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Discourse on Civility and Barbarity$
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Timothy Fitzgerald

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195300093

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300093.001.0001

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 Samuel Purchas, His Pilgrimage

 Samuel Purchas, His Pilgrimage

(p.193) 7 Samuel Purchas, His Pilgrimage
Discourse on Civility and Barbarity

Timothy Fitzgerald (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In this early‐seventeenth‐century collection of travel writings we can see tensions between Religion as Christian Truth on the one hand, and the beginnings of a generic concept of religions matched by an ambiguously modern secular ethnographic style on the other. This work of “pilgrimage” reflects the competition for trade and the processes of colonization, alongside the development of new ways of classifying the world and its contents. Purchas frames his whole work in Biblical terms, drawing explicitly on the expulsion of Adam and Eve, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel as explanatory concepts for the bewildering variety of newly discovered forms of human life. Yet an ironic and quite frequent application of “religions” to “superstitions” at times suggests an early if ambiguous generic modern usage, as if he is adopting a secular high ground. The world is most certainly “profane” in the sense of “fallen”; yet at the same time Purchas's concern with new knowledge of ships, maps, compasses, geography, as well as customs and superstitions, frequently suggests the early beginnings of something approaching modern nonreligious secularity.

Keywords:   travel writing, ethnography, colonies and plantations, Biblical narratives, religions, superstitions

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