- Political Culture in Spanish America, 1500–1830 by Jaime E. Rodríguez O.
jaime e. rodríguez o. has built a distinguished career as a historian of Spanish America, with a primary focus on what Atlanticists call the Age of Revolutions (1750–1850). His studies, drawing on extensive research into the government institutions, individual policy makers, and communities of the Kingdom of Quito and the Viceroyalty of New Spain (today's Ecuador and Mexico, respectively), have long offered a comparative framework with the rest of Spanish America and also with comparable cases in British North American and European imperial history. This volume is a compilation of eight individual articles and lectures from the past twenty years, some of which were previously published in two volumes in Spanish as "Lo político" en el mundo Hispánico (El Colegio de Michoacán, 2015). Most of the chapters first appeared during the spate of commemorations of Spanish American independence, which began with the 2008 bicentenary of the abdication of Ferdinand VII and culminated with the 2012 bicentenial of the adoption of the Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy by deputies at the Cortes of Cádiz.
For those familiar with Rodriguez's work in both English and Spanish, the book offers a retrospective examination and synthesis of his long-standing focus on Spanish American political culture. Through his work, the reader traces an intellectual lineage encompassing pioneering studies on elections, independence, and political culture in Mexico during the 1810s and 1820s by his mentor, Nettie Lee Benson (1905–93) of the University of Texas at Austin, classic works by Miguel Artola, Antonio Annino, François-Xavier Guerra, and William Robertson and more recent scholarship since 2000. For those new to Rodriguez's work, the volume's selections offer a satisfying introduction to a scholarly program whose mission is to recover and demonstrate Spanish America's long-standing political culture of active participation by individuals and groups, including city councils, the clergy, and the military. This perspective counters a long-standing tendency in Anglo-American scholarship to view the Spanish case through the lens of the Black Legend, which long resulted in scholars discounting Spanish and Spanish American contributions to and [End Page 333] intertwining with European and Euramerican political history. Whether explaining sixteenth-century Spanish political theory, eighteenth-century Mexican correspondence, or nineteenth-century South American manifestos, Rodriguez's clear prose offers an important and accessible approach to Spanish American history. His work offers a degree of detail and nuance more often found in scholarship on Spanish America published in Latin America or Europe, including Mónica Quijada, Virginia Guedea, Victor Manuel Peralta Ruiz, Marta Irurozqui Victoriano, and Federica Morelli, with whose work Rodriguez is in an extended dialogue. Regrettably, this perspective has not always been taken into account by scholars working in North America.
The book opens with an excellent introduction to and overview of the nature of representation in the Spanish Empire, followed by three chapters on the Kingdom of Quito in the early nineteenth century describing the origins of the Revolution of 1809, clerical culture, and multiethnic citizenship in the era of the Cortes of Cádiz and the early Spanish nation. The next two chapters situate Spanish American independence in hemispheric and Atlantic perspective, addressing abiding questions, such as why Spanish America has lagged behind its Anglo-American counterparts in economic and political stability and development since the nineteenth century. Overall, Rodriguez presents a persuasive portrait of Quito's adaptation to Bourbon governance and finds a common point of departure for Spanish American, British American, and French American political independence in defense of rights and autonomy within monarchies. His work shows that movements led by people identifying as Spaniards, Britons, and Frenchmen transform and diverge in response to internal social and political structures, access to economic capital and natural resources, and timing. The chapter comparing US and Spanish American independence periods argues more extensively that Spanish Americans did not slavishly follow an Anglo-American model. Rather, they chose to remain within the Spanish Monarchy despite...