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Enlightenment on America, America on Enlightenment: historical writing in debate and the shaping of eurocentrism at the end of the Eighteenth century

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Delving into the construction of European consciousness

An EU-funded initiative has offered a first step towards better understanding the development of a European consciousness. Research and activities followed a historical and comparative perspective to provide more insight into differing views of Eurocentrism.

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The ‘Enlightenment on America, America on Enlightenment: historical writing in debate and the shaping of Eurocentrism at the end of the eighteenth century’ (AMEN) project compared the works of two prominent figures from the 1770s and 1780s to research differing Eurocentric conceptions of mankind. 'History of America' in 1777, by Scottish historian W. Robertson and exiled Mexican Jesuit F.S. Clavigero’s 'Storia antica del Messico', 1780–1781, raise pertinent issues and offer competing conceptions of history and mankind. The AMEN enquiry and analysis of the texts was conducted within the frameworks of Enlightenment or Christian universalism. The lead researcher reconstructed Clavigero's reception in Europe, especially Great Britain, and the United States following the translation of his work into English. This event prompted the entry of 'America' in the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1788, representing a significant attempt to advance knowledge about history and the natural world in the British context. Research examined printed and private documents, letters, manuscripts, letters, notes from university lectures, minutes of debating societies and even sermons and papers held in literary clubs. This line of investigation afforded an examination of as yet unexplored connections between Clavigero and northern American writers as well as the relationship between him and other scholarly Jesuits arriving in Europe following crises in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. AMEN included training and instructional activities and aimed at enlarging the scope of the work being undertaken. A number of articles were prepared for publication in peer reviewed journals as well as chapters in relevant books.

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