Lecture: The 'Jewish Indian Theory’: the Problem of the Origin of the Ameri...

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UCL Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, Gower Street

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WC1E 6BT

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This event is organised in conjunction with the UCL Centre for Transnational History and the UCL Institute of Jewish Studies.

Nathan Wachtel (Collège de France) - With the discovery of an unknown continent during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries not only was a radical change brought about in traditional representations of the world. The West was now also faced with the revelation of the existence of another humankind, an ‘otherness’ all the more radical because even the possibility of its existence had never been imagined. Numerous questions now came to the fore: what were the origins of these savages (labelled from the start as ‘Indians’ following on Columbus’ original mistake); how had this continent come to be inhabited?

Chroniclers, theologians and cosmographers proposed numerous answers: the population of the Americas could be the result of migrations of all kinds: Egyptians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Vikings, Tartars and even Chinese. However, the most popular theory, which persisted for at least three centuries, was that the American Indians were the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

This lecture focuses on the ‘Jewish Indian Theory’, first in the Hispanic world (Diego Durán, Gregorio García, Diego Andrés Rocha) and then in North-Western Europe, especially the Netherlands (Menasseh ben Israel) and England (Thomas Thoroughgood). The 'Jewish Indian Theory’ remained widely accepted until the nineteenth century, exemplified by Lord Edward Kingsborough and also Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon.

Professor Nathan Wachtel is Emeritus Professor at the Collège de France, where he held the Chair of the History and Anthropology of Mesoamerican and South American societies from 1992 to 2005. His first book The vision of the vanquished (1971), marked a turning point in the ethnohistory of the Andes, and he went on to produce major ethnographic studies of the Uru Indians of highland Bolivia, resulting in Le retour des ancêtres: les indiens Uru de Bolivie, XXe-XVIe siècles (1990) and Gods and Vampires (1994). In the 1990s he embarked on what he has called the third panel of his ‘subterranean history of the Americas’, exploring Marrano culture and history in the colonial period, leading to The faith of remembrance (2001), Marrano labyrinths (2001), La logique des bûchers (2009) and Mémoires Marranes (2011). His most recent book is Entre Moïse et Jésus (2013).

UCL Institute of the Americas (UCL-IA), the Centre for Transnational History (CTH) and the Institute of Jewish Studies (IJS) are honoured to host Professor Wachtel to deliver this lecture at UCL, co-organized by Professor David Lehmann (Cambridge), Professor Axel Korner (CTH) and Dr Paulo Drinot (UCL-IA). Attendance is free of charge but registration is required.

A drinks reception will be served after the lecture at the South Cloisters, Wilkins Building.

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UCL Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, Gower Street

Address

London

WC1E 6BT

United Kingdom

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