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This work of comparative history explores the array of ceremonies that Europeans performed to mark their taking possession of the New World. Frenchmen reproduced the grandeur of royal processions wherever possible, always ending in dialogue with the indigenous peoples. Spaniards made solemn speeches before launching military attacks. Dutchmen drew intensely detailed maps, scrutinizing harbours and coastlines as they disembarked. The Portuguese superimposed the grid of latitudes upon lands they were later to take by the sword. The English calmly laid out fences and hedges in the manner of their native shires. Through such activities each power considered itself to be creating imperial authority over the Americas; yet each failed to acknowledge the same significance in the ceremonies of other nations. This book develops the cultural contexts of these ceremonies, and tackles the implications of this historical legacy for contemporary nation-states in the post-colonial era.