena. But before any material success accompanied English New World enterprises, a major campaign of promotion was launched with the clear objective of persuading Englishmen that intervention in the Americas was not only desirable for the national economy but even paramount for their survival as a new and powerful Protestant nation-state. Making use of the research carried out by scholars such as Michel de Certeau, Hayden White, Walter Mignolo, Stephen Greenblatt, Louis Montrose, Shannon Miller, Mary Fuller, and many others, this work explores the metaphors that dominate England's New World discourse in their attempt to conceptualize it and make it ready for immediate consumption. The New World was not a pre-formulated concept for the mentality of Englishmen before this period, and this formulation had to be carried out resorting to well-known rhetorical tropes. The “otherness” intrinsic to the Americas was tamed and inscribed within a discourse that was comprehensible and acceptable before it was manipulated and made ready for England's imperial aspirations. The creators of England's “proto-colonial” discourse were forced to make use of their rivals' prior experience at the same time they pretended to present England as radically different than them, an aspect of great importance in order to legitimate English claims over territories that were already occupied. The “other” these promotional authors encountered in the New World was not limited to the indigenous cultures, but also included other European powers against which England had to measure herself so as to establish her legal and moral authority over the colonizable lands. One of the most outstanding consequences of this ideological game is the way in which the English nation emerges not only in opposition to the American natives they try to submit, but also, and more importantly, in contrast to other nations that had been traditionally considered as culturally similar.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Borge, Francisco Jose, "A New World for a new nation: The promotion of America in early modern England" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3039339.