Alternative History: Europe as the New World

Europe as the New World.png

Imagining an alternate history is a dangerous game to play. We can’t change the past, and what-if questions rarely helps us grapple with our current reality. But it can occasionally be a useful tool if it shifts our gaze to help us understand the past better, and why things are the way they are today. So we’ve delved into this speculative field and created a map which asks: What if European colonialism had been reversed? What if the ‘New World’ referred not to the Americas, but to Afro-Eurasia. What if it had been Native American explorers who ‘discovered’ Europe?

In this hypothetical map, we’ve taken a Maya perspective – not because we think that the Maya would or should have colonized Europe. Colonialism is wrong, no matter the perpetrator. But by turning our perspective and imagining Europeans in the position of the colonized, we may illuminate the destructiveness of colonial consciousness.

Reflecting the practices of European explorers, the ‘new’ lands have been rechristened, completely disregarding Europe’s native peoples and the names they have for their lands. Europe and Africa become Xaman Pakal (North Pakal) and Nohol Pakal (South Pakal) respectively, taking their names from the great Maya leader Pakal. Britain becomes Tumben Mayach (New Maya Country), and Ireland is Eire Kaahsik (Éire Land).

Meanwhile, locales in what the Maya would call the ‘Old World’ have retained their indigenous names like Anishinaabewaki, Inuit Nunangat, and Mayach, albeit written in Maya glyphs.

The map fades at the edges, indicating the limits of Maya exploration. Beyond that lay ‘terra incognita’, filled in with creatures from classical Maya mythology.

In accordance with Maya tradition, the map is oriented to the East.

Europe as the New World 1.png

This map – Europe as the New World by Jordan Engel – can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.

Sources: Tattered Map Sandwich by John Nelson

13 comments

  1. Realistically the Indians wouldn’t bother colonizing Europe because there is really nothing they would want. Also the Maya would probably contract horrible diseases and bring them back home still killing a large portion of the American Indians. Even if they wanted to colonize Europe I don’t see them even doing much colonizing simply because of how many people lived in Europe in comparison most sources say that around the 1800s there was around 100 to 60 million in the Americas whereas around that time there were at the time around double even if we were to assume that the Europeans were significantly less advanced they would probably be around the same population and additionally even with that taken into account Europe is still far more crowded than the new world. The rest of the world would probably be quite similar Africa would still be colonized and so would north america maybe with a difference of who colonizes them.

    This really should be labeled as a fantasy instead of an alt history though.

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  2. There is no ‘what if’ here. Europe IS the New World. Although Europe, like the rest of the world had had human inhabitants for thousands of years, ‘European civilization’ is very recent compared to the civilizations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Europe was colonized repeatedly by old cultures from Africa (Egyptian) and Asia (Persia, Mongolia) and Afro-Asia (Islamic Arab, Persian, Berber, etc.). But Europe is not a vast, rich peninsula (not ‘continent’) of Asia, so there was not much interest from others. The Muslims colonized Iberia only because the local rulers asked for their help from the Catholic-Visigoth elite alliance. From the Eurocentric view, the Americas was the New World, but from a global human history view, Europe is the New World. Other cultures are still waiting for the West to catch up to humanistic and earth-loving values. It was only in the 19th century that Europe learned hygiene (except in Andalusia, where Islamic cultures introduced bathhouses to Spain, which were then destroyed when the Sultanate fell in Cordoba in the 15th century); and in the same century (less than two centuries ago), European surgeons were resistant to washing their hands in-between surgeries, and villified the physician, Semmelweis, who suggested it, causing many deaths. To this day, Western medicine is the third leading cause of deaths in the world. Westerners have been resorting to Old World (called ‘alternative’) medicine for their health concern, and even for a more realistic worldview and approach to life.

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    • One also has to remember that Europe could not join the international trade that had been going on for centuries, from Turkey to India to Chins and Southeast Asia, because they had nothing of value to exchange. They didn’t even know how to make their own salt and spices, they had to go all the way to Malacca for the spice trade to acquire spices for their monarchs. The pre-colonial peoples of Indonesia wouldn’t even accept weapons, which was the only thing the Dutch could trade. Because of this, they just forcibly seized the port later known as Batavia as a colony. If old world cultures didn’t take pity on starving European sailors, who didn’t have the foresight to bring enough food for their journeys, and who could not navigate well, and often got lost, these cultures would probably not have been colonized. it’s also very unlikely that Chinese and Polynesian navigators would have gotten lost like Columbus did (who probably couldn’t read the foreign language maps he had) because they were already expert navigators when the Europeans were just starting.

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    • Seriously? Without colonialism, a considerable number of peoples in the Americas and elsewhere would not have died out. If anything is “literally genocidal” it is colonialism, certainly not the opinions expressed in this blog!

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    • No, geocide does not work like that. Thats like saying to the girl you want to date that she is killing your hypothetical child by not dating you. Those people wouldn’t of been killed, they just never would of been born. Also all the slavery and genocide that did happen would not of happened

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    • You’re aware that those cultures were both created through forced assimilation, violent oppression and horrifying abuses of the people that make then up. African American culture has evolved from a culture of literal enslavement. Is there any reason to applaud that ? Its not as if the ancestors of Mexican and African American cultures were wandering the earth lacking cultural meaning or connection before they were captured and forcibly made to submit and forget their previous languages , cultural rituals etc. So, whats so great about that exactly ?

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  3. Very interesting and it’s always a pleasure to see non-European alt-history imaginings. However, the Mayan glyphs aren’t right. The Mayans wrote in syllable blocks in a two by two pattern arranged in columns.

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  4. Agree about the rules set about how colonialism no matter the perpetrator is not a good thing. In fact, we can extend that to say it’s not a good thing no matter how near or far the perpetrated are from the perpetrators in culture or geographically speaking. But I love these thought series.

    I’ve been following this blog for a few months now and I really thank you for these maps. It helps with shifting perspective and re-framing what these historical and current affairs and issues mean for us.

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      • Nonsense, next time try and know something about a topic before you so ‘cleverly’ display your thoroughgoing ignorance of it. If you’re using a thing because it was forced upon you by conquerors, you’ve not appropriated it. (And consider yourself fortunate I’m not going to waste all out time and attention addressing what is evidently your risible misconception and misapplication of genocide.)

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