Episode 132: Coll Thrush, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of the Empire

When we explore the history of early America, we often look at people who lived, and the events that took place, in North America. But what about the people who lived and worked in European metropoles?

What about Native Americans?

Today, we explore early American history through a slightly different lens, a lens that allows us to see interactions that occurred between Native American peoples and English men and women who lived in London.

Our guide for this exploration is Coll Thrush, an Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and author of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of the Empire.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Coll Thrush, an Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and author of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of the Empire, leads us on an exploration of Native American and European interactions that took place in London.

During our exploration, Coll reveals when and why Native Americans started to visit London; How Londoners expected Native Americans to act and what Native Americans thought of London and Londoners; And how Coll went about uncovering and recovering the voices of early Native American travelers to London.

What You’ll Discover

  • When Native Americans started visiting London
  • Why Native Americans visited London
  • Details about some of the Native Americans who went to London
  • Social roles Londoners expected Native American travelers to fulfill
  • How Native American voyagers interacted with European expectations of them
  • The idea of the “noble savage”
  • How London learned to be “colonial”
  • How the experiences of Native American travelers to London changed over time
  • The Four Kings
  • How the English tried to make sense of Native Americans through artwork and literature
  • The role of religion in English encounters with Native Americans
  • Native American participation in the Enlightenment
  • Whether Native Americans ever attempted to colonize London
  • What native voyages to London reveal about early American history and the early days of the British Empire
  • What present-day native communities think about the voyages and experiences of their ancestors
  • How Coll uncovered and recovered the voices of Native Americans who voyaged to London


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Native Americans had never traveled to Europe? How would relations and diplomacy between Native Americans and Europeans have been different during the 17th and 18th centuries?

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