Books by Eric Leed

Released: Nov. 22, 1995

Stories of predatory military expansion, captivity and bondage, and religious mission, the characteristic forms of travel before the advent of modern tourism. Historian Leed (Florida International Univ.; The Mind of the Traveler, 1991) has a simple point to make: Travel in the premodern world was fundamentally different from travel in the modern world. We now associate travel with freedom and self-realization, but premodern travelers thought of it in terms of conquest, mission, or duty. He illustrates his point with a series of stories about premodern predatory military expeditions, early modern missionaries, and modern traveling. Leed's clear and forceful tales of missionaries are much stronger than his stories of trading voyages and tourism. He avoids the temptation to treat missionaries as figures of fun or as sinister bearers of Western cultural imperialism. Instead he portrays them as complicated ``cultural entrepreneurs'' engaged in encounters of mutual exchange with the people they wish to convert. He dates the expansionary character of Christianity to the Crusades, and has a strong grasp of the fundamental contrast between the Roman Catholic missions of the early modern period and the Protestant missions of the 19th century, which were based firmly on the need for voluntary consent rather than government coercion. Leed is committed to thinking of history as either ``premodern'' or ``modern,'' but it is a distinction that does not always work. There are flourishing forms of travel in the ``modern'' world that fit his definition of ``premodern'': illegal immigration, bonded servitude in sweatshops, the international traffic in prostitution, mass expeditions of refugees, and ever-growing numbers of missionaries. A travel book with a difference, Shores of Discovery revises the way we think about encounters between the Western and the non- Western worlds. Read full book review >