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Future HistoryGlobal Fantasies in Seventeenth-Century American and British Writings$
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Kristina Bross

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190665135

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190665135.001.0001

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“Would India had beene never knowne”

“Would India had beene never knowne”

Wives Tales and the Global English Archive

Chapter:
(p.159) Chapter 5 “Would India had beene never knowne”
Source:
Future History
Author(s):

Kristina Bross

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190665135.003.0006

This chapter analyzes two representations of women based on the print record of a 1623 incident in which English traders were tortured and killed by their Dutch rivals on the island of Amboyna in the East Indies. William Sanderson imagined the reaction of one “Amboyna widow” in a pair of publications in the 1650s, and John Dryden created characters for his 1673 play Amboyna based on reports published years earlier. If we consider these works as early modern examples of historical fiction we can see that the writers construct the role of colonial women in the seventeenth-century English imagination as a symbol of the righteousness of English imperial actions and colonizing claims. Taken together, the “wives’ tales” of this chapter suggest that the reach of the East India Companies—both English and Dutch—and of their governments into people’s lives was powerful. Yet the stories of these women suggested by their traces in the archives indicate the limits of that power and the limits of the archival function to control the stories of marginalized people. Dryden’s play in particular points readers back to the archives and suggests what they tell us (or fail to tell us) about the subjects of the English global fantasies inscribed in the literature and other print records of the seventeenth century. The coda pieces together contextual and archival material to speculate on the experiences of a woman, held as a slave by the Dutch, who was intimately connected to the Amboyna incident.

Keywords:   John Dryden, Amboyna, Gabriel Towerson, Mariam Towerson, historical fiction, archives, William Sanderson

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