- Reimagining the Transatlantic, 1780–1890
In 2010, Joselyn M. Almeida edited Romanticism and the Anglo-Hispanic Imaginary, a collection of fourteen essays that explores the exchange of cultural production between Britain and the Americas during the romantic era. In her introduction to these essays, Almeida highlights the lack of scholarship on Anglo-Hispanic history during this particular period and provides a general overview of the field. With Reimagining the Transatlantic, 1780–1890, Almeida expands on the ideas proposed in the 2010 volume and provides answers to many questions that had been left unanswered. Although she still greatly emphasizes the history of transatlantic cultural production, Almeida engages more with the literature produced at that time and shows how intricately intertwined fact and fiction truly were. Almeida also expands the boundaries of the existing scholarship, which focuses on either a transatlantic or circumatlantic model, and proposes a new panatlantic model, which “follow(s) the translation and transmission of culture and capital and the movement of peoples between Latin America, Africa, and Britain” (4). The panatlantic model therefore represents the triangulation of not only cultural production and capital but also that of empire, enslavement, and liberation; a triangulation that Almeida exemplifies from the book’s very first paragraph.
Chapter 1 provides readers with a perfect example of this panatlantic model through the analysis of William Robertson’s History of America (1777), Francisco Javier Clavijero’s Storia antica del Messico (1780), and Ottobah Cugoano’s Thoughts and Sentiments (1787), each of which argues for its own definition of the New World. The chapter examines the reception and translation history of each of these works and presents the panatlantic connections between Native American and African enslavement. According to Almeida, Clavijero and Cugoano offer different interpretations of the history Robertson presents, with Clavijero emphasizing the Native history Robertson disregards and Cugoano proposing the African slave trade as crucial to European expansion and colonization. Cugoano’s approach provides a segue to chapter 2, which highlights two of Britain’s projects during the period: the abolition of slavery and the liberation of [End Page 301] Latin America. In this chapter, Almeida demonstrates how the narratives of Toussaint Louverture and Francisco Miranda conflate these two projects and how Britain appropriated and altered these narratives for its own purposes. As she states, “This discourse of liberation in the pan-Atlantic, thus interanimated the abolitionist and independista imaginaries in relation to one another” (89).
Chapter 3 provides a microscopic view of the role of translation in the exchange of cultural capital within the panatlantic imaginary Almeida has created. The first half of the chapter analyzes José María Blanco White’s translations of abolitionist authors, which Almeida poses as the work that forged the connection between British abolition and the reformist project Blanco “envisioned for Spain and the American body politic” (107). The second half of the chapter returns to Richard Robert Madden’s translation of Juan Manzanos’s Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba (1840), which is the work Almeida uses to exemplify the panatlantic in the book’s introduction. This translation is what helped create the image of “Britain as liberator” to the nations forming in the Atlantic (148).
The fourth chapter describes how the expeditions of the HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin as “discoverer,” transformed South America into something tangible for the Britons: South America finally moves from British imaginary to British reality through Darwin’s journals. The fifth and final chapter begins with the proposal that Darwin’s belief in European superiority had been shaken by his findings in South America during the HMS Beagle expeditions; its focus is, however, on the flow of capital between South America and Britain. The first half examines how British periodicals published at that time governed discussions of labor and investments throughout the panatlantic, while the second half analyzes W. H. Hudson’s The Purple Land, which exposes not only the trade of labor and capital but also the trade of culture between Britain and Latin America.
Reimagining the Transatlantic...