A World of Comparisons

A World of Comparisons documents European efforts to make sense of the diversity of humankind during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Writing in a wide variety of genres, from dictionaries and grammars to histories, geographies, travel accounts, and costume books, Europeans sought to understand other people and places. 

Williams Special Collections offers a rich trove for investigating this global history. A World of Comparisons demonstrates that serious cross-cultural study predates the era of modern European imperialism by centuries. In the early centuries of globalization, it offered insights that people in Lima, Lisbon, Calcutta and Kyoto could use to understand themselves and their increasingly connected world.

The exhibit is on view in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer 455) through December during regular Special Collections hours. Anthony Grafton, Putnam University Professor at Princeton University, will offer a public lecture “Strategies and Stereotypes in Renaissance Ethnography” on Thursday, September 26 at 6 pm in Griffin 3.