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The Invention of the Colonial Americas

The Invention of the Colonial Americas

The story of Seville’s Archive of the Indies reveals how current views of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are based on radical historical revisionism in Spain in the late 1700s. The Invention of the Colonial Americas is an architectural history and media-archaeological study of changing theories and practices of government archives in Enlightenment Spain. It centers on an archive created in Seville for storing Spain’s pre-1760 documents about the New World. To fill this new archive, older archives elsewhere in Spain—spaces in which records about American history were stored together with records about European history—were dismembered. The Archive of the Indies thus constructed a scholarly apparatus that made it easier to imagine the history of the Americas as independent from the history of Europe, and vice versa. In this meticulously researched book, Byron Ellsworth Hamann explores how building layouts, systems of storage, and the arrangement of documents were designed to foster the creation of new knowledge. He draws on a rich collection of eighteenth-century architectural plans, descriptions, models, document catalogs, and surviving buildings to present a literal, materially precise account of archives as assemblages of spaces, humans, and data—assemblages that were understood circa 1800 as capable of actively generating scholarly innovation.

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Author
Publisher Getty Publications
Release Date
ISBN 1606067745
Pages 328 pages
Rating 4/5 (41 users)

There is certainly lots of scholarship about the New World during this period that uses “becoming colonial” as a title, or in the text.3 But history is a bit stranger. The idea that the Americas were colonial, a space of colonization, ...

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