Megan Goodnough History 140 Dr. Arguello Jan 20,

Megan Goodnough History 140 Dr. Arguello Jan 20, 2018The Study of History: Primary Sources and Changing Interpretations The Jesuit Relations, put together by Allan Greer, is an anthology of Jesuit missionary reports written during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These reflect the cultural and environmental practices of Native Americans, and the observations made by the missionaries who told about their first interactions. They were published in France in 1632 and very popular among the Europeans. I think the editor of this collection thought these sources were important for historians and students of history today is because what makes this book and the people who document this, so different from others is that most Europeans relied on a translator and these migrants had taken classes in France and could communicate well with the Native Americans. Although they could speak the language, they did not understand different cultural customs. Also religion and spiritual misinterpretations occur frequently in The Jesuit Relations. You can see these misunderstandings in both the native people’s beliefs and the people recording their connections.  The missionaries main intent was to understand the concepts of the American Indians spiritual life, there was a cultural divide that separating them, thus, both sides not really fully understanding what was going on. The Jesuit monks who went to North American believed that their religion and understanding of God was the only one that existed and everything else was not accurate. For example Paul le Jeune (1634), documented that the native belief in Messou and his flood was related to Moses in the Holy Bible. He wondered why the native people who had known what really happened, “burdened this truth with a great many irrelevant fables” (29). He then goes on to say that the Native Americans “in the past they has some knowledge of the true God,” but then they looked away from it and became “worse that beast” (41). This is a prime source because it taught people that there is different religions out there among different cultures and although they could speak the same language as the people here, the differences in cultural backgrounds make it hard to fully understand what they believe or feel. The Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest written by Matthew Restall, is written to debunk five centuries of historiographical half- truths, he starts off by saying that “historians today are priests of a cult of truth, called to the service of a god whose existence they are doomed to doubt”(xiii). This is repeated throughout the whole book. Restall offers multiple sources, from the sixteenth century and modern historiographies, his point to offer a more true perception of when the Western and Eastern Hemispheres meet.  Restall believes that the “seven myths” are constructed by our popular histories of the “conquest” of the “New World”. These “convenient fictions”, tell the story of the American Indians and the Europeans who stepped foot on their land. The Seven half- truths were “the Myth of Exceptional Men,” “The Myth of the King’s Army,” “The Myth of the White Conquistador,” “The Myth of the Complection,” “The Myth of (Mis)Communication,”, “The Myth of Native Desolation”, and finally “The Myth of Superiority.” Restall believed that these myths are the product of biased documentation of sixteenth century witnesses but also made up by historians.The first Myth that Restall covers is “The Myth of Exceptional Men.” This talks about the belief that a “small handful of men” were the ones who conquered the great empires of America. This debate has been going on for historians for centuries. An important piece of evidence by Restall is the beginning of a new “genre” of historical discourse during the sixteenth century, “the probanza de merito (proof of merit)”(12). These were written by people traveling to the New World in order to provide proof of their exploration and to follow through with their contracts in Europe. This proves the bias-ness of these because they wanted to avoid people finding out about their failures. Columbus is a perfect example of this, from the nineteenth century he became a well known hero who claims to have discovered the Americas, he actually was lying about the success of his mission to receive the praise and attention he wanted until American historians seeked out to find “emblematic immigrants” to help build national solidarity during the great Italian and Irish immigration booms of the 1800s (11). Last Restall’s argument of his seventh myth, is the most important. The “Myth of Superiority”, is the belief that Europeans are just “better”, no matter it being genetic, cultural, or religious, the Europeans thought they were most “worthy of their victories in the colonial world”, they believed that God was solely the reason for their success. Cortes stated that “God gave us such victory and we killed many persons”(134). In the sixteenth and twentieth century claims are made by historians that Native Americans fatalism and lack of confidence, by giving Europeans a “double superiority” of civilization and technology(135). Restall suggest that Europe’s best allies were “disease and Native American disunity”(141). Thus Restall argues the myth that Europeans were just a better group of people, that basically they just got lucky and they only bragged about their accomplishments, not their struggles. In conclusion between these two books we can see that first in The Jesuit Relations, although the migrants could understand their language, there was a cultural barrier between the two, and the migrants only told of their success so that they weren’t looked at for their failures, this tells us that there is more than one side to every story, and we might not know everything that happened. Then in the Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, Restall proves a few myths we are taught to be false and that correlates with the entries from the other book.

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