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Minkanews study guides / learning scheme 101 – Topic No 5[]

About the study guides[]

This study guide is No 5 in the series ‘Europe and Latin America’. Readers - learners and tutors - can share their work on the jointly editable pages of Minkapedia (or find it by googling 'Minkapedia')

The series is No. 1 at the introductory level (accessible without the study of prior units / approx. international baccalareate (GCSE /AGCSE) level

  • 1 Nostalgia, memory and roots.
  • 2 Beginnings.
  • 3 Histories in common. Common histories.
  • 4 How we speak.
  • 5 European empires in the Americas (aka colonial period).
  • 6 Historians in exile: the search for justice in the new world.
  • 7 Natural world.
  • 8 Threads of creative communication: From khipus to the . . . . .
  • 9 Developing economics.
  • 10Round-up.

Please see ‘Colonial period’ in the index of minkapedia or go to to edit this document, to discuss it or in order to do the self-tuition exercises.

Topic 5. The colonial period, European empires in the Americas - Spanish and British empires.[]

There are a variety of articles on the theme of the legacies of the British and Spanish empires in the Americas. Some of them make comparisons but few books have followed. In 1970 Stanley J. and Barbara H. Stein published The Colonial Heritage of Latin America: Essays on Economic Dependence in Perspective (Paperback). 240 pages. Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc, USA (21 May 1970) ISBN-10: 0195012925. ISBN-13: 978-0195012927.

This unit follows readings of sections of Elliott J.H. Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830. Yale University Press. 2007. ISBN 0-300-11431-1. Dewey 970’.02-de22. £14.99, US$22paperback. (2007 prices) When you’ve done you may wish to study further . . .

Where to Study[]

London University’s own ISA (Institute for the Study of the Americas) brings together United States, Canadian, Caribbean and Latin American Studies. The joint study of both ‘Anglo’ and ‘Latin’ America had been slow in taking off - but focusing on the contrasts and similarities between these two worlds can be instructive. ISA also collects information on research and courses in other universities. You can get more information from ISA’s website:

Two Americas or one[]

Elliot’s book is timely as texts specifically focusing on the comparisons between the two spheres are few and far between: the Stein’s treatment was comparative but refers mainly to the colonial legacy. It was however written forty years ago. The new text by Elliot, could be seen as a fortuitous text celebrating the integration of the previous institutes of Latin American studies and United States studies in London. The book attempts to extend beyond the European perspective. (There are several visions: indigenous, criolla, Spanish, British . . .)


Octavio Paz once famously said that we (Latin American, Mexicans) are the ‘children of the enlightenment and the counter-reformation’. In another sense we (thinking of the Latin American diaspora in Anglophone countries) are the children of and bear the marks of a ‘historical conflict’ which took place in the Americas between the British and Spanish ‘Empires’. It produced an historical fault-line which for several centuries separated the ‘anglo’ from the ‘hispano / latino’ and today still exists - running from the Alhambra district of East Los Angeles to the backstreets of Elephant and Castle in London.

The structure of the book[]

Elliot – perhaps inevitably – uses a three-part structure. The first section looks at what is called occupation. The second covers the differing periods of consolidation and the third deals with ‘emancipation’ which in this case refers to freedom from metropolitan domination for creoles (criollos) and white settlers (rather than emancipation of slaves).

Elliot’s comparison[]

Elliot attempts, where possible, to provide direct comparison. At its best, this is an extremely helpful approach. For example in pp391 to 402 he contrasts the experiences of the wars of independence. First the author asserts that independence could not have come to Latin America without the prior (by 34 years) American Revolution to the north {in time for but without apparently affecting the course of the Tupac Amaru insurrection} quoting George Canning (British Foreign Minister) that the following ‘of that example sooner or later was inevitable’. But it took the (almost complete) loss of Spanish sea-power in 1805 and then the virtual surrender of the Spanish monarchy to the forces of Napoleon in 1808 to provide the spark. The centre having collapsed the periphery was not set free overnight and it took a long drawn-out campaign to finally liberate – in favour of the creoles at least – the loyalist heartlands in Peru (1824) and Upper Peru (Bolivia – 1825). In many areas further civil wars between various (internal white) factions protracted the agony for the ‘new Americans’.

Right from the start, the degree of savagery exacted on the civilian population in the north (British America), Elliot maintains, was less than on the south – for example that by the royalist commander Juan Domingo Monteverde in Venezuela. For Latin America these were the metaphorical progenitors of many repressive campaigns where colonial, neo-colonial and then generally unelected administrations have sought to impose their will on unwilling subjects.

In the north radicals and dissenters proposed and puritan conservatives disposed providing remarkable stability whilst at the same time creating an innovating, can-do environment. The process of emancipation, if anything, enhanced these tendencies. Savagery was unleashed not, in the main, upon one another but upon the Indian and the Slave. In Latin America ‘both sides armed the slaves and Indians formed the majority of the soldiers in the royalist army in Peru . . . The British crown made no concerted effort to mobilisze Indians or blacks.’

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