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Eastward of Good Hope

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Eastward of Good Hope

Early America in a Dangerous World

How did news from the East—carried in ship logs and mariners' reports, journals, and correspondence—shape early Americans' understanding of the world as a map of dangerous and incoherent sites?

Freed from restrictions of British mercantilism in the years following the War of Independence, Yankee merchants embarked on numerous voyages of commerce and discovery into distant seas. Through the news from the East, carried in mariners' reports, ship logs, journals, and correspondence, Americans at home imagined the world as a map of dangerous and deranged places. This was a world that was profoundly disordered, hobbled by tyranny and oppression or steeped in chaos and anarchy, often deadly, always uncertain, unpredictable, and unstable, yet amenable to American influence.

Focusing on four representative arenas—the Ottoman Empire, China, India, and the Great South Sea (collectively, the East Indies, Oceana, and the American continent's Northwest coast)—Eastward of Good Hope recasts the relationship between America and the world by examining the early years of the republic, when its national character was particularly pliable and its foundational posture in the world was forming. Drawing on recent scholarship in global ethnohistory, Dane A. Morrison recounts how reports of cannibal encounters, shipboard massacres, shipwrecks, tropical fever, and other tragedies in distant seas led Americans to imagine each region as a distinct set of threats to their republic. He also demonstrates how the concept of justification through self-doubt allowed for aggressive expansionism and for the foundations of imperialism to develop.

Morrison reconsiders American ideas about the world through three questions: How did British Americans imagine the world before independence allowed them to travel "Eastward of Good Hope"? What were the signal encounters that filled the public sphere in their early years of global encounter? And finally, how did Americans' contacts with other peoples inflect their ideas about the world and their place in it? Written in a lively, engaging style, Eastward of Good Hope will appeal to scholars and the general public alike.