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The Dido Story in Accounts of Early Modern European Imperialism—An Anthology

  • Andrew Newman

Abstract

This anthology of excerpts from histories and travel accounts composed during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries features representations of indigenous oral traditions about the founding of European colonies in Sri Lanka, Melaka, Gujarat, Cambodia, Manila, Jakarta, Taiwan, New York, and the Cape of Good Hope. According to these accounts, the colonists first requested as much land as the hide of an ox could cover, and then cut that hide into strips and claimed all the land they could encircle. The “oxhide measure” is a widely-attested folkloric motif. The introduction, however, questions assumptions about the unreliability of oral traditions and looks to history instead of folklore for an explanation for the colonial parallels. It proposes that Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch colonists performed the “hide trick” in emulation of the classical story of the Phoenician Queen Dido’s founding of Carthage.

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Andrew Newman is Associate Professor of English and History at Stony Brook University. He’s the author of On Records: Delaware Indians, Colonists, and the Media of History and Memory, and is completing a second book on representations of literacy practices in colonial American narratives of captivity among Native Americans.

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References

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The Dido Story in Accounts of Early Modern European Imperialism—An Anthology

  • Andrew Newman

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