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QMCECS Seminar 15 October 2019: Robbie Richardson

October 8, 2019


Tuesday 15 October 2019

Robbie Richardson

(University of Kent)

Unwitnessing Meaning: British Understandings of Wampum in the Eighteenth Century

For British writers in the eighteenth century, wampum, or shell beads strung or woven together and highly valued in Native American societies, was a perplexing material. As both text and commodity, sacred pact and ornament, wampum conflated European systems of meaning. This paper will look at various interpretations of wampum in periodicals, histories, treatises on writing, and novels, as well as in museum guides and visual culture, and will assess the epistemological challenges it placed on a society in which the lines between finance and culture were becoming increasingly blurred. It will additionally look to more recent work by book historians and Indigenous scholars to understand how historical objects from First Nations societies can be “read” today.

Chair: Miles Ogborn

All welcome

Time: 6.00-8.00pm.

Venue: Location: ArtsTwo 2.17, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End, London, E1 4NS.

Convenors: Prof Markman Ellis, English (; Prof Colin Jones, History (; Prof Miles Ogborn, Geography (; Prof Amanda Vickery, History (; Prof Barbara Taylor, English and History (; Dr Will Bowers, English (; Dr Hannah Williams, History (

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