HISTORY

How the Spanish Empire Was Built: A 400 Year History

Reaktion Mar. 2024. 352p. ISBN 9781789148404. $40. HIST
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Fernández-Armesto (history, Univ. of Notre Dame; Straits) and Spanish National Research Council research scientist Lucena Giraldo (adjunct, IE Univ. and ESCP Business Sch. Europe; Firsting in the Early Modern Atlantic World) argue that the far-flung colonial empire created by the Spanish was achieved due to the efforts of engineers. In the Americas, distant colonies were stabilized through key elements of infrastructure such as roads, ports, bridges, fortifications, canals, mills, and dams. Without the forethought of engineers, the authors say, the Spanish colonial efforts would likely have faltered. The Spanish were intent on promoting trade and hegemony throughout the lands they colonized, the book argues, and they accomplished this through adept organization that saw Spanish officials send out capable, competent people. The authors tell various stories about the conquistadors, Jesuit missionaries, businessmen, and engineers, which sheds light on how the Spanish sometimes sought to collaborate with them Indigenous populations they colonized while also exploiting them.
VERDICT An engaging new approach to understanding the spread of the Spanish empire. Highly recommended.
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