Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas


RELIGION & PRINT

Torquemada If possession was one assumption which shaped European encounters with the New World, conversion of native peoples to Christianity was another. To claim territory for a Christian ruler was at the same time to proclaim its indigenous inhabitants Christian. Europe's colonial expansion brought in its wake a burst of missionary activity, accompanied by published accounts of religious successes and obstacles.
But missions to New World peoples provoked a host of unanticipated questions. Were indigenous peoples capable of becoming good Christians? What did it mean for Indians to "hear the Word"? Should missionaries translate a Christian vocabulary into native languages, and if so, how? Missionaries throughout the Americas wrestled with the linguistic problem of conversion, and many sought to write and print Indian languages.

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