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  • List of Illustrations vii

    Preface ix

    Acknowledgments xiii

    Introduction xv

    The True History and Description of a Country Populated by a Wild, Naked, and Savage Man-munching People, situated in the New World, America . . . / Hans Staden 1

    Appendix 147

    Notes 151

    Bibliography 181

    Index 197
  • “[T]his is the first English-language translation from the sixteenth-century German of this classic piece of eye-witness reportage since 1929 - making it a highly important contribution to colonial and ethnographic history. The translators have rendered with great skill the book’s enduring shock value, constructed essentially around Staden’s reports of cannibalism and the ritual barbarity of the Tupinambá which, then as now, made this text the equivalent of a blockbuster. . . . It is rare that academics get to translate and interpret such gory material - and the result is as fleshy as any red-blooded anthropologist is ever likely to encounter and, unlike the cooked fare itself, impossible to put down.”

    “Initiates in South American ethnology will delight in reading this new and superb translation of this extraordinary document, for it literally transports one’s imagination. . . . With this new translation and—most important—the marvelously rich essay presenting it, that relative obscurity [of the text] has forever changed. . . . [Whitehead’s] introduction. . . is a gem of scholarship.”

    “Scholars and students should be grateful to Whitehead and Harbmeier for making Staden’s True History, the first captivity narrative, accessible in a modern scholarly translation.”

    “Staden’s book deserves the closest attention: this edition excels in making that possible in English for the first time.”

    “Teachers and scholars of Brazilian history can rejoice that Hans Staden's True History is once again in print. This is one of only a handful of sixteenth-century chronicles written by Europeans about their encounters with indigenous Brazilians. Arguably it is also the most reliable. . . . By uniting the woodcuts with a modern translation, Whitehead has provided a valuable resource for scholars and a highly readable and attractive text appropriate for undergraduate and graduate courses.”

    “This book adds a vivid chapter to the chronicles of colonialism in the New World. Staden’s sensational report must have done much to frame European ideas about South America in The Renaissance. Today it adds a vivid chapter to the chronicles of colonialism in the New World. It relates in a strange way to several genres from autobiography and colonial anthropology to travel writing and political propaganda.”

    “This new translation from the Marburg publication of 1557 is welcome with great enthusiasm, especially with the significant introduction and detailed analysis by anthropologist Neil Whitehead that places this magnificent text in perspective and creates a high standard for future editions of primary sources of information. . . . Professor Whitehead has, indeed, put us on the track of a new understanding of this chronicle that is a landmark of history, anthropology, and literature.”

    “Valued both for its exciting narrative and its cultural observations of the Tupi people. . . . The introduction places Staden’s observations into a broader anthropological context, in particular regarding cannibalism and the anthropology of violence. . . . Staden’s book still deserves to be read today because, as Whitehead says, ‘It’s a cracking good yarn.’ Shipwreck, captivity, cannibals, escape–a cracking good yarn indeed.”

    “Whitehead amply contextualizes the document, skillfully comparing it with others in the ‘discovery text’ genre, as well as in ‘Tupianology,’ ethnology, and modernist literary movements in Brazil that include the word ‘anthropophagy.’ So, like the Tupi themselves, whose ritual domesticated the Other by making it their own, to be consumed in the process of reproducing society, Whitehead’s introduction to the Staden text takes the exotic out of the experience to make it more palatable to our tastes. For all its antiquity, Tupian cannibalism is surprisingly modern in all of our imaginations and bodily desires.”

    “Whitehead and Harbsmeier present an important edition of a fundamental
    symbolic and historical part of the Latin American archive. An indispensable
    text for the study of early colonialism in the Americas, it is also a key document for the study of Latin American and Brazilian cultural history, and a crucial ethnographic text on the Tupinambá Indians. . . . [A]n erudite, sophisticated, engaging, and delicious analysis of a key text in Latin American cultural history. Whitehead and Harbsmeier’s work makes an important intervention in debates that cross different continents and
    many disciplines and will leave an enduring imprint on generations of scholars for whom Staden’s text is now available in English in an excellent edition.”

    “At long last an English edition of Hans Staden’s account of his captivity among the Tupinambá of mid-sixteenth-century Brazil is available for scholars, teachers, and students. . . . This book, with an extensive introduction written by anthropologist Neil Whitehead and a new English test translated from the German by historian Michael Harbsmeier, is an attractive, accessible, and reliable resource for teaching and research.”

    “In this superb new English translation of his account, Whitehead and Harbsmeier make it possible for a new generation of US students to learn of Staden's travails. A sophisticated essay that places Hans Staden in his proper historical context serves as the introduction to the translation. . . . Highly recommended.”

    “The book is a critical edition. . . . The book has become a cornerstone for discussion concerning native practices of cannibalism, but at the same time it is one of the earliest accounts available describing Brazil. Thus Whitehead and Harbsmeier seek to ransom the book from its place in the debate over cannibalism and place it rather within the literature of European contact with the native peoples of the Americas.”

    “This new translation into English of Hans Staden’s Warhaftige Historia, or True History, originally published in 1557 in Marburg, will fill a gap in the study of both European colonialism and travel literature. . . . Illustrated with plentiful woodcuts and underscored by ethnographic descriptions, Staden’s book is a keystone to the history of colonial Brazil and of Tupi-Guarani societies, as well as to current refashionings of the colonial past. . . . Despite its exceptional quality among early colonial texts, there has not been an English-language version since Malcolm Lett’s edition of 1928. Whitehead’s and Harbsmeier’s accurate transcription and annotated translation of Staden’s first edition remedy this neglect. Moreover, their introductory study not only reconstructs the text’s legacies in a variety of contexts and disciplines, but also demonstrates its persistent appeal for current debates.”

    “Whitehead and Harbsmeier have provided a lucid and readable translation that preserves the choppy rhythm and colloquial feel of the original German without sacrificing accessibility. . . . Hans Staden's True History is usefully true and usefully history. . . . Scholars of early modern Germany and of European colonialism, in addition to scholars of Brazil, now have a wonderful text with which to explore these and other issues with their students. With this translation, Whitehead and Harbsmeier have significantly advanced the study of the early modern world.”

    Reviews

  • “[T]his is the first English-language translation from the sixteenth-century German of this classic piece of eye-witness reportage since 1929 - making it a highly important contribution to colonial and ethnographic history. The translators have rendered with great skill the book’s enduring shock value, constructed essentially around Staden’s reports of cannibalism and the ritual barbarity of the Tupinambá which, then as now, made this text the equivalent of a blockbuster. . . . It is rare that academics get to translate and interpret such gory material - and the result is as fleshy as any red-blooded anthropologist is ever likely to encounter and, unlike the cooked fare itself, impossible to put down.”

    “Initiates in South American ethnology will delight in reading this new and superb translation of this extraordinary document, for it literally transports one’s imagination. . . . With this new translation and—most important—the marvelously rich essay presenting it, that relative obscurity [of the text] has forever changed. . . . [Whitehead’s] introduction. . . is a gem of scholarship.”

    “Scholars and students should be grateful to Whitehead and Harbmeier for making Staden’s True History, the first captivity narrative, accessible in a modern scholarly translation.”

    “Staden’s book deserves the closest attention: this edition excels in making that possible in English for the first time.”

    “Teachers and scholars of Brazilian history can rejoice that Hans Staden's True History is once again in print. This is one of only a handful of sixteenth-century chronicles written by Europeans about their encounters with indigenous Brazilians. Arguably it is also the most reliable. . . . By uniting the woodcuts with a modern translation, Whitehead has provided a valuable resource for scholars and a highly readable and attractive text appropriate for undergraduate and graduate courses.”

    “This book adds a vivid chapter to the chronicles of colonialism in the New World. Staden’s sensational report must have done much to frame European ideas about South America in The Renaissance. Today it adds a vivid chapter to the chronicles of colonialism in the New World. It relates in a strange way to several genres from autobiography and colonial anthropology to travel writing and political propaganda.”

    “This new translation from the Marburg publication of 1557 is welcome with great enthusiasm, especially with the significant introduction and detailed analysis by anthropologist Neil Whitehead that places this magnificent text in perspective and creates a high standard for future editions of primary sources of information. . . . Professor Whitehead has, indeed, put us on the track of a new understanding of this chronicle that is a landmark of history, anthropology, and literature.”

    “Valued both for its exciting narrative and its cultural observations of the Tupi people. . . . The introduction places Staden’s observations into a broader anthropological context, in particular regarding cannibalism and the anthropology of violence. . . . Staden’s book still deserves to be read today because, as Whitehead says, ‘It’s a cracking good yarn.’ Shipwreck, captivity, cannibals, escape–a cracking good yarn indeed.”

    “Whitehead amply contextualizes the document, skillfully comparing it with others in the ‘discovery text’ genre, as well as in ‘Tupianology,’ ethnology, and modernist literary movements in Brazil that include the word ‘anthropophagy.’ So, like the Tupi themselves, whose ritual domesticated the Other by making it their own, to be consumed in the process of reproducing society, Whitehead’s introduction to the Staden text takes the exotic out of the experience to make it more palatable to our tastes. For all its antiquity, Tupian cannibalism is surprisingly modern in all of our imaginations and bodily desires.”

    “Whitehead and Harbsmeier present an important edition of a fundamental
    symbolic and historical part of the Latin American archive. An indispensable
    text for the study of early colonialism in the Americas, it is also a key document for the study of Latin American and Brazilian cultural history, and a crucial ethnographic text on the Tupinambá Indians. . . . [A]n erudite, sophisticated, engaging, and delicious analysis of a key text in Latin American cultural history. Whitehead and Harbsmeier’s work makes an important intervention in debates that cross different continents and
    many disciplines and will leave an enduring imprint on generations of scholars for whom Staden’s text is now available in English in an excellent edition.”

    “At long last an English edition of Hans Staden’s account of his captivity among the Tupinambá of mid-sixteenth-century Brazil is available for scholars, teachers, and students. . . . This book, with an extensive introduction written by anthropologist Neil Whitehead and a new English test translated from the German by historian Michael Harbsmeier, is an attractive, accessible, and reliable resource for teaching and research.”

    “In this superb new English translation of his account, Whitehead and Harbsmeier make it possible for a new generation of US students to learn of Staden's travails. A sophisticated essay that places Hans Staden in his proper historical context serves as the introduction to the translation. . . . Highly recommended.”

    “The book is a critical edition. . . . The book has become a cornerstone for discussion concerning native practices of cannibalism, but at the same time it is one of the earliest accounts available describing Brazil. Thus Whitehead and Harbsmeier seek to ransom the book from its place in the debate over cannibalism and place it rather within the literature of European contact with the native peoples of the Americas.”

    “This new translation into English of Hans Staden’s Warhaftige Historia, or True History, originally published in 1557 in Marburg, will fill a gap in the study of both European colonialism and travel literature. . . . Illustrated with plentiful woodcuts and underscored by ethnographic descriptions, Staden’s book is a keystone to the history of colonial Brazil and of Tupi-Guarani societies, as well as to current refashionings of the colonial past. . . . Despite its exceptional quality among early colonial texts, there has not been an English-language version since Malcolm Lett’s edition of 1928. Whitehead’s and Harbsmeier’s accurate transcription and annotated translation of Staden’s first edition remedy this neglect. Moreover, their introductory study not only reconstructs the text’s legacies in a variety of contexts and disciplines, but also demonstrates its persistent appeal for current debates.”

    “Whitehead and Harbsmeier have provided a lucid and readable translation that preserves the choppy rhythm and colloquial feel of the original German without sacrificing accessibility. . . . Hans Staden's True History is usefully true and usefully history. . . . Scholars of early modern Germany and of European colonialism, in addition to scholars of Brazil, now have a wonderful text with which to explore these and other issues with their students. With this translation, Whitehead and Harbsmeier have significantly advanced the study of the early modern world.”

  • “I was quite astonished to find out that no version of Hans Staden’s account had been printed in English since 1929. Not only is it the earliest eyewitness narrative of the Tupi peoples written by a European; it deals with the heated and enduring debate about the role of cannibalism in human experience.” — Irene Silverblatt, author of, Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World

    “Neil L. Whitehead’s introduction contextualizes Staden’s account with amazing richness. This is the definitive English edition.” — Mary Louise Pratt, Silver Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures, New York University

    “There is no doubt that this volume has returned Hans Staden’s narrative to its place as a basic text of European expansion and one of the most important accounts of cannibalism. This 1557 text is important for the wealth of its ethnographic observations, taken at first-hand by Staden, and for the narrative structure, which makes it comparable to the journal of Columbus, Raleigh’s Discoveries, or Jean de Léry’s Histoire.” — Stuart Schwartz, George Burton Adams Professor of History, Yale University

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  • Description

    In 1550 the German adventurer Hans Staden was serving as a gunner in a Portuguese fort on the Brazilian coast. While out hunting, he was captured by the Tupinambá, an indigenous people who had a reputation for engaging in ritual cannibalism and who, as allies of the French, were hostile to the Portuguese. Staden’s True History, first published in Germany in 1557, tells the story of his nine months among the Tupi Indians. It is a dramatic first-person account of his capture, captivity, and eventual escape.

    Staden’s narrative is a foundational text in the history and European “discovery” of Brazil, the earliest European account of the Tupi Indians, and a touchstone in the debates on cannibalism. Yet the last English-language edition of Staden’s True History was published in 1929. This new critical edition features a new translation from the sixteenth-century German along with annotations and an extensive introduction. It restores to the text the fifty-six woodcut illustrations of Staden’s adventures and final escape that appeared in the original 1557 edition.

    In the introduction, Neil L. Whitehead discusses the circumstances surrounding the production of Staden’s narrative and its ethnological significance, paying particular attention to contemporary debates about cannibalism. Whitehead illuminates the value of Staden’s True History as an eyewitness account of Tupi society on the eve before its collapse, of ritual war and sacrifice among Native peoples, and of colonial rivalries in the region of Rio de Janeiro. He chronicles the history of the various editions of Staden’s narrative and their reception from 1557 until the present. Staden’s work continues to engage a wide range of readers, not least within Brazil, where it has recently been the subject of two films and a graphic novel.

    About The Author(s)

    Neil L. Whitehead is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the Poetics of Violent Death and the editor of Terror and Violence: Anthropological Approaches (with Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart); In Darkness and Secrecy: The Anthropology of Assault Sorcery and Witchcraft in Amazonia (with Robin Wright); Histories and Historicities in Amazonia; and The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana by Sir Walter Ralegh. Dark Shamans and In Darkness and Secrecy are both also published by Duke University Press. Michael Harbsmeier is Associate Professor of History at Roskilde University in Roskilde, Denmark. He is the author of two books in German.

    Neil L. Whitehead is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the Poetics of Violent Death and the editor of Terror and Violence: Anthropological Approaches (with Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart); In Darkness and Secrecy: The Anthropology of Assault Sorcery and Witchcraft in Amazonia (with Robin Wright); Histories and Historicities in Amazonia; and The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana by Sir Walter Ralegh. Dark Shamans and In Darkness and Secrecy are both also published by Duke University Press. Michael Harbsmeier is Associate Professor of History at Roskilde University in Roskilde, Denmark. He is the author of two books in German.

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