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The Teleological Narratives of History Books

The significance of design and purpose has been placed quite high in the study of the key historical events and their weight in the context of the global environment. Therefore, the analysis of the essential readings that contain historical accounts of the crucial changes in people’s perception of foreign cultures and the idea of otherness, in general. Thus, the “History and Description of Africa” has a tremendous value as a teleological narrative that introduces the start for the relationships between European and African nations. While the book was supposed to represent a diplomatic bridge between the African and European civilizations, the presence of numerous stereotypes along with the lack of insight and multicultural perspective makes the book a rather poor attempt at getting people familiarized with Africa. A similar tone can be traced in “The Conquest of the New Spain,” whereas “The Tears of the Indians” represents an attempt at addressing the cruel injustice of colonialism, while also succumbing to the same racist tropes in the process. Thus, as a teleological narrative, the books serve as the means of drawing a distinctive line between Europe and the colonized states, thus alienating the races even further and perpetuating the stereotypes.

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The lack of insight into the specifics of African customs and the reasons for African people to have different traditions from their European peers is evident in almost every lien written in the book. Although Leo Africanus is quite observant in his work, the reasons for the differences between the traditions of the Africans and the Europeans seems to elide him. For example, the line “Inhabited by great number of people, which lived a brutish and savage life” is a graphic depiction of the author being oblivious to the actual reason for the differences between the two approaches toward household issues to exist. Therefore, as a teleological text, the book can be considered the means of separating the two nations rather than contributing to their collaboration.

Similarly, “The Conquest of the New Spain” renders the same idea of superiority and the right of Europeans to invade other lands with no regard for the needs of their actual residents. The narration bears no remorse for the damage that the colonization caused the native residents, instead serving as the account of the ostensible and highly questionable accomplishments of colonists. The book represents local residents as treacherous without any trace of self-consciousness about the injustice that colonists committed: “We brought two of them, without doing them any disrespect” (Diaz 192). Therefore, the book can be considered the dark legacy of the colonialist era.

The “Tears of Indians” could be seen as a shift in the narrative since even the title of the book hints at the mood that it conveys and the arguments that it represents. Indeed, the author spends quite a while addressing the violence of colonists and the absence of justice in their relationships with the natives. However, at the same time, the chronicles of the colonization of North America still contain an eerily familiar sense of superiority over the colonized nation, even though the presence of sympathy is evident in the authors’ emotional story. Specifically, Casas calls the locals “Indians” despite the fact that North America was longer erroneously perceived as India at the time (Casas 2). In addition, the author at some point takes the stance that can be seen as completely unethical from the contemporary standpoint by defending the actions of Spanish colonists based on the response that they received from the natives. Namely, the author calls the “notorious falsehood” the statement that “The Indians never gave them the least cause to offer them violence” (Casas 6). Thus, the author relegates the tragedy of genocide and the conquest of foreign lands to the concept of a righteous choice that was predetermined by the perceived superiority of the European nation.

Arguably, the books can also be seen as the tool for familiarizing European people with the traditions and rituals of people form other cultures. However, the attitude with which they were written, as well as the stance that they took toward the notion of colonialism, devalue the message of cultural diversity that could have been imbued into their narrative.

Although the “History and Description of Africa,” “The Conquest of the New Spain,” and “The Tears of the Indians” shed light into the culture-specific characteristics of the ethnicities that they seek to depict, the colossal shift in focus that the promotion of colonialism implies makes the narrative vastly biased and racist. From the modern perspective, there can be no justification from the ideas that each of the authors purports. Therefore, when examining the teleological component of the said books, one will have to admit that each of the narratives served the purpose of reinforcing the idea of European supremacy. Despite minor attempts at fairness in the representation of the Natives in the “History and Description of Africa,” as well as a hint at a balanced discussion in “The Conquest of the New Spain,” each of the three books captures the unforgivably racist nature of colonialism.

Works Cited

  1. Africanis, Leo. The History and description of Africa. Translated by John Pory, 1600.
  2. Casas, Bartolome de las. The Tears of the Indians: Being a Historical and True Account of the Cruel Massacres and Slaughters of above Twenty Millions of innocent People; Committed by the Spaniards (1656). Nath Brook, 1656.
  3. Diaz, Bernal. The Conquest of the New Spain. Translated by J, M. Cohen. Penguin Books, 1967.

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