Master of Arts (M.A.)
Travelogues and Oral Traditions in the Study of Early Modern West Africa: Due to the absence of locally written primary sources on Early Modern West Africa, scholars who study this region and period rely to a large degree on European travel literature and modern oral traditions as sources. However, these types of sources each possess issues that necessitate a critical approach toward their use. In the case of written European sources, cultural and racial bias, rumor, and a common tendency of authors to present claims or even full passages taken from earlier work as their own firsthand experience each complicate their reliability. Oral traditions, meanwhile, may be subject to significant modification over time. This includes issues such as feedback, wherein information taken from written sources may be integrated into oral traditions, reproducing some of the same issues seen in travelogues in these narratives. By analyzing these problematic elements in conversation with each other, however, we can identify best practices for utilizing each of these source types in the study of Early Modern West African history. Sailors, Servants, and Slaves: Charting the East Indian Presence in the Colonial Chesapeake: Discussions of Asian migration to the territory of the United States typically begin their chronology in the nineteenth century, with the arrival of Chinese migrant workers to the Pacific coast. However, legal documents, censuses, and runaway slave adverts attest to the presence of people identified with labels such as “East Indian” in the Chesapeake region from the early decades of British colonization. At the time, the geographic label of “East India” or “The Indies” was broadly applied to South and Southeast Asia, with terms such as “East Indian” therefore distinguishing people of Asian origin from Indigenous people, labelled “Indians” in the colonial context. An analysis of primary sources from the Chesapeake, alongside surrounding context from the broader British Empire, allows us to piece together some of the paths these people may have taken to the Chesapeake, what roles they occupied in colonial society, and how they fit into colonial British racial paradigms. Through this analysis, we gain insights into the interconnectivity of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean “Worlds,” and the instability of racial categories across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
© The Author
Holzer, Dylan, "Travelogues And Oral Traditions / Sailors, Servants, And Slaves" (2023). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1697552590.