Paradigms of Otherness. The American Savage in British Eighteenth-Century Popular and Scholarly Literature


In this article, I trace the changes in the literary and material representations of the indigenous peoples of North America within the British sphere of cultural production. As a first example, I will give an account of the episode of the “Four Iroquois Kings” envoy at Queen Ann’s court in 1710, focusing on the resonance of such a historical encounter in popular texts and iconographic material. As a second example, I analyze the popular story of Inkle and Yarico included in Richard Steele’s The Spectator in 1711, showing its impact on the early Enlightenment reflections on colonial trade. In my conclusion, I examine the role of American natives in the scholarly works of the Scottish Enlightenment, in order to show how they were used as comparable types for the observation of the roots of European civilizations thus justifying the construction of the British imperial hegemony both geopolitical terms and discursive practice.


American savages; public sphere; popular literature; Scottish Enlightenment; British Empire

Aughterson, Kate.The English Renaissance: An Anthology of Sources and Documents, London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

Bickham, Troy. Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Oxford: Oxford Historical Monographs, 2006.

Bond, Richmond P. Queen Anne’s American Kings, Yardley: Westholme Publishing, 2010.

Camden, William. Remains Concerning Britain. London: John Russel Smith, 1870.

Downie, J.A. Oxford Handbook of the Eighteenth-Century Novel, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Felsenstein, Frank English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender, Race, and Slavery in the New World, Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1999.

Ferguson, Adam. An Essay on the History of Civil Society (Edinburgh, 1767), 8th edition, William Fry Printer. Philadelphia, 1819.

Gold Thwaites, Reuben. (ed.) Jesuit Relations, Cleveland: The Burrow Brothers, 1898.

Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Enquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991.

Healey, George R. “The French Jesuits and the Idea of the Noble Savage”, the William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 15, no. 2 (Apr 1958), 143–67.

Hinderaker, Eric. “The Four Indian Kings’ and the Imaginative Construction of the First British Empire”, the William and Mary Quarterly vol. 53, no. 3, Indians and Others in Early America (Jul 1996), 487–526.

Hopfl, H.M. “From Savage to Scotsman: Conjectural History in the Scottish Enlightenment”, Journal of British Studies, 17 (1978), 19–40.

Lunger Knoppers, Laura, Joan B. Landes. (eds.) Monstrous Bodies/Political Monstrosities in Early Modern Europe, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

Marshall, P. J. and Glyndwr Williams, the Great Map of Mankind: British Perceptions of the World in the Age of Enlightenment, London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1982.

Millar, John. The Origin and Distinction of Ranks in Society (London, 1778).

Moloney, Pat. “Savages in the Scottish Enlightenment's History of Desire”, Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 14, no. 3 (Jul 2005), 237–265.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. Christopher Columbus, Mariner, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1955.

Newman, Donald J. Spectator, Emerging Discourses, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005.

Pigafetta, Antonio. Magellan’s Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation, New York: Dover Publications, 1969.

Sidney, Philip. An Apology For Poetry (Or The Defence Of Poesy): Revised and Expanded for this 3rd Edition, (ed.) Geoffrey Shepherd, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.

Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations (1776), Ware: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2012.

Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), in the Essential Adam Smith, ed. Robert L. Heilbroner, New York: Norton, 1987.

Stevens, Laura M. Atlantic Worlds in the Long Eighteenth Century: Seduction and Sentiment, eds. T. Bowers, T. Chico, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 97–109.

Vaughan, Alden T. Transatlantic Encounters: American Indians in Britain, 1500–1776, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Whelan, Frederick G. Enlightenment Political Thought and Non Western Societies: Sultans and Savages, New York: Routledge, 2009.

Published : 2020-08-16

PerazziniF. (2020). Paradigms of Otherness. The American Savage in British Eighteenth-Century Popular and Scholarly Literature. Review of International American Studies, 13(1), 235-258.

Federica Perazzini
Sapienza Università di Roma  Italy

Federica Perazzini is Researcher in English Literature at University of Rome Sapienza where she currently teaches English Literature and Culture. Awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2011, she was visiting researcher at Stanford University where she joined Franco Moretti’s research group at the Literary Lab. Her main research interests involve the application of computational tools to the study of literary genres and cultural discourse analysis. Her pioneering dissertation, published in two volumes in 2013, is an example of computational criticism applied to the case study of the English gothic novel. Her latest research projects include the computational analysis of the emergence of modern subjectivity in the Long 18th Century (La Cifra del Moderno, 2019) and the publication of a study on the intersections between fashion and English literature titled Fashion Keywords (2017).

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Copyright Holder of the submitted text is the Author. The Reader is granted the rights to use the material available in the RIAS websites and pdf documents under the provisions of the Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). Any commercial use requires separate written agreement with the Author and a proper credit line indicating the source of the original publication in RIAS.

  1. License

The University of Silesia Press provides immediate open access to journal’s content under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license ( Authors who publish with this journal retain all copyrights and agree to the terms of the above-mentioned CC BY 4.0 license.

  1. Author’s Warranties

The author warrants that the article is original, written by stated author/s, has not been published before, contains no unlawful statements, does not infringe the rights of others, is subject to copyright that is vested exclusively in the author and free of any third party rights, and that any necessary written permissions to quote from other sources have been obtained by the author/s.

If the article contains illustrative material (drawings, photos, graphs, maps), the author declares that the said works are of his authorship, they do not infringe the rights of the third party (including personal rights, i.a. the authorization to reproduce physical likeness) and the author holds exclusive proprietary copyrights. The author publishes the above works as part of the article under the licence "Creative Commons Attribution - By the same conditions 4.0 International".

ATTENTION! When the legal situation of the illustrative material has not been determined and the necessary consent has not been granted by the proprietary copyrights holders, the submitted material will not be accepted for editorial process. At the same time the author takes full responsibility for providing false data (this also regards covering the costs incurred by the University of Silesia Press and financial claims of the third party).

  1. User Rights

Under the Creative Commons Attribution license, the users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the contribution) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) the article for any purpose, provided they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

  1. Co-Authorship

If the article was prepared jointly with other authors, the signatory of this form warrants that he/she has been authorized by all co-authors to sign this agreement on their behalf, and agrees to inform his/her co-authors of the terms of this agreement.

I hereby declare that in the event of withdrawal of the text from the publishing process or submitting it to another publisher without agreement from the editorial office, I agree to cover all costs incurred by the University of Silesia in connection with my application.