This short poem of praise appended to Edward Terry’s A Voyage to East-India (1655 edition) clearly speaks for all the varied concerns and motivations of European travelers in the early modern period. Geographers, historians, merchants, or moralizing churchmen like Terry himself were all a part of the movement of European exploration and “discovery” from the fifteenth century onwards, setting into motion a process of globalization and transculturation that is still with us today. In stating this, our purpose is not to identify an originary moment in the history of globalization or to suggest for this history a specific teleology. Rather, our point is that travels during the early modern period, undertaken by the Portuguese, the English, the Dutch, and others, to the Ottoman Empire, the Far East, Africa, and the Americas initiated a series of cultural (as well as economic and military) encounters, exchanges, and confrontations that are the dynamic precursor to two centuries of colonialism, as well as its aftermath, postcolonialism. This anthology seeks to do two things: (1) to offer the reader, through primary materials (travel narratives), a contemporary record of these early moments of transculturation, and (2) to provide the reader with a set of new critical essays that, from within our current and different ideological and theoretical horizon, contextualizes and assesses these travel accounts.
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