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The Invention of the Colonial Americas: Data, Architecture, and the Archive of the Indies, 1781–1844
by Byron Ellsworth Hamann
J. Paul Getty Trust, The, 2022
eISBN: 978-1-60606-775-8 | Cloth: 978-1-60606-773-4
Library of Congress Classification CD1864
Dewey Decimal Classification 946.054

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The story of Seville’s Archive of the Indies reveals how current views of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are based on radical historical revisionism in Spain in the late 1700s.
 
The Invention of the Colonial Americas is an architectural history and media-archaeological study of changing theories and practices of government archives in Enlightenment Spain. It centers on an archive created in Seville for storing Spain’s pre-1760 documents about the New World. To fill this new archive, older archives elsewhere in Spain—spaces in which records about American history were stored together with records about European history—were dismembered. The Archive of the Indies thus constructed a scholarly apparatus that made it easier to imagine the history of the Americas as independent from the history of Europe, and vice versa.
 
In this meticulously researched book, Byron Ellsworth Hamann explores how building layouts, systems of storage, and the arrangement of documents were designed to foster the creation of new knowledge. He draws on a rich collection of eighteenth-century architectural plans, descriptions, models, document catalogs, and surviving buildings to present a literal, materially precise account of archives as assemblages of spaces, humans, and data—assemblages that were understood circa 1800 as capable of actively generating scholarly innovation.

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