Ladan Niayesh, Professor of Early Modern Studies
LARCA (UMR 8225), Université de Paris
Visiting Fellow, Exeter College, Oxford
“Muscovite tyranny”, “rude and barbarous kingdom”, or “a people born to slavery” are some of the most enduring stereotypes vehicled by early modern English accounts of Russia. Offering a paradigm of territorial empire, full commercial control, and political absolutism, Russia was a fascinating case study for the English at a time when they were articulating their own colonial and global projects. Focusing on the lesser addressed, racialised Tatar subtext in those accounts, I wish to ponder in this talk on some of the ways in which it was perceived and engaged with by English agents and diplomats in their first-hand experience of race, slavery, and empire in Russia, and in the textual and visual journeys of their reports back home. The case study on which I will be more particularly concentrating is Anthony Jenkinson’s account of his first journey down the Volga in 1558 and his arrival in Astrakhan, former siege of the Tatar khanate submitted by Ivan IV’s armies two years before. I will be looking at Jenkinson’s account, as it appears in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1589 and 1598-1600), as well as a set of derivative maps based on Jenkinson’s report and illustrated with corresponding vignettes.