Rationale and research context

The Hispanic and Anglo worlds are often portrayed as the Cain and Abel of Western culture, quarrelling siblings of a common Christian past who in the aftermath of the Reformation became antagonistic and alien to each other. This project will challenge this view by developing a new critical conceptual framework – the ‘Hispanic-Anglosphere’ –  to study individuals, networks and communities that made of the British Isles (present-day UK, Ireland and smaller islands around their coasts) a crucial hub for the global Hispanic world and a bridge between Spanish Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas during a period marked by  the dislocation of global polities, nation-state building and the rise of nationalism (late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries).

Direct contact between women and men of the British Isles and those of the Spanish-speaking world increased exponentially from the 1760s. The volume of trade between Britain and Spanish America rose by about 300 to 400 per cent between 1763 and 1808, strongly suggesting that extensive British commerce with that part of the world was already established before South American independence in the 1820s (A. Pearce, 2014). A good number of the companies involved in this trade had branches in different locations of the British Isles, the Americas, the Philippines, the Canary Islands, and were run by English, Scottish and Irish families based in Spain. Contact further increased in the 1780s with the arrival to these shores of Spanish American revolutionaries, notably Francisco de Miranda (M. S. Alperovich, 1989; K. Racine, 2003). The Napoleonic wars took tens of thousands of Britons to fight on Iberian territory and encouraged a few to join regular e irregular forces in both Spain and later in Spanish America (M. Brown, 2006; G. Iglesias Rogers, 2013), thus starting a trend of British personal involvement in Hispanic conflicts long before the International Brigades made its name in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Many of these expats either died or decided to settle in those regions, often keeping up contact with relatives and friends. A few returned home, bringing with them wives and children, as well as foreign goods, manners and customs they helped to popularize. Similarly, hundreds of Spanish political and economic refugees flocked to the British Isles after the restoration of Bourbon absolutism in 1814 (V. Llorens, 1954; D. Sempere,  G. Alonso García, 2011) crossing paths with Spanish American leaders in search for assistance in the delicate business of new-nation state building (I. Jaksic, 2001; G. Iglesias-Rogers, 2015). Scholars have traced some of these experiences, but most works have framed their analysis from national perspectives or in terms of either Spanish-British or Latin American-British relations, occasionally reducing the British experience to the confines of London, thus leaving little room for the study of persons, issues and undertakings that operated in wider areas and both through and beyond national and regional boundaries.

In this project, historians in the British Isles, continental Europe, the Americas and Russia are being brought together to work in association with scholars from other disciplines and non-academic partners, particularly heritage organisations, to reveal the full extent of the contribution made by those who from any point of the British Isles were closely engaged with the global Hispanic world, regardless of their birth, religion or political allegiance (often branded as ‘Hispanophiles’) as well as of those who came from the Hispanic world to the British Isles as visitors, exiles and/or migrants. This project may also help to draw wide-ranging conclusions on issues regarding social integration, diasporas, the dislocation of global and supranational polities, globalization, nation-building and inter-imperiality.

The network proposes to implement the project through an interactive website and by holding two three-day workshops in which network members will explore and test ways of thinking about the British Isles’ vis-à-vis the global Hispanic world. Participants will offer relevant case studies for research and analysis and will seek input from the general public for the formulation of short and longer-term research agendas. Academic and public debates will be organized in partnership with the National Trust Tyntesfield, the stately home founded in 1843 by the Madrid-born merchant William Gibbs whose family built much of its fortune on the importation of Spanish wine and Peruvian guano.


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