Early modern European travellers and thinkers found themselves unusually lacking when faced with the complexities of the New World. Starting out on their voyages, as they did, convinced of a void, “a not-yet- existing America” between Europe and Asia, they faced an ideological challenge unrivalled before or perhaps since: how to describe what was beyond the pale of imagination, a world which ought not exist. Having imagined all that might exist and being prepared for the inevitable of the expected, when faced with a continent and a people hitherto unknown the European mind searched the store of existing phraseology and imagery for a suitable vocabulary of representation. The social and historical contexts in which a European understanding of America and the Americans was forged, leading to a constructed understanding of what America was ‘really’ like, was conceptually, morally and politically intertwined with existing constructs of ‘them’ and ‘us’. This state of mind, a blending of the known and the imagined, led to an evolution in the ethnological representation of the other, a representation which placed Turks and Indians on the margins of a crystallizing Europe.
A crucial component of this state of mind was the received representation of the Native American and the Ottoman, the Indian and the Turk. The Turk, as heathen, infidel, and cultural-linguistically other, was a devilish creature, never to be trusted and devoid of esoteric beauty. The Turk as 'problem', as perception, is a fundamental element in the adaptation and adoption of a European consciousness, vis-á-vis non-Europeans.As early as the end of the fifteenth century Erasmus of Rotterdam was writing in the Querela Placis of the solidarity of European princes in their war against the Turks, and how this was a good thing for Europe. This age-old opposition against the absolute common enemy of Europe was reinforced by a substantial, some would say enormous, anti-Turk literature in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The need to have an enemy, an opposition, was absolute and real. This representation was enforced through religious wars and apocryphal stories; the stereotype thus became a point of departure for further inquiry and construction of identity. In Louis Le Roy's Oratio de Pace el Concordia, the author often confused the respublica Christiana with Europa, with Christiana concordia and Europea concordia. For him, the only Christendom was Europe and vice versa. Yet diverse and divergent cultural and ideological shades of Christian identity clearly did exist in this amalgous 'Europe' and historians from equally diverse backgrounds and trainings are now calling for greater consideration of these issues. One pictorial representation attributes Turkish physical characteristics to inbreeding; a suggestion also made concerning the Native American. So 'Europe' was defined by contrast to 'Turk'; added to this defining equation was Europeanness as fabricated vis-á-vis the Americas and Native Americans, as well as vis-à-vis fellow Europeans. European receptivity of New World encounters and images was severely limited, with European interpretations encrusted with mediaeval myths and legends. The image of the Turk became, by transference, the representational model for the Native American, being forced geographically, culturally, morally and theologically to appear ‘other’. New information concerning America was forced a European reliance on stock imagery already in existence. While America, "unlike the lands of Europe, was not inscribed with the ciphers of a human past", the tradition of a native culture adapting to the land was replaced by a European need to inscribe a textual meaning on the New World landscape, just as had been done in Europe. Just as in Europe, itself a cultural invention, cultural boundaries remained as hazy and contested as political and territorial boundaries, and like territorial boundaries they changed with the shifting fortunes of colonial struggles.
Meanwhile, the image of the North American Indian' was a Spanish legacy to Europe, as Spanish exploration and settlement of the Americas resulted in geographical and anthropological reports returning to Europe. Language was, as the Spaniard Antonio de Nebrija wrote to Queen Isabella in 1492, "the instrument of empire", and was clearly an integral part of colonial expansion. These Indians, "for so caule wee all nations of the newe founde lands" entered the vocabulary of France, of England, and of Germany. Descriptions of native life led to discussion of "Armenica", or "America". Corruption and extrapolation of the Spanish and Dutch imagery of the early sixteenth century entered the English and French imagination. Like the Turks, their neighbours to the east, American Indians were by definition uncivilised, as they were unchristian, and the adjectival use of ‘sauvage’ in French or ‘savage’ in English became de rigour. When Jacques Cartier encountered the native Americans of the Gaspe Basin in 1534, they were unmatched in their savagery: "These men may very well and truely be called wilde, because there is no poorer people in the world."
This ‘Indian’ terminology was contemporarily used in Europe for one other group, seen to be untameable and unrestrictable: the Gypsies of the Balkans, a ‘link’ group between Ottoman and Habsburg empires. The German philosopher Herder, in his "Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind", 1784-1791, suggested that "this abject Indian cast" [i.e. the Gypsies] were useful only for military training. Interestingly, as in the delimitation of civility in eastern and central Europe, the defining line was drawn between those who lived "this side of the forest", i.e., the Cis-silvanii, and those on the other side of the forest, the Trans-silvanii, with the name becoming geographically associated with a territory which had become ‘Ottomanised’. For western Europeans, wood dwellers formed the border, the quarantine zone, the frontier of civilization. Sixteenth century western Europeans employed a variant of the Latin silvaticus, a man of the woods or an inhabitant of the forest, to indicate a Native American, as the early use of saulvage, salvaticho, and salvage indicates. It has been suggested that this terminus anima, together with die image of the wilder Mann, ‘the wild man’, also used for the native American and the non-western European inhabitant of the continent, originated in the German lands, and indicated one lacking in civilized knowledge or will, existing on the very borders of humanity and animality, and ignorant or God and morality. Wildness implied everything that eluded Christian norms and the established framework of Christian society, referring to what was uncanny, unruly, raw, unpredictable, foreign, uncultured, and uncultivated. It included the unfamiliar as well as the unintelligible. Just as the wildness is the background against which medieval society is delineated, so wildness in the widest sense is the background of God's lucid order of creation. Man in his unreconstructed state, faraway nations, and savage creatures at home thus came to share the same essential quality. Roger Williams’ catalogue of the nomenclature used in reference to America divides names for Native Americans into two categories: those of the English variety, and those "which they give themselves." Williams lists, albeit further down his list of terms and references, infidel, heathen, nation, tribe, and barbarian, all terms used for the Turks and most residents of the Ottoman Empire. The known could also become other: often, such individuals were described as having “turned Turk”. Indeed, until the very end of the eighteenth century, the non-Germanic inhabitants of the soudiern Habsburg lands were collectively referred to as the ‘Nationalities’. This linkage facilitated a transition from description of the European other, those beyond the forest, to the American Indian as Noble Savage to the Noble American Indian, critic of European society and culture.
But can one validly speak of a single European consciousness of America, or was there simply a series of divergent, self-motivated national consciousness? As has been pointed out, European Americana can broadly speaking be divided into Catholic and Protestant, north and south; but what about east and west? The growing strength of the nation state in Europe facilitated the production of a plethora of publications, all serving national interests: Alexander Pope's Essay on Man may only mention the "poor Indian" in passing, but his "untutor'd mind" could well be that of an inhabitant of the void and uncultivated lands which Hume wrote about, namely Hungary. Inhabitated, relatively densely in parts, they were void of civilization as they were void of western Europeans. Western European 'civilising' nations were as interested in Moor-European and Turkish- European interaction as they were with Native American-European interaction. All were equally exotic and highlighted the civiliser's own sense of superiority and civility. Eighteenth-century America had a lasting and formative impression on Central and Eastern European society.
Various attempts were made to link native Americans to Europe, or to European-contigious groups; some suggested that they were lost Jews, others that they had crossed a frozen sea, or that there must be a "Narrow Sea towards the North" which, when frozen, allowed people to cross it. For many, the New World was the promised land, as portrayed in the 'Exemplary Tales', "El celoso extremeno", of Miguel Cervantes' stories. Nonetheless, a defining concept of identity was not forthcoming, rather, the civilising English referred to themselves as English, more often Christian, which highlighted their common bonds with other Europeans, but rarely before 1700 did they refer to themselves as Europeans. One might easily be defined, or define oneself, as coming from "Kent and Christendome", but not from some amalgous Europe.
If this ‘amalgous’ Europe existed anywhere, in was in the area of interaction between the Germanic and non-Germanic lands of central Europe, all members of the same Empire. For two centuries before the large migrations of the eighteenth century, central European writers had, together with their colleagues in the Spanish Habsburg lands, received and adapted information coming from the Americas. One might draw representative samples from any of the central European language groups, but Czech is one of the most rewarding to consider. When Henry Harrisse was compiling his Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima in the last century, he was unaware of a Czech version of Amerigo Vespucci’s letter to Lorenzo Piero Francesco de'Medici, generally known as the Mundus Novus. Harrisse had cited the Latin translation by Dionysius Periegetes of the Situs Orbis, dating from either 1508 or 1518. This text was said to have the first "allusions to the Oceanic discoveries". Whatever the dating of both documents, they cannot prohibit us from the assumption that some contacts had been made with travellers who had been in America, if not direct contact, and that news of the 'New World' had reached Central Europe by the early sixteenth century. The image of America established in the Central European psyche in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was to last until the great migrations of the nineteenth century, and therefore are of central importance in our understanding of the non-Atlantic seaboard European perceptions of America.
The naming of the new territories had, in its own right, a changing history. Just as news of the newly found continent changed, so, too, did the nomenclature. Typical references, "Orbis Novus", "Mundus Novus", "The West Indies" and "America also known as Brazil" came and went in succession. As Czech versions of Latin texts referred to Amerigo Vespucci as Vespucci Alberykus Wespucius, the way was not paved for the use of 'America' as an attributable terminus loci. Equally important in considering the speed of acceptance or lack of it of names referring to North America is the relative isolation of Central European states from the sphere of interest in America. The 'New World' had a greater effect on the grand scheme of understanding, at a time when Europe was undergoing a mass theological re¬examination, of how the World was ordered. As there was no direct economic or political interest in America, it could only appeal to fantasy, to the religious spirit and to the imagination. This blending of the real and the imaginary was facilitated all the more by the ill-definition of the boundaries between the belles lettres and other more imaginative literary genres.
America quickly became synonymous with exoticism and adventure; in this way the 'New World' was also a new world of literature. New discoveries were naturally assumed into this reviewed image of the world; the world was seen to be losing its quiescent mystique and the enigma was only restored with informative accounts of experience and adventure in America. For Central Europe, such literature was to bridge the gap between the New and 'Old' Worlds, and also provide a link to those countries in western Europe direcdy involved in ventures overseas. Travel literature had an established history in Bohemia, dating back to the Middle Ages, with Sir John Mandeville's Travels and Marco Polo's adventures translated into the vernacular. Gradually, a more Humanistic approach to travel writing replaced the fantastic allegories, and introduced documents such as the Czech "An Account of the New Lands and the New World of Which We Had No Knowledge Before nor Had Anyone Heard." Works by Bartolome de las Casas, Jose de Acosta and Jean de Lery would also be found in Czech collections of this era. Czech calendars and Cosmologies from the mid to late sixteenth century show an eagerness to include new, non-standard information on the New World; Daniel Adam Veleslavin's Kalendár historicky (Historical Calendar) of 1590 attributed the discovery of America to Amerigo Vespuccius, stating that his voyage began on die 20th May 1497, and Veleslavin proceeds to use the term 'America'; all facts which show the incorporation of new and available information.
Czech literature of this genre culminated in the work of John Amos Comenius and his proposed Theatrum universitatis rerum which he began in 1616 but never brought to a conclusion. He planned to pay special attention to America in his study, having, over the course of his fascinating life, had many indirect encounters with the land. Comenius' views of the New World and its poignant discovery pointed, for him, to an obvious conclusion; the Second Coming was imminent. This millenarian angle to the discovery of America was evidenced by the germination of a dramatic change in the political, social and economic problems of his day. War and civil war, unrest and discovery: all supported his hypothesis. America was, however, to be the ideal opportunity to recreate a perfect community, where the Native Americans, whom Comenius described as "white unto harvest" might be educated and New England developed as a laboratory of sorts for his social experiments. World evangelization was incumbent upon all Christians and he insisted that "any neighbouring people, or any men in their own midst, who had not yet come to Christ" should and must be brought into the fold. Indeed, Comenius ideas were to have more longlasting affects on education in North America, with isolated settlements in Pennsylvania trying to unite church, state and school into ideal communities, and Comenius (possibly) being asked by the younger John Winthrop to be President of Harvard College. Information on America continued to be gathered and collected, not just in the Czech lands, but throughout Central Europe. Cosmologies continued to include ever- increasing sections on the new world, with Comenius' highly important Orbis sensualium pictus (1658) including the following description: "[The terrestrial globe], however, is divided into three continents: ours (which is subdivided into Europe, Asia and Africa), the American, whose inhabitants dwell on the other side of the globe from us, and the hitherto unknown Australian land." And the tide page of Comenius's Lux e tenebris divided mankind into four categories: "Aquilonares", "Orientales", "Meridionales”, and "Occidentales", the latter division comprising the Dutch, the English, the French, the Spanish, and on either side Americans, one (apparendy) a Native American and the other (apparendy) a Negro. This comparison of the incomparable, of opposites, culturally, religiously, socially, civilly, was not unique to Europeans versus Native Americans, but also occurred within Europe. The 'heathen' and 'savage' analogies were as valid when western Europeans wrote and spoke about their contiguous neighbours to the east of the continent as it was when they discussed the exotic 'others' of North America. The literary symbol of the Indian as the noble savage, the generic, the unsubjugated, also reached the central European psyche, but perhaps was here felt closer to the bone than in western Europe. The ‘New World' became a metaphor in humanistic literature. Accounts of the New World acting as the mirror in which self-styled civility could join the dots of its illdefined oudine. Moreover, for a Czech audience not engaged in setdement of overseas territories, a uniquely critical view of colonists is often evident in this literature. Quickly, however, the theory long read was called into practice, with Czech Protestants looking towards America as the land of religious freedom, following their defeat at the Batde of the White Mountain by Imperial forces in 1620. In this established tradition, Zinzendorf brought the Moravian church to America.
In the spirit of Comenius, the New World was assuming the mande of a blossoming new Europe. Europe itself had received its goodness from the east; the arts of war and literature, of language and learning. Now, these arts were passing away, as Comenius wrote: "Once the eastern parts, Assyria, Egypt, the Jewish lands, flourished; they excelled in the arts of war and letters. Both [arts] then passed to Europe; barbarians overran everything there. Now again in Europe everything is rebelling, crumbling, raving, approaching a general downfall. The New World by contrast is beginning to flower." Other writers developed this idea still further: Vaclav Budovec, in his treatise Antialkorán (The Anti-Koran) wove the interrelated threads of politics and religion into a theological tapestry for the world: America was proof that the world must be about to end, as its discovery was symptomatic of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ. Interestingly, Budovec proposed the exile of all civil and religious enemies to the 'New World', for there too "quidam Americanus pseudoapostolus", 'some American pseudoaposde', was at work. His most interesting development of his thesis compares and contrasts the role of eastern Europe with that of America: both places should be used as a place of exile for heretics and unbelievers. In this way, the Turk and the Native American were equally bad. Budovec's punning on 'Transsylnavos' and 'Transmarinos', 'beyond the forest’ and 'beyond the sea' is all the more apt when one remembers that so many of these migrants ended their lives in Penn's forest, Pennsylvania. The Germans were envisaged as frontier people, to be settled in the south-east to keep the Turkish infidel at bay, and in America so that the French in Canada might be confined "to their proper bounds."
Thus representative images and tales of New World life and lore penetrated Central Europe, through literature, first-hand accounts from travellers and through religious imagery. During the decades between initial contact and the formation of a stock glossary of verbal and pictorial imagery, the active manipulation and retailing of New World encounters was an occasional, haphazard activity. By the beginning of the eighteenth-century this had changed. The merging of information from all parts of Europe, seaboard and inland, had altered the conceptualizing of America as a land beyond civility and conformity, to a land of potential exploitation and liberty. Reports of material success permeated negative narratives, shifting die direction of interest in America from exotic and distant to rewarding and attainable. A symbiotic relationship was emerging in Europe between information and the retailers of information; those individuals involved in the solicitation and enticement of potential European migrants to America. What remained wanting before movement occurred was an impetus: this was often the role played by agents, recruiters, emigration agencies and transporters which many have called to be evaluated in eighteenth century emigration.' The go-between was of immense importance.
Cultural and information brokers were die face of a policy which would otherwise have remained anonymous and only through their actions, their communication networks, their exchange of information and their brokerage abilities, was colonisation possible in the eighteenth century. Cultural brokers crossed boundaries, sometimes porous, sometimes not, but these boundaries shifted and developed in ways as yet not fully understood. Being culturally amorphous, brokers functioned as an integral part of early modern migratory society.