In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Native Americans in Europe

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies and Reference Works
  • Case Studies
  • Elite Emigration
  • Slavery and Labor
  • Materiality
  • Spectacle and Musical Performance
  • Native American Bodies and Science

Atlantic History Native Americans in Europe
Carina Johnson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 September 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0203


The scope of Native American presence in early modern Europe from 1492 to c. 1800 CE is not well understood. Research on cultural encounters between indigenous peoples of the Americas (variously referred to as “Native Americans,” “Indians,” or “Amerindians”) and Europeans in the colonial and borderland arenas of the Americas ranges from analyses of European discovery and colonization to explorations of accommodation, resistance, and cross-cultural exchange. In contrast, Native American–European cultural exchanges in European lands remain in relative obscurity. Native Americans journeyed to Europe as visiting dignitaries, willing or unwilling travelers, and slaves. They were most frequently sighted in European states engaged in colonial projects: Portugal, Spain, France, the Low Countries, and England. Particularly during the first century of encounter, many did not survive their exposure to the diseases and living conditions of Europe and died before they could return to the Americas. Archival traces reveal that an unknown number remained in Europe, establishing lives and families. In contrast to the paucity of scholarship on the lived presence or social and cultural impacts of Native Americans in Europe, studies of the visual and textual representations of Native Americans in Europe have proliferated. Ideas and information about the “New World” circulated in forms ranging from eyewitness accounts to fantasies of the savage altern. This new knowledge contributed to the reshaping of ethnography, visual iconographies, natural history and medicine, and ideas of history, cultural relativism, civilization, savagery, and the exotic in early modern Europe.

General Overviews

Elliott 1970 framed a major research question of “Native Americans in Europe”: knowledge and knowledge production. Timely interdisciplinary conference volumes brought together leading scholars’ responses to questions of reception and impacts. Chiappelli 1976 exerted significant influence in shaping subsequent research and continues to serve as an encyclopedic starting point for scholars. Kupperman 1995 presented the state of the field in many research areas. The exploratory collection of essays in Feest 1987 focused on Native American visitors to Europe. Treuil, et al. 2004 highlighted archival possibilities for 18th-century France. Well-researched and reliable surveys of the Native American presence in Europe are Dickason 1984 for pre-18th-century France and Vaughan 2006 for Britain and 16th-century Europe more generally.

  • Chiappelli, Fredi. First Images of America. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

    An important collection of over fifty essays, many by scholars whose work has shaped their fields. Encompassed topics ranging from the formation of knowledge in areas of geography, ethnography, politics, literature, and theology to demographic trends and material exchanges. These works sought to evaluate the influence of Europeans’ encounter with the Americas on European culture and thought.

  • Dickason, Olive Patricia. The Myth of the Savage and the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984.

    The chapter “Amerindians in Europe” summarizes the Native American visitors, students, and prisoners of wars or otherwise unfree people from 1505 to c. 1690 (and, in addition, one traveler in 1740), whose presence in France was recorded.

  • Elliott, J. H. The Old World and the New, 1492–1650. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

    This influential essay evaluated the intellectual consequences of the New World’s discovery on the Old World, arguing for a delayed or “blunted” ideational impact.

  • Feest, Christian, ed. Indians and Europe: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays. Aachen, West Germany: Edition Herodot/Raader-Verlag, 1987.

    Sought to stimulate further research on European encounters with and views of Native Americans. The essays discussing the pre-1800 period are grounded in visual materials available in European libraries and archives and include attention to North American Indians.

  • Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, ed. America in European Consciousness, 1493–1750. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

    Many of the essays, drawn from a 1991 conference organized by the John Carter Brown Library, are richly researched evaluations of the state of the field. Influential essays include Sabine MacCormack’s essay on comparisons between Greco-Roman and Amerindian paganism and J. H. Elliott’s own reassessment of Elliott 1970.

  • Treuil, Aline, Valérie Denier, and Dominique Guillemet. “Des Amérindiens en Centre-Ouest aux XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles.” In Champlain ou les portes du Nouveau Monde: Cinq siècles d’échanges entre le Centre-Ouest français et l’Amérique du Nord. Edited by Mickaël Augeron and Dominique Guillemet, 157–159. La Crèche, France: Geste, 2004.

    Presents archival traces, primarily in parish registers, of Native North Americans in 18th-century western France.

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

    A well-researched introduction to Native American sojourners in Europe, this survey discusses 16th-century visitors to Portugal, Spain, France, and England before focusing on travelers, slaves, and diplomatic envoys to Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries. Emphasizes the ambiguous status and reception of Inuits, Squanto and other Wampanoags, Pocahontas and other Powhatans, additional early visitors, and Mohegan preacher Samson Occom. Also highlights the 18th-century phenomenon of diplomatic delegations.

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