A Student of History

June 25, 2006

Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830

Filed under: New books — John Maass @ 1:29 pm


In the WP today, there is a review of a new book by J. H. Elliott, EMPIRES OF THE ATLANTIC WORLD. (Reviewed by Ilan Stavans)

Our current debate about immigration isn't only about clamping down on the U.S.- Mexican border. It's also about what it means to be an American after 9/11 and about how the nation is revamping the concept of citizenship. And it's an opportunity to reassess, yet again, the relationship between the United States and its neighbors to the south, a chance to reflect on the role of Hispanic culture in the English-speaking world. For those eager to understand the historical context behind these issues, I know of no more comprehensive, readable source than J.H. Elliott's Empires of the Atlantic World . While its focus might appear remote and its contemporary implications tenuous, the patient reader will be rewarded with a feast of insights.

The book was published by Yale, at 546 pp., for $35. The review is not totally complimemtary, but overall sounds like this might be a good read.  Here are some better blurbs from Yale U.'s Press site for this book:

“The two stories have almost always been told in isolation: here, each affords fascinating new perspectives on the other. … [A] scholarly achievement and an exciting new departure.” –  Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

"[A] magisterial comparative history of empire."—Niall Ferguson, Wall Street Journal “[A] richly textured comparative history. . . . [A] meticulously  researched and elegantly executed synthesis. . . . Mr. Elliott’s achievement is to identify with brilliant clarity the similarities and differences between British and Spanish America while embroidering his analysis with memorable details.”—Niall Ferguson, Wall Street Journal

"[A] monumental analysis of two New World empires… Elliott…uses the story of each colonisation to illuminate the other. He challenges our prejudices about the Spanish conquest and the patriotic myths that have grown up around the English one. There is nothing black and white about this book. … Elliott's writing…moves with a gentle rhythm of a sea swell to carry the reader along." – Christian Tyler, Financial Times Magazine

“Others have offered comparisons between the English- and Spanish-speaking worlds, but none have been as fully nuanced or fully realized as this. A masterpiece by one of the English-speaking world’s most accomplished historians.”—David Weber, author of Bárbaros: Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment

“Elliott’s close study of the empire the English founded in North America and the one that the Spanish built to the south has given him remarkable insights and perspectives. The result is to give new dimensions to the usable past of both Americas.”—Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin

"Elliott…has long been universally acknowledged as the world's foremost expert on the early modern Spanish monarchy… He has shown his mastery of the techniques of comparative history… Elliott's searching and open-minded scrutiny of the facts overturns most conventional thinking. … 'Empires of the Atlantic World' has long been a subject in search of an author, and Elliott has long been the author destined to fulfil the role." – Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Literary Review

“In a masterful account, Oxford don Elliott explores the simultaneous development of Spanish and English colonies in the so-called New World. . . . Elliott’s synthesis represents some of the finest fruits of the study of the Atlantic World.”—Publishers Weekly

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