Episode 24: Polyrhythmic History

Image: Depiction of Blemmyes, engraving in a 1603 German edition of Sir Walter Ralegh’s “Discovery of Guiana,” 1595. The Early Modern Era saw Europeans ‘discovering’ a hemisphere, whose well established native peoples they reimagined as exotic, barbarous, and mythical. Material ambitions mixed with the fantastical as the Western Hemisphere became the proving ground of European empire. Writer Maria Relvas credits the Englishman Walter Ralegh as “a privileged witness and attentive observer who tells what he sees and endures,” but who also passed along exotic legend as fact. “He never hides,” she writes, “or masquerades, the purpose of his voyage: he was, after all, looking for gold, the ancestral source of both magnificence and decay. The Western hunger for it has been the end of other societies, as we so well know, and it was specifically the end of the societies mentioned in the text, whose people were guided by completely different world visions.”

Our History

This week join the HAG team and their very special guest, University of Pittsburgh historian and scholar Pernille Røge, as we take a look at what was cookin’ in empire’s crazy kitchen known as the Early Modern era. This history moves in mysterious ways, but it’s all right, because the saucy boys offer a polyrhythmic take on modernity, and ask the question: can you really fix a system that never worked in the first place? From Ghana to Guadeloupe, from slavers to sugar traders, we hope it’s not too late to come clean with the Early Modern Era. Be sure to check out Pernille’s book, Economistes and the Reinvention of Empire: France in the Americas and Africa, c. 1750-1802.

This week’s music: Built to Spill, “You We’re Right”; Oceanator, “A Crack in the World” 

Pernille Røge

To hear Episode 24 Polyrhythmic History, click on the link below:


Sources Referenced and Items of Interest

Pernille Røge, Economistes and the Reinvention of Empire: France in the Americas and Africa, c. 1750-1802.


“This ambitious and original book illuminates the emergence of a new vision of empire in eighteenth-century France…” Michael Kwass, The Johns Hopkins University

In framing a concept of polyrhythmic history as a history marked by simultaneous ruptures and continuities, Dr. Røge deftly illustrates the ongoing contradictions that marked the European imperial project in the Americas: “Alongside their participation in the transatlantic slave trade, some therefore set out to experiment with cash crop cultivation on plots of land leased from African rulers, often describing their activities in a language of free labor, civilization, and progress.” For a closer look at the cover illustration or her book An Allegory of Africa and America, see https://bruun-rasmussen.dk/m/lots/97626223DD70.

Video: Professor Pernille Røge discusses her research and teaching


Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected History: From the Tagus to the Ganges (2004)


“Studying European empires teaches us a lot about the imbalances we find on a global scale today.”

Pernille Røge

%d bloggers like this: