The 1820s in Hemispheric Perspective: Small-Scale Intimate Dynamics of Large-Scale Geopolitical Transformations

AHA Session 15
Conference on Latin American History 2
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Room 402 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Ernesto Bassi, Cornell University
Republican Privateering in the Revolutionary Caribbean
Jeppe Mulich, London School of Economics and Political Science
“Victims of Loyalty”: Spanish-American Loyalist Exiles in Cuba in the 1820s
Nicolás Alejandro Gonzalez Quintero, University of Texas at Austin
Caitlin A. Fitz, Northwestern University

Session Abstract

The 1820s were years of dramatic transformations in the Atlantic world. In the Americas, the decade witnessed the disintegration of the Spanish empire into about a dozen new republics, the celebration of the 50thanniversary of a republic that ended up becoming a global republican empire, the birth of an anti-colonial Brazilian empire, and the continuation of colonial rule (albeit in transformed ways) in Caribbean islands ruled by different European powers. Those living through this tumultuous decade did not experience political transformations as heralding a clear-cut path to a future characterized by a divergence between a northern Anglo-America and a southern soon-to-be-Latin America. During the 1820s, the presidential address later known as the Monroe Doctrine was not yet the imperialist declaration most of us now consider it is. For many, in fact, it was a statement of hemispheric fraternity and solidarity that provided a clear depiction of what can be called the hemispheric spirit of the 1820s.

The large-scale political transformations that created this hemispheric spirit undoubtedly affected all inhabitants of the Americas. For many, these transformations resulted in a lived experience of dislocation and mobility across the newly established political boundaries. For some, mobility came as an imposition forced upon them because of their political allegiances. For others, it offered an opportunity to express and spread their patriotic sentiments as diplomatic and cultural ambassadors of some of the newly created republics. And others used their mobile lives to turn the political transformations into monetary and material gains. In moving throughout the hemisphere these peripatetic wanderers shaped and were shaped by the large-scale processes that characterize the 1820s.

The papers in this panel explore the multiplicity of ways in which a multifaceted group of mobile individuals experienced the dramatic transformations of the 1820s. The hemispheric wanderings of the Spanish American poets, journalists, imperial bureaucrats, women, and children, as well as those of the privateers of all nations, that populate the papers of this panel allow us to understand what Rebecca Scott called the “small-scale dynamics” of the “large-scale processes” that shaped the Americas during the 1820s. The individual experiences of the many royalists and revolutionaries who during the 1820s crossed political borders across the hemisphere looking for refuge, profit, adventure, or solace help re-conceptualize the 1820s beyond accounts of Latin American national formation and U.S. imperialist ambitions, and bring into sharp focus the potential to craft a historical narrative of a nineteenth century in which hemispheric solidarity could have been the dominant force. The small-scale, intimate experiences of the royalists, revolutionaries, and privateers who make up this panel’s papers add analytical layers to the large-scale, geopolitical processes that put these mobile actors on the move in the first place.

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