Timeline: March 2017 - February 2018
Traditional narratives of colonial Latin America emphasize the power of Spanish rule over indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans. This overarching power structure cannot be denied, nor can the racial discrimination and systemic violence contained therein. However, historical scholarship has complicated this general narrative in important ways over the past few decades. Research focused on quotidian documents in notarial and judicial archives reveals continuous contestations of power and dynamic sub-cultures within the colonial experience.
In my books Trading Roles and Transatlantic Obligations, I have explored these colonial complexities first through the subject of trade and then through family. Now I am creating a master database of the research from both projects (on four cities and from eight archives) so that I can employ digital methodology to create a website where users can explore the dynamic underbelly of colonialism in Peru and Bolivia that would typically only be available in book format.
Specifically, this project will show how blended families (indigenous, African, Spanish) created and sustained intra-urban networks between and among the major colonial cities of Potosí, La Plata (Sucre), Arequipa, and Lima located in modern-day Peru and Bolivia. I propose to map these families with regard to kin networks and mobility across the four cities. The data for this study comes primarily from notary records (wills, dowries, inventories, legal powers of attorney, apprentice and work contracts). I have a sample for approximately every 5 years between 1540 – 1620 for each city.
Building the database for this project is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. There is no ready-made data I can import but I will have considerable control over how the database looks and what it can provide. Categories for this database include name, race, gender, place of birth, place of residence, location within a city, occupation, kin ties to other cities, work ties to other cities (and more). An additional layer of this project will include mapping material culture. I can use evidence from wills and inventories to understand the objects within a household and their relationship to distinct cultural traditions, emergent colonial culture, location of raw materials, as well as sites of production.
The results of this database will allow me to create GIS maps and network visualizations that I will display on a public facing website. The website will also feature historical context in blog form, select annotated primary source documents, visual images of material culture, and pictures/videos of the sites under study. I plan to use Davidson Domains to host the website. I propose to make the site bilingual (English/Spanish) so that fellow historians and scholars as well as undergraduates in Latin America may consult it.