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The Conquest of History

The Conquest of History: Spanish Colonialism and National Histories in the Nineteenth Century

Christopher Schmidt-Nowara
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    The Conquest of History
    Book Description:

    As Spain rebuilt its colonial regime in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines after the Spanish American revolutions, it turned to history to justify continued dominance. The metropolitan vision of history, however, always met with opposition in the colonies.

    The Conquest of Historyexamines how historians, officials, and civic groups in Spain and its colonies forged national histories out of the ruins and relics of the imperial past. By exploring controversies over the veracity of the Black Legend, the location of Christopher Columbus's mortal remains, and the survival of indigenous cultures, Christopher Schmidt-Nowara's richly documented study shows how history became implicated in the struggles over empire. It also considers how these approaches to the past, whether intended to defend or to criticize colonial rule, called into being new postcolonial histories of empire and of nations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7109-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Brief Timeline Political Events in Spain and Its Colonies
    (pp. XV-XVIII)
  2. INTRODUCTION Before 1898
    (pp. 1-14)

    Spain lost themajority of its American empire in the early nineteenth century but its long history as a colonial power had not come to an end. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, remnants of the once extensive early modern empire, were rich and coveted colonies, important sites of Spanish immigration, investment, and political symbolism.

    The simultaneous destruction and persistence of empire led metropolitan and colonial elites to reconsider the origins and consequences of Spanish conquest and colonization. Though sharing the desire to draw lessons for the present, they scrutinized the past with different concerns in mind. Spaniards sought the...

  3. CHAPTER ONE Spain between Decolonizations: History against the Currents of History
    (pp. 15-52)

    Rafael María de Labra y Cadrana(1841–1918) was involved in acts of commemoration on both sides of the Atlantic in 1915. In Madrid, Labra attended the inauguration of a monument, for which he had helped to raise funds, to the Spanish heroes of El Caney, one of the battles between Spanish and North American forces fought in Cuba in 1898. His recollection of the inauguration led him to reflect on how intimately he was connected to both Spain and Cuba: “Two or three regiments marched before the monument and the column of honor. At their head was General Orozco,...

  4. CHAPTER TWO Columbus’s Remains, Columbus in Chains: Commemoration and Its Discontents in Late Nineteenth-Century Spain and Cuba
    (pp. 53-95)

    In the midst ofcivil war between defenders of the fledgling constitutional regime and defenders of the old, Antonio Alcalá Galiano communicated a royal order to the captain general of Ferrol (Galicia) that granted to Pedro Colón the right to wear the uniform of the Admiral of the Indies, a title first bestowed upon Christopher Columbus. The royal order captured important ambiguities in liberal Spain’s attitude toward Columbus that would persist throughout the nineteenth century:

    In honor of the memory of the illustrious Admiral Don Christopher Columbus, who though a foreigner adopted by Spain, gave to Castile and to all...

  5. CHAPTER THREE The Problem of Prehistory in Puerto Rico and Cuba
    (pp. 96-129)

    As Spain continuedthe controversy with the Dominican Republic over the location of Columbus’s remains, planning for the fourth centennial in Puerto Rico languished, though that is not to say that Puerto Rican planners were not concerned with the past. However, the contributions they proposed to make to the 1892 celebration indicated a quite different sense of national symbols and heroes. Tellingly, the naturalist Agustín Stahl offered to send to Spain as part of the Puerto Rican exhibition his collection of “900 examples of axe-heads, chisels, bands, and necklaces (carefully worked stones), mortars, stone and clay idols. In a word,...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR The Specter of Las Casas
    (pp. 130-160)

    The empire ofabsolutist Spain haunted the debates over the empire of liberal Spain. To take one example, José Arias y Miranda, an unemployed civil servant who would later work as the librarian for the Ministry of Ultramar, responded to the Royal Academy of Spanish History’s query on the effects of the American empire on Spain’s economy and society in words that would have been familiar to a seventeenth-centuryarbitrista. Thearbitristaswere essayists preoccupied with Spain’s decline as it confronted European rivals such as France. They viewed the overseas empire not as a source of strength but as a...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE Spain in the Philippines: Archive and Authority circa 1898
    (pp. 161-194)

    I take part ofthe title for this chapter from Charles Gibson’s seminal survey of colonial Latin America,Spain in America. In that work, Gibson recounts the events of the Spanish conquests in the Americas and the implantation of the institutions, such asencomienda, that would govern and shape the colonial (and, implicitly, postcolonial) societies. This approach to the history of Spanish conquest and colonization has a long pedigree, even if methods, sources, and historiography have continuously changed over time and place. For instance, in this work we have seen how historians like Emilio Castelar and José Antonio Saco offered...

  8. CONCLUSION The Return of Ponce de León
    (pp. 195-202)

    Juan Ponce de Leónwas the man of the year in 1908. Four centuries after he conquered Puerto Rico, a procession of Puerto Rican and Spanish admirers, with the blessing of the American-led government, interred his remains in the San Juan cathedral, the crypt prominently marked by a new plaque with an inscription penned by the leading historian Salvador Brau. Among those processing were the mayor of San Juan, the bishop, a commission from the Casino Español (the association of Spanish immigrants on the island), representatives of numerous organizations in San Juan, consuls of foreign governments, including the Dominican Republic,...