Revolutionaries, Refugees, and Smugglers: New Directions in Inter-American Exchanges during the Age of Revolution

AHA Session 228
Conference on Latin American History 48
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Columbia 11 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
José Juan Pérez Meléndez, University of California, Davis
Jane Landers, Vanderbilt University

Session Abstract

During the Age of Revolution, people of different nationalities cooperated to defy imperial regulations, contest national laws, and test new limits of freedom. This panel explores interactions between North and South Americans as they sought political autonomy, free trade, and the abolition of old social orders. Scholars have increasingly examined North and South America from a comparative lens, analyzing how and why the two continents differed in their trajectories from colonial outposts to independent nations. This panel takes that growing strain of scholarship beyond comparative analysis, examining substantive interaction among revolutionaries in the Americas. It examines the exchange (legal and otherwise) of ideas and commodities that occurred during the Age of Revolution. Doing so unveils a truly integrated Atlantic that challenged tidy conceptions of nationality, race, and liberalism. Traditionally, historians have conceived of the Age of Revolution as a time when nation-states emerged from fractured empires with a sense of national pride and national cohesion defined by race and a shared political ideology. In contrast, this panel reveals the Age of Revolution as a process of establishing new transnational economic and ideological networks which frequently challenged such cohesion. Smugglers defied the sovereignty of new nations just as readily as they had the sovereignty of past empires. Refugees contested the notion of nationality based on a common racial and national heritage. In North and South America, revolutionaries cooperated to topple existing social orders at the same time they dissolved old political allegiances. By understanding the integration of the revolutionary period across the Americas, therefore, historians can reconceive traditional narratives about the Age of Revolution.

Contributing to the 2018 annual meeting theme, “Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective,” the papers on this panel expose the challenges levied against orderly national narratives when viewed in a global context. Fabrício Prado examines legal and illegal trade ventures between the United States and the Río de la Plata region, revealing how such ventures shaped the trajectories of state formation between 1790 and 1822. Caitlin Fitz analyzes how a Brazilian revolutionary taking refuge in the United States worked to radicalize New England abolitionists and contest narratives of early U.S. racial and national homogeneity. Tyson Reeder traces smuggling networks between the United States and Brazil, unveiling the difficulty of aligning the early U.S. national ideals of free trade and republicanism with the Realpolitik of the revolutionary Atlantic.

 The panel should interest early Americanists and Latin Americanists working in the Age of Revolution from a variety of perspectives. Beyond suggesting new avenues for integrating the North and South Atlantics, it invites historians to reconsider conventional accounts of the Age of Revolution. It allows scholars to analyze international relations outside of high-level diplomatic exchanges and imperial/national frameworks.

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