The fine new exhibition at the British Museum, Moctezuma, is a reminder of one of our most fondly held stereotypes: the noble savage confronted by the cruel Spanish conquistador.
Neil Young put it succinctly in his song Cortez the Killer, in which Cortés is met by a New Age Moctezuma (also known as Montezuma) surrounded by beautiful subjects offering coca leaves and pearls: “Hate was just a legend and war was never known.” This was the paradise that the brutal Cortés supposedly destroyed.
The Spaniards did, of course, bring both guns and germs to the New World, with devastating effect.… Seguir leyendo »
Are there still unknown corners of this world to be discovered? Is there any purpose to sending out large-scale expeditions to explore far-flung places?
The answers to these questions have split the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) into two warring camps – “explorers” and “academics”. The academics distrust the explorers – a near-swear-word in their lexicon – as grandstanding exhibitionists, always searching for the media spotlight. The explorers accuse their opponents of wanting to freeze out those who are not university-tenured geographers and further their own narrow academic careers.
To be more precise, academic geographers want to do more focused work, often using data already collected; the other group wants the RGS to restore the traditional expedition in which teams made up of people from different disciplines are sent out into the world.… Seguir leyendo »