Stuart Kelter interviews Camilla Townsend, a distinguished professor of history at Rutgers University, whose scholarship focuses on indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and in the relations between natives and newcomers. She is deeply immersed in the study of Nahuatl, the Aztec language, particularly the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writings left to us by Native American historians. Through the historical annals they produced, we catch a glimpse of indigenous conceptualizations of history as they existed at first contact. In 2010, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to in recognition of her work in analyzing the Nahuatl historical annals from the 16th and 17th centuries, written by the Nahuas (or Aztecs) in their own language, using the Latin alphabet taught to them by Spanish friars for the purpose of reading the Bible to more easily convert them to Christianity. Her 2019 book, Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, won the 2020 Cundill History Prize.
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