This exhibit marks a transitional moment for the study of the Americas. Histories of Asia and the Americas have been traditionally narrated in isolation from each other. Yet these six texts reveal the connections that tied the hemispheres together as the Age of Exploration played forward, offering a more globally connected view of the Americas. They instruct us that reductive, nationally bounded or single-ocean historical narratives are inadequate in the early modern period. These six instances of Asian interaction with Europe and North America are but a few from the collections of the John Carter Brown Library, an institution devoted to the study the Americas.
On the occasion of the inaugural symposium of Brown University’s “Asia-Pacific in the Making of the Americas” research initiative, we are grateful to the John Carter Brown Library for opening their collection to this innovative perspective. Within the extensive holdings of this library of the Americas are hundreds of books about Asia and the Pacific. Such descriptive, illustrated travelogues and “histories” about Asia circulated widely in America, indeed were often printed in Mexico City, New York, or Philadelphia. They convey the sense of worldliness that early Americans used to identify their place on a global cultural map. Indeed, in a 1783 sermon by Ezra Stiles, “The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor,” now in the Library’s holdings, Stiles proudly calls America an “Asiatic territory” based on the presumed origins of Native Americans. At the very least, a close examination of the multitude of exchange networks that bound distant geographies together prompts questions about the hegemony of the Atlantic in American history.
This exhibition was curated by Caroline Frank.