The Early Modern Americas Series

  • Collecting Across Cultures: Material Exchanges in the Early Modern Atlantic World

    Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall, Editors.  2011.

    Cloth, ISBN 9780812243055; Paper ISBN 9780812222203; E-Book ISBN 9780812204964.

    In the early modern age more people traveled farther than at any earlier time in human history. Many returned home with stories of distant lands and at least some of the objects they acquired during their journeys. And those who did not travel eagerly acquired wondrous materials that arrived from faraway places. Objects traveled various routes—personal, imperial, missionary, or trade—and moved not only across space but also across cultures.

    Histories of the early modern global culture of collecting have focused for the most part on European Wunderkammern, or "cabinets of curiosities." But the passion for acquiring unfamiliar items rippled across many lands. The court in Java marveled at, collected, and displayed myriad goods brought through its halls. African princes traded captured members of other African groups so they could get the newest kinds of cloth produced in Europe. Native Americans sought colored glass beads made in Europe, often trading them to other indigenous groups. Items changed hands and crossed cultural boundaries frequently, often gaining new and valuable meanings in the process. An object that might have seemed mundane in some cultures could become a target of veneration in another.

    The fourteen essays in Collecting Across Cultures represent new work by an international group of historians, art historians, and historians of science. Each author explores a specific aspect of the cross-cultural history of collecting and display from the dawn of the sixteenth century to the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the essays attest, an examination of early modern collecting in cross-cultural contexts sheds light on the creative and complicated ways in which objects in collections served to create knowledge—some factual, some fictional—about distant peoples in an increasingly transnational world.

    Daniela Bleichmar
    is Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Southern California.

    Peter C. Mancall
    is Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.

  • Death by Effigy: A Case from the Mexican Inquisition

    Luis R. Corteguerra. 2012.


    Cloth ISBN 9780812244397; E-Book ISBN 9780812207057.

    On July 21, 1578, the Mexican town of Tecamachalco awoke to news of a scandal. A doll-like effigy hung from the door of the town's church. Its two-faced head had black chicken feathers instead of hair. Each mouth had a tongue sewn onto it, one with a forked end, the other with a gag tied around it. Signs and symbols adorned the effigy, including a sambenito, the garment that the Inquisition imposed on heretics. Below the effigy lay a pile of firewood. Taken together, the effigy, signs, and symbols conveyed a deadly message: the victim of the scandal was a Jew who should burn at the stake. Over the course of four years, inquisitors conducted nine trials and interrogated dozens of witnesses, whose testimonials revealed a vivid portrait of friendship, love, hatred, and the power of rumor in a Mexican colonial town.

    A story of dishonor and revenge, Death by Effigy also reveals the power of the Inquisition's symbols, their susceptibility to theft and misuse, and the terrible consequences of doing so in the New World. Recently established and anxious to assert its authority, the Mexican Inquisition relentlessly pursued the perpetrators. Lying, forgery, defamation, rape, theft, and physical aggression did not concern the Inquisition as much as the misuse of the Holy Office's name, whose political mission required defending its symbols. Drawing on inquisitorial papers from the Mexican Inquisition's archive, Luis R. Corteguera weaves a rich narrative that leads readers into a world vastly different from our own, one in which symbols were as powerful as the sword.

    Luis R. Corteguera
    is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kansas.

  • The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade

    Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Matt D. Childs, and James Sidbury, Editors. 2013.


    Cloth ISBN 9780812245103; E-Book ISBN 9780812208139.

    During the era of the Atlantic slave trade, vibrant port cities became home to thousands of Africans in transit. Free and enslaved blacks alike crafted the necessary materials to support transoceanic commerce and labored as stevedores, carters, sex workers, and boarding-house keepers. Even though Africans continued to be exchanged as chattel, urban frontiers allowed a number of enslaved blacks to negotiate the right to hire out their own time, often greatly enhancing their autonomy within the Atlantic commercial system.

    In The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade, eleven original essays by leading scholars from the United States, Europe, and Latin America chronicle the black experience in Atlantic ports, providing a rich and diverse portrait of the ways in which Africans experienced urban life during the era of plantation slavery. Describing life in Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Africa, this volume illuminates the historical identity, agency, and autonomy of the African experience as well as the crucial role Atlantic cities played in the formation of diasporic cultures. By shifting focus away from plantations, this volume poses new questions about the nature of slavery in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, illustrating early modern urban spaces as multiethnic sites of social connectivity, cultural incubation, and political negotiation.

    Contributors: Trevor Burnard, Mariza de Carvalho Soares, Matt D. Childs, Kevin Dawson, Roquinaldo Ferreira, David Geggus, Jane Landers, Robin Law, David Northrup, João José Reis, James H. Sweet, Nicole von Germeten.

    Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra is Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin.

    Matt D. Childs
    is Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina.

    James Sidbury
    is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Rice University.

  • A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic

    Simon P. Newman. 2013.


    Cloth ISBN 9780812245196; E-Book ISBN 9780812208313.

    The small and remote island of Barbados seems an unlikely location for the epochal change in labor that overwhelmed it and much of British America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, by 1650 it had become the greatest wealth-producing area in the English-speaking world, the center of an exchange of people and goods between the British Isles, the Gold Coast of West Africa, and the New World. By the early seventeenth century, more than half a million enslaved men, women, and children had been transported to the island. In A New World of Labor, Simon P. Newman argues that this exchange stimulated an entirely new system of bound labor.

    Free and bound labor were defined and experienced by Britons and Africans across the British Atlantic world in quite different ways. Connecting social developments in seventeenth-century Britain with the British experience of slavery on the West African coast, Newman demonstrates that the brutal white servant regime, rather than the West African institution of slavery, provided the most significant foundation for the violent system of racialized black slavery that developed in Barbados. Class as much as race informed the creation of plantation slavery in Barbados and throughout British America. Enslaved Africans in Barbados were deployed in radically new ways in order to cultivate, process, and manufacture sugar on single, integrated plantations. This Barbadian system informed the development of racial slavery on Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, as well as in South Carolina and then the Deep South of mainland British North America. Drawing on British and West African precedents, and then radically reshaping them, Barbados planters invented a new world of labor.

    Simon P. Newman is Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History at the University of Glasgow.

  • Slaves and Englishmen: Humand Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World

    Michael Guasco, 2014.

    Hardcover ISBN 9780812245783; Ebook ISBN 9780812209884

    Technically speaking, slavery was not legal in the English-speaking world before the mid-seventeenth century. But long before race-based slavery was entrenched in law and practice, English men and women were well aware of the various forms of human bondage practiced in other nations and, in less systematic ways, their own country. They understood the legal and philosophic rationale of slavery in different cultural contexts and, for good reason, worried about the possibility of their own enslavement by foreign Catholic or Muslim powers. While opinions about the benefits and ethics of the institution varied widely, the language, imagery, and knowledge of slavery were a great deal more widespread in early modern England than we tend to assume.

    In wide-ranging detail, Slaves and Englishmen demonstrates how slavery shaped the ways the English interacted with people and places throughout the Atlantic world. By examining the myriad forms and meanings of human bondage in an international context, Michael Guasco illustrates the significance of slavery in the early modern world before the rise of the plantation system or the emergence of modern racism. As this revealing history shows, the implications of slavery were closely connected to the question of what it meant to be English in the Atlantic world.

    Michael Guasco is Associate Professor of History at Davidson College.

  • The Bishop's Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru

    Emily Berquist Soule, 2014.

    Cloth ISBN 9780812245912; Ebook ISBN 9780812209433

    In December 1788, in the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo, fifty-one-year-old Spanish Bishop Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón stood surrounded by twenty-four large wooden crates, each numbered and marked with its final destination of Madrid. The crates contained carefully preserved zoological, botanical, and mineral specimens collected from Trujillo's steamy rainforests, agricultural valleys, rocky sierra, and coastal desert. To accompany this collection, the Bishop had also commissioned from Indian artisans nine volumes of hand-painted images portraying the people, plants, and animals of Trujillo. He imagined that the collection and the watercolors not only would contribute to his quest to study the native cultures of Northern Peru but also would supply valuable information for his plans to transform Trujillo into an orderly, profitable slice of the Spanish Empire.

    Based on intensive archival research in Peru, Spain, and Colombia and the unique visual data of more than a thousand extraordinary watercolors, The Bishop's Utopia recreates the intellectual, cultural, and political universe of the Spanish Atlantic world in the late eighteenth century. Emily Berquist Soule recounts the reform agenda of Martínez Compañón—including the construction of new towns, improvement of the mining industry, and promotion of indigenous education—and positions it within broader imperial debates; unlike many of his Enlightenment contemporaries, who elevated fellow Europeans above native peoples, Martínez Compañón saw Peruvian Indians as intelligent, productive subjects of the Spanish Crown. The Bishop's Utopia seamlessly weaves cultural history, natural history, colonial politics, and art into a cinematic retelling of the Bishop's life and work.

    Emily Berquist Soule teaches history at California State University at Long Beach.