Read How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World by Jorge Cañizares Esguerra Online


In the mid-eighteenth century, the French naturalist Buffon contended that the New World was in fact geologically new—that it had recently emerged from the waters—and that dangerous miasmas had caused all organic life on the continents to degenerate. In the “dispute of the New World” many historians, naturalists, and moral philosophers from Europe and the Americas (includiIn the mid-eighteenth century, the French naturalist Buffon contended that the New World was in fact geologically new—that it had recently emerged from the waters—and that dangerous miasmas had caused all organic life on the continents to degenerate. In the “dispute of the New World” many historians, naturalists, and moral philosophers from Europe and the Americas (including Thomas Jefferson) sought either to confirm or refute Buffon’s views. This book maintains that the “dispute” was also a debate over historical authority: upon whose sources and facts should naturalists and historians reconstruct the history of the continent and its peoples?The author traces the cultural processes that led early-modern intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic to question primary sources that had long been considered authoritative: Mesoamerican codices, early colonial Spanish chronicles, and travel accounts. In the process, he demonstrates how the writings of these critics led to the rise of the genre of conjectural history. The book also adds to the literature on nation formation by exploring the creation of specific identities in Spain and Spanish America by means of particular historical narratives and institutions. Finally, it demonstrates that colonial intellectuals went beyond mirroring or contesting European ideas and put forth daring and original critiques of European epistemologies that resulted in substantially new historiographical concepts....

Title : How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World
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ISBN : 9780804746939
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 488 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World Reviews

  • Ess Kay
    2018-12-05 14:31

    In the sixteenth century, Spain was treated as a liminal European entity, an humilis civitatum on the world stage, lagging behind the perceived intellectual prowess of the French and the English, yet somehow a major player on the world stage, conquering and exploiting the New World. It is unsurprising that when historical reports of the Amerindians began to circulate in Europe, that their authority was questioned by the larger Northern European intellectual community; without their direct interaction and confirmation no Spanish records would be granted validity. The closed, scientific system of approaching Amerindian history using primary sources preferred in Spanish methodology was redefined from the outside, being relegated to histories of the evolution of the mind and rather than history. It is within this frame that Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra begins his dissection of the evolution of historical authority as it played out in Southern and Central America in an attempt to chart how the competing stylistic and intellectual approaches, nationalism, colonialism, and the evolving sciences between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries impacted the way in which the history of the New World was written and read.In the first chapters, Cañizares-Esguerra explores the compilation and reception of the first historical works coming out of the Spanish New World. He dissects the approaches taken by the intellectual community as they worked through the nebulous idea of what history is and how it is to be written and researched. Were the sixteenth century reports of priests and conquistadors to be considered history? Did they contradict each other? Were they organized along scientific schema? Were they trustworthy sources? Could non-elites be considered valid sources? Were primary sources in non-Latinized script to be assessed as aggrandizing propaganda or legitimized as history? The tension between the Renaissance Humanists and the Northern Enlightenment provided a theoretic background through which these questions were pursued. The marginalization of the epistemological principles relied on by the Spanish resulted in a historiography of the New World that has been dominated by a non-Iberian privilege that Cañizares-Esguerra challenges by charting the trends in which readership was receiving these histories and by dissecting the motivating sociologic factors that dismissed and marginalized not only the Iberian histories being produced, but the primaries upon which they were predicated. He is particularly successful in charting the evolution of the quipas into legitimized components of the Amerindian narrative, exhibiting proof of the administrative record keeping and communications required to support large, advanced civilization.The third chapter explores eighteenth century patriotism in Spain, in which Cañizares-Esguerra reiterates the Iberian methodology that preferred primary over printed sources, that “were first elaborated in passionate historiographical debates in Spain” in spite of being attributed to the German historian Leopold von Ranke (133). He argues that this was, in part, a patriotic debate that worked in tandem to negate the Northern European argument that early Spanish explorers were greedy, intolerant and cruel to the Amerindians and to revisit and revise the existing histories in an effort to remedy their shortcomings and create a more modern scholarship. The “Spanish Enlightenment” attempted to renew Spanish history, cartography, and science in response to the "negative representations of the Spanish mind," as well as a consequence of Spaniards' realization that "colonial empires were lost or won by those who controlled the description of lands and peoples" (134). There is a tension throughout this chapter between the Spanish agenda, which is seeking to legitimize itself on the world stage by monopolizing the entirety of New World history, and the “other” who is trying to subvert Spanish interests by promoting it as backwards and irrelevant to, if not hampering of, Amerindian history. This chapter is, perhaps, the most complicated of the four, and Cañizares-Esguerra slips into the first person throughout to keep the audience on point; Spaniards were ahead of the rest of the European intellegencia in their assessment and utilization of primary sources, and were it not for the political infighting between the Royal Academy emphasis on primary source based authoritative history and the Council of the Indies agenda to collect and categorize Spanish colonial documentation , would have been recognized as leaders in the field, not marginalized by it. The fourth chapter continues along the same vein, but from the perspective of those writing from or having lived in the Americas, with great emphasis on Creole patriotic epistemology which favored native sources, but dismissed those written by non-elites. The Spanish-American baroque created “a world in which religious images were both read as hieroglyphs and interpreted as Neoplatonic seals with magical virtues” (320). This unique world vision is, once again in Cañizares-Esguerra eyes, further proof of the superiority of the Spanish methodologies being developed ahead of greater northern European trends and in spite of a, “Eurocentric historiography obsessed with discovering the precursors of modernity in the former Spanish colonies” (209). The fifth chapter focuses on scholarship predicated upon the artifacts, hieroglyphs, stones, and ruins of Amerindian cultures. Cañizares-Esguerra’s book encompasses a vast geographic, political and methodological realm, leaving the reader, at times, pummeled in a deluge of evidentiary example that is remindful of the audience Cañizares-Esguerra assumes, one that is already familiar with the Trans-Atlantic historiography of the New World and is being challenged to reassess that knowledge. His argument is complex, balancing both nuanced argument and the belief in the Spanish as the forerunners of modern historical method and is obviously well researched, but by the fourth chapter, one can easily slip into exhaustion as this bombardment of exploration begins to feel repetitious and one begins to feel that skimming is the only way to successfully complete the journey. His exploration of the methodological assumptions made by historians of the New World from the sixteenth through the eighteenth century is fascinating and at the same time exhausting.

  • Romina
    2018-11-28 09:30

    Honest Review: Did not dig it. If you are interested in intellectual battles about epistemology by privileged dudes, this is for you.My academic review:In How to Write the History of the New World, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra argues that Spanish scholars during the 18th century constructed an epistemology for writing history that matched Anglo-Germanic methods of the 19th century. According to Cañizares-Esguerra, the historiographical content that was debated throughout the 1700s about how to write a history of the Americas exposes an anti-Spanish discourse being produced by French and British scholars. The works by Spanish, Creole, and Mestizo scholars were being discredited under the argument that they were “by nature” unsophisticated. In contrast, Spanish and Spanish-American scholars began to articulate their methodology more clearly to prove their erudite capabilities and their ability to judge the trustworthiness of a source. In the process, these scholars engendered a patriotic epistemology that sought to prove Spanish and Creole faculty of mind, but it also placed defensive boundaries that privileged the writings by elites (Spanish and Native) and Catholic clergy to counter foreign (non-Spanish Europeans) narratives.Cañizares-Esguerra begins his book by noting the historical processes argued by French (Reynal) and British (Robertson) scholars who favored conjectural histories (95). Conjectural history was a form of historical analysis that encouraged reason and highlighted social phenomena with the goal of understanding the process of history (i.e., progress) (41). These mostly Anglo scholars used 16th c. and 17th c. works about the New World by Spanish, Creole, Mestizo, and indigenous chroniclers as examples of the fantastic and unscientific Spanish histories. They created a hierarchy of knowledge to distinguish the trustworthiness of a source. For example, Spanish eyewitness accounts could be critically trusted, but the attempts by those sources to describe Amerindian civilizations should be doubted due to the low faculty of mind by Spaniards. On the other hand, indigenous narratives were thrown out altogether due to their “primitive” nature. However, as Cañizares-Esguerra notes, that such challenges pressed Spanish and Creole scholars to rethink the value and reliability of their source base (234). Consequently, the Academy of History was created within the Royal Library in 1736 and the Archive of the Indies in 1785. In the process of rethinking their reliability, Cañizares-Esguerra argues that Baroque scholars did not readily dismiss writings by indigenous and mestizo chroniclers as Walter Mignolo states in The Darker Side of the Renaissance. For Cañizares-Esguerra, Mignolo’s placement of “the ideology of literacy” as a 16th century maxim is problematic for two reasons (65). One, Mignolo identifies the works by Alva Ixtlilxochitl as an indigenous and “isolated challenge to Spanish views of literacy” even though he was trained by Franciscan friars. Secondly, if 18th century Spanish scholars defended the use of indigenous pictographs and eyewitness chroniclers, then 16th century Spanish scholars found worth in such works since they were documented and kept. In the midst of an 18th century Enlightenment confrontation on the value of Spanish scholarship, scholars such as Ordóñez y Aguiar, Moxó y Francolí, and Eguiara y Eguren articulated a baroque (or neobaroque) sensitivity for humanism and allegories. The significance of allegories is that it gave pictorgraphs and hieroglyphs intellectual value and meaning (123-4). Such scholars also put forward a “radical modernity of the Spanish American Baroque” that sought to decenter “the Euro- and Anglocentric models” that dominate current histories (344). In other words, Cañizares-Esguerra views the aforementioned authors (and others mentioned in the book) as mavericks that challenged the growing authority of conjectural histories and the dismissal of native and mestizo writings as primitive and simple. Their writings also reflect a patriotic epistemologies surfacing at the time, that initially developed as a defense of Spanish Empire and enveloped into a defense of Creole intellectuals who saw themselves as “disenfranchised literary elites (343).” According to Cañizares-Esguerra, this marked the beginning for Latin American intellectuals to express disproval and misgivings when European intellectuals write about the Americas. Such views also highlight nascent identities in the making and the constant battle by “Latin American intellectuals to correct” and challenge stereotypes that are continuously perpetuated in the North Atlantic (347).

  • Lauren
    2018-12-02 12:42

    This was a textbook for an Atlantic History graduate course, and while it was quite thick tome to read in the alloted amount of time (3 days?) it was fascinating. Going far beyond the general accounts of the Europeans coming to the New World, the book focused on court cases and a large amount of archival material to reconstruct a more comprehensive look at the New World (broadly defining South America, the Caribbean, and North America) in the 1700s.

  • AskHistorians
    2018-11-14 14:31

    Examines the debate over changing evaluations of indigenous and early Spanish sources in the context of Enlightenment attitudes towards history and the natural sciences. In particular, deals with the debate by Northern Europeans over the "objectivity" of early sources, but also discusses racial theories and concepts of civilization.