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Lecture Series

15, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31 January 2008
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The participants summarise their talks

  • Problems and physical environment
    Felipe Fernández-Armesto
    The map of the Western hemisphere seems to support the thesis about the existence of two Americas: on one hand the "Anglo-America" in the north with its huge lateral extension; the extensive environments of temperate climate; its marine connections of easy access, with the rich areas of the world that nowadays we call the "North"; and its reach all the way to the ice of the Arctic Ocean. On the other hand we have Latin America which seems to be somewhat distant from the world markets, and subject of unfavorable climate. But Felipe Fernández-Armesto asserts that they are more similar that what it seems. We cannot use environmental arguments to explain the different historical trajectories of both regions. And for the reasons that the speaker will show, the cultural arguments typical of the traditional historiography, are even less valid. To understand the recent failures of Latin America, and the relative success of the USA and Canada, as well as to understand their future, we need to change the focus and propose new questions.
  • Gold, silver and oil: Indigenous traditions and colonial domination
    Patricia Seed
    For Patricia Seed, Europeans seized from indigenous people their traditional rights to minerals and other forms of wealth they possessed. It was different colonial enterprises - English and Spanish (in the Americas), French, Germans and Portuguese in Africa- who took possession of the valuable minerals. In her conference she will focus on the colonial laws and behaviors that caused the indigenous people to loose their rights over the minerals (gold, silver, petroleum) and the consequences that these colonial laws have had over the contemporary rights of those people.
  • Europeans in America
    Carlos Martínez Shaw

    The arrival of Crisobal Colón's ships to America marks the beginning of the installation of Europeans in America.  The Spanish were followed along the next two centuries by the Portuguese, the English, the French, and the Dutch. All of them had contact with the pre-existing populations, who were submitted to sovereignty and deprived of a good part of their territories. At the same time, the territorial occupation was combined with a display of the institutional mechanisms, that on one hand guaranteed the political domain, the economical exploitation, and the imposition of the European cultural guidelines; while on the other, it ensured the cohabitation between the occupants themselves, the maintenance of the bonds with the metropolis, and the defense of their interests against other powers present in the region.

    The solutions given to the questions appearing along this process where several depending on the geographic conditions, the populations found, the moment of arrival, the circumstances of the emigration, and the political culture of each of the European nations. This way, the common elements of an occupation and colonizing process (with its global phenomenons of biological, agricultural, commercial, and cultural exchanges) are insufficient to include the diverse variations, which are very dependent (but not exclusive) on the origin of the colonizers, so it is easier to reconstruct each of the fundamental models than attempting to present extremely general characteristics for the entire continent, or alternatively establish comparisons that always end up precisely showing the differences, that existed even between different regions of origin in a same colonizing power. 

  • Revolutions and revolutionary wars
    Manuel Lucena Giraldo
    The independences of America in the north and in the south of the continent were very different, not only because of having a different colonial origin, but for the apparition between 1776 and 1810 of new models of linking policy and war. In this presentation I will study how the ways of revolution were transformed, the role of terror, the military organization, and the extermination methods of the contrary, with the aim of drafting a comparative balance of the emancipations of the New World.
  • African stories of the Americas
    Jane Landers

    The conference will analyze the political options that the population of African origin -also known as "Atlantic Creoles"- had during the period of the Atlantic revolutions in the 16th and 17th century. We will examine the policies that were developed through the processes in which they were involved, as well as the written documentation that was produced. We will show that these Africans and their descendants had access to a varied and important written and spoken information, which allowed them to make political decisions in order to maintain their so hard won freedom.

    These "Atlantic Creoles" had to fights successively for the king of Congo, for the king of England, for the king of France, for the French Jacobins, for the chiefs of the "muskogyu" and "seminolas" indigenous tribes, and for the king of Spain. Each change of alliance required an analysis and a serious evaluation of the political scenarios and the freedom possibilities that each ally offered.

  • Not just caudillos. Spanish America after independence
    Manuel Lucena Giraldo
    Shortly before his death in 1830 in Santa Marta, Simón bolivar proclaimed "who serves in the revolution is ploughing in the sea". This prominent protagonist of independence also pointed out: "we have won freedom on the cost of everything else". Following these words, the organization of a stable civil and democratic order after independence would be a complicated task in the emancipated Hispanic America due to the specter of the warlords and the temptations for personal power. Nevertheless, as we will show in this conference, the push of the democratic experiments where the rule and not the exception, so this way the contemporary ideas of freedom found an adequate vehicle for expression, precisely when the United States, while standing divided due to the problem of slavery, was heading towards the terrible secession war.
Fundación Juan March
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