Spain’s 1936 Civil War and the Americans Who Fought in It: A Convoluted History

The Spanish Civil War was seen as very much of a piece with the war against Hitler and Mussolini. But then things changed. Why? Eighty-two years ago, in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, a group of right-wing generals staged a military coup, aimed at overthrowing Spain’s democratically elected government. The July 1936 uprising[…]

Spanish North American Territories and Borders during the American Revolution

Spanish Presidios and Mexican Leather-Jackets in 1772. Spaniards responded to the unfolding story of the American Revolution with a mixture of trepidation and schadenfreude. Britain was Spain’s dangerous imperial rival. Britain had humiliated France and Spain in the French and Indian War. So Spaniards much enjoyed England’s crisis. But in 1775, the Count of Aranda,[…]

The Role of Smallpox in the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs 500 Years Ago

Hernán Cortés owed his conquest of the Aztecs to his expedition’s unknown, unseen secret weapon: the smallpox virus. Disease epidemics can set the course of human history. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. have drawn attention to the dangers of measles. The Democratic Republic of Congo is fighting a deadly outbreak of Ebola that has killed hundreds. Epidemics are[…]

Proto-Spam: Spanish Prisoners and Confidence Games in the Late 19th Century

In this confidence trick, the criminal contacted the victim offering a large sum of money, or other comparable treasure, in return for a small advance of funds that the criminal could not provide because of some impediment. Dearest Readers, I beseech you, Please accept this humble letter from a poor stranger seeking your help. Although[…]

‘Peonage’: 19th-Century New Mexico and the History of Colonial Spain’s Debt Enslavement

A system inherited from colonial Spain kept Americans in servitude even after the Civil War. Imagine a time and place where a small debt—even just a few dollars—could translate into a lifetime of servitude not only for the debtor, but also for his or her children. For much of the 19th century, the American Southwest[…]

Mining the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas

The silver industry influenced life in the colonial Americas and the Atlantic world on social, political, and economic levels. “Oye hueón está tan rica la mina,” one operative said to his friend on a typical March day in the altiplano, nearly ten years ago. It was warm in the sunny spaces where they walked, and chilly[…]

Droughts and Agricultural Scarcity before Independence in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, 1800–1810

The crisis affected all kind of people: whites, mestizos, and indigenous people; herders, large cattle owners, and croppers of plantain. In May 1807, a group of farmers and ranchers from the lands around Santafe, the capital city of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (today Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia), wrote a complaint about meat[…]

Convivencia: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Medieval Spain

Examining the inter-relationship of religion and culture in the time period of medieval Spain known as the convivencia. By Lindsey Marie Vaughan Abstract Few time periods in world history offer as unique a glimpse into cultural cohabitation as the one in medieval Spain following the Arabic invasion and preceding the Christian Reconquest ended in 1492.[…]