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This book recovers places in the mental mapping of medieval and Renaissance writers, from Chaucer to Aphra Behn. Beginning with Calais, peopled by the English from 1347 to 1558, and ending with Surinam, traded away for Manhattan in 1667, this well-illustrated book recreates the distinctive cultural life of a range of locations: from Flanders which led the world in technological innovations; to Somerset, which provided a fitting home for Dante; to the Canaries (the Fortunate Islands), which formed the limits of western dreaming. The book's exploration of premodern places features fascinating vignettes, such as an English merchant learning love songs in Calais, coupled with insights into broader economic narratives of political, technological, religious, and economic change. In particular, it provides long geneaologies of blackness and whiteness, race and slavery, in the premodern world.
David Wallace is Judith Rodin Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge. He has traveled extensively, exploring the importance of place both for print and documentary radio.