Townsend, Camilla 1965–
Townsend, Camilla 1965–
PERSONAL: Born 1965. Education: Bryn Mawr College, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1985; Rutgers University, Ph.D., 1995.
ADDRESSES: Office—Colgate University, Department of Native American Studies, 12 Hascall Hall, 13 Oak Dr., Hamilton, NY 13346. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Instituto Nacionale Eliseo Picado, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, faculty member, 1987–88; Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, assistant professor of history and acting director of Native American studies, 1995–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright Commission grant for study in Ecuador, 1992–93; American Association for University Women dissertation fellow, 1993–94; Research fellow, Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies, 1994–95; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, 2003.
Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America: Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Baltimore, Maryland, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2000.
Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Colonial Latin-American Review, Latin American Perspectives, Procesos, and Journal of Women's History. Member of editorial board, History Compass Web site.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer, historian, and university professor Camilla Townsend is a comparativist who studies colonial Latin America within the context of the New World and its developments. In her book Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America: Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Baltimore, Maryland she considers "the disparity of economic development existing between the United States and Latin America," according to Carlos Perez in History: Review of New Books. Using a "comparative approach that helps illuminate the recondite paths of divergent economic development," Townsend explores in detail everyday life and economic activity in two similar cities, Baltimore, Maryland, and Guayaquil, Ecuador, from 1820 to 1835. She divides the economic and social strata of the two cities into the elite; the middling ranks consisting of professionals, artisans, and entrepreneurs; and the poor.
Much of the book looks at how the three levels interacted, and especially how the poor fared in terms of their relationships with the elite and the middling ranks. Townend's analysis focuses largely on two individuals, Ana Yagual of Guayaquil and Frederick Bailey, a former slave, of Baltimore. "Townsend describes the two cities through the two men's nineteenth-century eyes, giving us a sense of how the lower classes conceptualized urban space and their relationship to the elite and middling ranks," Perez noted. He called the book a "unique and valuable contribution to the field" and a "provocative and thought-provoking work" of economic history and analysis.
Townsend's interests also extend to colonial America. In Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma she reconsiders the long-held conceptions of how the Jamestown settlers interacted with the natives, how John Smith portrayed his role in the colonization, and how the often-repeated legend of Pocahontas may not be historically accurate. Townsend "writes with a sharp sword and a crackling whip" and "refuses to believe anything just because so many people have repeated it," remarked John Leonard in Harper's. "What emerges is an unpretty picture of a Jamestown colony" that wanted to use the natives as serfs, a boasting John Smith who consistently exaggerated his effect on native women, and an Algonquin tribe that deeply distrusted the white settlers, and rightly so. Smith's account of his interactions with Pocahontas may well be outright fabrication, designed to "satisfy their own need to believe that the Indians loved and admired them (or their cultural forebears), without resentments, without guile," Townsend wrote. Townsend "has written this book in part to dispel the mythology about Pocahontas and her people, and to try to give us a realistic understanding of the dynamics between the conquerors and the conquered," observed a reviewer on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the book serves as an example of "colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Townsend, Camilla, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 2004.
Harper's, October, 2004, John Leonard, review of Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma, p. 92.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 2000, Carlos Perez, review of Tales of Two Cities: Race and Economic Culture in Early Republican North and South America: Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Baltimore, Maryland, p. 20.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma, p. 797.
Colgate University Department of Native American Studies Web site, http://departments.colgate.edu/ (October 23, 2005), biography of Camilla Townsend.
Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledcup.com/ (October 23, 2005), review of Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma.
History Compass Web site, http://www.historycompass.com/ (October 23, 2005), biography of Camilla Townsend.