Human rights in the eighteenth-century travelogues of François Le Vaillant

Show simple item record Mutton, Jan F. 2017-01-12T06:54:09Z 2016-01
dc.description.abstract In seventeenth and eighteenth-century Europe, the Age of Enlightenment, eminent political and legal thinkers such as Locke and Rousseau defended the emancipation of the individual and the inalienable, natural rights of man such as the right to life, freedom and equality. They argued that every man is born free and inherently good but that he becomes corrupted by the constraints of society and civilisation. A certain harmony can be found again through a social contract with the state, the ultimate protector of man’s inalienable rights. Within this philosophy, education is crucial to develop young people naturally without the negative impact of society. Only nature can elevate man. Enlightenment opened European minds to the exotic and the unknown and, as a consequence, broke with the prejudice of previous centuries against cultural difference. Enlightenment influenced many free-spirits of the day. One such free-spirit was the Frenchman François Le Vaillant who travelled through southern Africa between 1781 and 1784. He was not only influenced by the ideas of Rousseau but he was, because of his unusual and liberal education, the very incarnation of Rousseau’s philosophy. As he travelled through Southern Africa, Le Vaillant became mesmerised with its indigenous peoples, especially the roaming Koina communities and the Xhosa, who, at that time, still lived a traditional and natural life. Even though he set off on his journeys as an ornithologist and a collector of specimens, Le Vaillant became, as he encountered the Koina and the Xhosa, a defender of the inalienable rights of the natural man. He became an emotional critic of encroachment by colonial settlers upon indigenous lands, forcing the Koina and the Xhosa into poverty, economic dependency, cultural alienation and loss of natural life. Le Vaillant published two travel journals; he introduced a new style of travel writing and made the European reader familiar with southern Africa. In doing so, he played a significant role in the defense of human rights through his criticism of the effects of colonial rule on indigenous peoples, not from an academic point of view but from the heart, based on first-hand experience in the field. en_ZA
dc.description.department Political Sciences en_ZA
dc.description.embargo 2017-01-30
dc.description.librarian am2016 en_ZA
dc.description.uri en_ZA
dc.identifier.citation Mutton, JF 2016, 'Human rights in the eighteenth-century travelogues of François Le Vaillant', Fundamina : a Journal of Legal History, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 250-272. en_ZA
dc.identifier.issn 1021-545X (print)
dc.identifier.issn 2411-7870 (online)
dc.identifier.other 10.17159/2411-7870/2016/v22n2a4
dc.language.iso en en_ZA
dc.publisher Southern African Society of Legal Historians en_ZA
dc.rights Southern African Society of Legal Historians en_ZA
dc.subject Age of enlightenment en_ZA
dc.subject Cape Town en_ZA
dc.subject Civil rights en_ZA
dc.subject Colonialism en_ZA
dc.subject Critical thinking en_ZA
dc.subject Coetzee en_ZA
dc.subject Conrad en_ZA
dc.subject Eighteenth century en_ZA
dc.subject France en_ZA
dc.subject Freeburghers en_ZA
dc.subject Free-roaming en_ZA
dc.subject Great fish river en_ZA
dc.subject Inalienable rights en_ZA
dc.subject Indigenous peoples en_ZA
dc.subject Koina en_ZA
dc.subject Land seizure en_ZA
dc.subject Narrative writing en_ZA
dc.subject Natural rights of man en_ZA
dc.subject Orange river en_ZA
dc.subject Ornithology en_ZA
dc.subject Rousseau en_ZA
dc.subject Settlers en_ZA
dc.subject Social contract en_ZA
dc.subject Sonqua en_ZA
dc.subject Southern Africa en_ZA
dc.subject Specimens en_ZA
dc.subject Travelogues en_ZA
dc.subject Ubuntu en_ZA
dc.subject Urbanised en_ZA
dc.subject Xhosa en_ZA
dc.subject Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) en_ZA
dc.title Human rights in the eighteenth-century travelogues of François Le Vaillant en_ZA
dc.type Article en_ZA

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