W&N wins seven-publisher auction for Pennock's tale of Native Americans discovering Europe

W&N wins seven-publisher auction for Pennock's tale of Native Americans discovering Europe

W&N has triumphed in a seven-publisher auction for Aztec historian Caroline Dodds Pennock’s untold story of the Native Americans who discovered Europe.

Editorial director Maddy Price bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit for On Savage Shores, to be published in 2022. US rights were sold at auction to Erroll McDonald at Pantheon.

The book explains how, in the 16th century Native Americans found Europe at the same time as Columbus discovered America. The synopsis says: “Tens of thousands of Native Americans crossed the Atlantic, but their experiences have been written out of popular understandings of the past: from the Brazilian king who met Henry VIII, to the Inuit who harpooned ducks on the Avon; from the Aztecs who mocked up human sacrifice at the court of Charles V, to the Inuk baby who was put on show in a London pub; from the Maya nobles who made chocolate for the Spanish king, to the thousands of Mesoamerican and Caribbean slaves who laboured in European households. They forged the course of European history, just as surely as Europe shaped America. For such indigenous travellers and discoverers, of course, Europe was the savage shore.”

Price said: “Caroline’s book challenges the way we always see history from the white European perspective. By telling the stories of the unknown explorers, kings, traders, prisoners, slaves and other men, women and children who came to Europe from ‘the new world’, Caroline reframes global history in a new, much-needed light. On Savage Shores is fascinating, thrilling and so important at a time when the need to understand how migration has shaped us is more urgent than ever.”

The author is senior lecturer in International History at the University of Sheffield and is the UK’s only Aztec historian. Her study of Aztec culture, Bonds of Blood (Palgrave Macmillan), won the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize.

She said: “It is astonishing that the thousands of Native American travellers to Europe have made so little impact on public understandings of this otherwise well-known period of history. Their experiences overturn preconceptions about early modern exploration, empire and slavery, transforming our understandings of a period when people tend to think only about adventurers and colonists travelling west. I am thrilled to be working with Weidenfeld & Nicolson to bring their stories to a wider audience and to start conversations about the roots of our global, cosmopolitan world.”