Vera Keller

Projecting New Worlds in Europe

Sir Balthazar Gerbier, the portrait painter, architect, political double agent, and Master of Ceremonies to the Caroline court, also composed an expansive Project for a New State in America (ca. 1649). Gerbier fully hoped to carry out his plan in the Americas, and indeed, he did briefly lead an ill-fated expedition to Guyana.  Beyond serving as an actual plan, however, the project allowed Gerbier to imagine a new, fully formed society at a time of great political disturbance in England. Gerbier’s belief in the malleability of American societies encouraged the projection of very fully realized new social and state institutions. This paper will explore how Gerbier connected his thinking about America to wholesale designs for Europe in areas as diverse as architecture, banking, rhetoric, state bureaucracies, and academic curricula. As Gerbier suggested to students in his academy in Interregnum London, “a new world, would be easier made then to reforme the old.”