Town and Country: Connecting Late Medieval Castilian Urban Experience with Sixteenth-Century Colonization of the Americas

Urban government and the foundation of new towns are fundamental to understanding Castilian expansion from the eleventh-century conquest of Toledo to the sixteenth-century conquest of Tenochtitlan. The economic, social, religious and military connections between town and territory relied on a broad framework of institutions and laws as well as monarchical intervention. The result in Castile was the emergence of an original urban model of secular construction and proven political success to ensure control of territory and to govern heterogeneous populations. This Castilian model influenced the America’s urban systems, given its proven ability to control and defend territories. In fact, the Spanish kings favored transplanting this model, which linked town and country, to the colonies. These municipalities could ensure the sedentarization of the settlers, enable the settlers to govern minority communities, and allow the settlers to occupy effectively the newly conquered lands. Though the American Urban systems created during the sixteenth century included different types of cities – such as pre-Hispanic hubs, ports, vice regal courts, and mining cities, in every situation, municipal governments prioritized the links between town and country taking advantage of previous experience in Medieval Castile. This article focuses on late medieval Castilian urban experience and its application to the Americas to advance the study of urban behavior at the beginnings of the modern age. In the process, the article calls for a re-periodization of Spanish and Spanish American history by demonstrating the continuity between two chronological periods that have long been divided by the watershed events of 1492. The article also compares aspects of urban systems in both Spain and America during sixteenth century in order to identify reciprocal influences and thereby underscore transatlantic connections.

Worlds Within Worlds: The Institutional Locations of Global Connections in Early-Modern Seville

This article examines the institutional locations of global connections in Seville as the city became an important hub of Europe’s first global empire in the sixteenth century. It combines a micro-historical approach to institutions with the history of religious orders to explore the places and processes through which global connections were localized and mediated in sixteenth-century Seville. While the role of economic institutions, such as the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade), in processing long-range connections is well known, the role of religious institutions has often been overlooked. This article uses original archival research for the regional headquarters of the Franciscan Order, the Casa Grande, and its affiliated confraternity, the cofradía de la Vera Cruz, to examine the roles played by religious institution in the business of negotiating connections across the Mediterranean and Atlantic and within the city of Seville. This micro-historical study reveals these institutions as microcosms of the newly emerging global society of the Iberian world. This approach highlights the entanglement of religion and economics in the business of negotiating global connections and draws attention to the lives of people often left out of global histories.

The Spanish Borderlands Revisited: Engaging the Public in Relating the Place of Spain in U.S. History

Felipe Fernández-Armesto recounts a wonderful anecdote at the start of Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States (2014). Standing before a room of young cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Fernández-Armesto invited audience members to identify the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in United States. No student recognized San Juan, Puerto Rico. Last fall, I witnessed the same question and answer scenario play out among a community of Latino leaders in Denver. Fernández-Armesto’s experience and mine point to the absence of Spanish history as it pertains to the history of United States. This reality owes to several factors, some of them popular and others historiographical. In my paper, I seek to explore of the historiography associated with this phenomenon and offer some useful pedagogical correctives.

Peninsular exceptionalism and an overly national focus have yielded unfortunate consequences that extend well beyond the academy. The failure of historians of Spain to engage with Spanish history on a broader level has confined the legacy of Spanish colonization and settlement of the Americas to Latin America and separated national narratives on both sides of the current U.S.-Mexico border. Historical legacies as diverse as Spanish involvement in the American Revolution and Spanish colonialism in the Caribbean and its relationship to U.S. imperialism remain largely misunderstood or ignored. The disengagement of norteamericanos with the legacy and continued connectivity of the United States with Spain and the Spanish-speaking world has wrought a lack of understanding, which manifests itself in everything from public calls for Latino Americans to more thoroughly assimilate to political discourse surrounding the border wall.

The historical profession has been riven by silos for generations. Graduate-level instruction in history and the academic job market in general have served to reinforce often meaningless boundaries between continents and peoples. As a U.S.-based historian of Spain trained in the United States, I have come to realize that my focus often has been far too European in its outlook, granting attention to peninsular history over the reach of Spanish culture and society in the wider world. My recent involvement in the “Borderlands of Southern Colorado” project, launched by History Colorado, has opened my eyes to the geographic narrowness of “Spanish” history.

To this end, I call for the community of U.S.-based historians of Spain to reengage with the concept of borderlands history. In 1921, Herbert Eugene Bolton published The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest. A revival of the borderlands concept began in 1970 with John Francis Bannon. During the 1980s, John L. Kessell and David J. Weber broadened the parameters of study. More recently, the past twenty years has witnessed an explosion of written work in this same field that has deepened the saliency of Spanish history to the making of modern North America. This scholarship has retold the history of a “Renaissance Spaniard” in colonial New Mexico, recounted Spanish exploration of the Southwest, uncovered the long-term significance of Spanish conflict with Native peoples, and shifted scholarly analysis of slavery in the United States westward to confront the legacy of Spanish empire. In every case, the scholars working in this field have engaged with new historical voices and reevaluated the positionality of Spanish actors. Their work offers insights for better comprehending the broad sweep of Spanish history and presents new and exciting opportunities for teaching and future research.

Transnational Intimacies: Coloniality and the Environments of Travel Writing in Portugal and Angola, c. 1900-1930

Starting with a critical and sensorial engagement with “Histomap,” a visual comparative timescale for various political spaces around the globe, this paper discusses travel writing in Angola and Portugal in the early 20th century, foregrounding ideas of scale, entanglements, and intimacy. In order to tackle the conceptual challenges posed by objects such as the Histomap or travelogues, I propose recentering the notions of coloniality, modernity, and periphery, as they are elaborated by Aníbal Quijano, Walter Mignolo, and Boaventura Sousa Santos. I then proceed to the analysis of a selected corpus of primary documents, keeping as my focal point the spaces of intimacy, after a revision of the definitions of critical intimacies by Elizabeth Povenelli and Lisa Lowe. While wide-distribution travel guides serve as a frame of reference to introduce my approach to this archive, the bulk of this paper deals with the travelogues A Fossicker in Angola (London, 1933), by Malcolm Burr, and A Portuguese Somersault (London, 1936), by Jan and Cora Gordon. My reading highlights how scenes of transnational entanglements predicated on notions of intimacy shape the space, exchanges, and relationalities in Portugal and Angola around this period. I suggest that these texts formulate specific ways in which subalternity becomes imaginable through imperial and transcolonial models of space and time.