On Savage Shores

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781474616904

Price: £22

ON SALE: 19th January 2023

Genre: Humanities / History / History: Earliest Times To Present Day

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A New Statesman Best Book of the Year 2023. A Waterstones Book of the Year 2023. An Economist Book of the Year. One of Smithsonian Magazine‘s Ten Best History Books of 2023. A BBC History Magazine Book of the Year 2023. One of History Workshop’s ‘Radical Reads’ for 2023. Winner of the Voltaire Medal.

We have long been taught to presume that modern global history began when the ‘Old World’ encountered the ‘New’, when Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America in 1492. But, as Caroline Dodds Pennock conclusively shows in this groundbreaking book, for tens of thousands of Aztecs, Maya, Totonacs, Inuit and others – enslaved people, diplomats, explorers, servants, traders – the reverse was true: they discovered Europe. For them, Europe comprised savage shores, a land of riches and marvels, yet perplexing for its brutal disparities of wealth and quality of life, and its baffling beliefs. The story of these Indigenous Americans abroad is a story of abduction, loss, cultural appropriation, and, as they saw it, of apocalypse – a story that has largely been absent from our collective imagination of the times.

From the Brazilian king who met Henry VIII to the Aztecs who mocked up human sacrifice at the court of Charles V; from the Inuk baby who was put on show in a London pub to the mestizo children of Spaniards who returned ‘home’ with their fathers; from the Inuit who harpooned ducks on the Avon river to the many servants employed by Europeans of every rank: here are a people who were rendered exotic, demeaned, and marginalised, but whose worldviews and cultures had a profound impact on European civilisation. Drawing on their surviving literature and poetry and subtly layering European eyewitness accounts against the grain, Pennock gives us a sweeping account of the Indigenous American presence in, and impact on, early modern Europe.


An excellent exploration of Indigenous presence in and contribution to Europe and nascent globalization. Pennock, by recognizing and voicing a space for Indigenous Peoples in Europe, has told a story that needs to form a part of every history class from grade school to university. On Savage Shores is an original and important recasting of sixteenth-century Europe . . . a decolonizing and un-whitening approach to the past
Anishinabek News
Pennock has pieced together hundreds of fragments to create a new and remarkable portrait of the travellers who crossed the Atlantic not to the Americas but from them, and who found in Europe a strange, often hostile, sometimes intriguing society, vastly different from their own
An impressive and consequential act of research and interpretation that consistently acknowledges the profound and ongoing . . . fissure caused to indigenous identities by colonisation, enslavement, violence and displacement.
On Savage Shores offers a welcome non-Eurocentric narrative about how the great civilisations of the Americas discovered Europe . . . an important book
Martin Chilton, INDEPENDENT
[A] fascinating and fluidly written revisionist history . . . This innovative and powerful account breaks down long-standing historical assumptions
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY starred review
Inspiring and important . . . Expertly researched, convincingly argued, erudite yet readable, and introduces new readers to the reality of Indigenous American experience
Matthew Restall, HISTORY TODAY
Caroline Dodds Pennock's utterly original book is chock full of remarkable stories . . . there is much to enjoy in this unusual history of a forgotten corner of our past
Christopher Hart, DAILY MAIL
Caroline Dodds Pennock offers a remarkably fresh and compelling account of the so-called Age of Discovery. Whether arriving as ambassadors or enslaved, these travellers experienced Europe as a new and disorienting world: a place of shocking violence and perplexing social norms. Pennock, a leading authority on Indigenous Mexico, tells their stories with insight and humanity. A must read
Dodds Pennock's unpeeling of the indigenous experience from obscure manuscripts . . . is a much-needed and refreshing take on our all-too Eurocentric telling of the past
Andrea Wulf, THE TIMES
A thrilling, beautifully written and important book that changes how we look at transatlantic history, finally placing Indigenous peoples not on the side-lines but at the centre of the narrative. Highly recommended
On Savage Shores is a work of historical recovery . . . few books make as compelling a case for such a reimagining
David Olusoga, GUARDIAN, Book of the Day
Deftly weaves diverse and fascinating tales of the exciting adventures, complex diplomatic missions, voyages of discovery, triumphant incursions, and heartbreaking exploitations - of the many thousands of Indigenous travellers to new lands. Essential reading for anyone interested in how the events of the "Age of Exploration" shaped the modern world
In On Savage Shores, Dodds Pennock has performed a monumental work of historical excavation. Beautifully written and painstakingly researched, this is first-rate scholarship
Susannah Lipscomb, FINANCIAL TIMES
As Caroline Dodds Pennock shows, there were many thousands of Native Americans in early modern Europe who have long been forgotten . . . an overdue diversion of attention towards people marginalised by race . . . Dodds Pennock's skilful method involves subtly layering European accounts
Not only changes how we think about the first contact between America and Europe but also sets the methodological standard for a new way of understanding the origin of the modern world
On Savage Shores is mind-blowing, and it's an important contribution to struggle for a fair and more balanced telling of history - I felt genuinely enlightened. Dodds Pennock is a truth teller of the highest order, and a first class communicator. This is how history should be told
Imaginative and passionately argued
Wall Street Journal
An untold story of colonial history, both epic and intimate, and a thrilling revelation, not about the invasion of the Americas by Europeans, but the journeys of Indigenous people to Europe. Caroline Dodds Pennock is the perfect guide, cannily and eloquently shifting the axis of global history away from its Eurocentric grip
On Savage Shores not only changes how we think about the first contact between America and Europe but also sets the methodological standard for a new way of understanding the origin of the modern world.
New York review of Books