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 from the UK, Ireland, continental Europe, the Americas and Russia, jointly with scholars from other disciplines and non-academic partners are studying those people who in the British Isles were closely engaged with the Hispanic world, regardless of their birth, religion or political allegiance (often branded as ‘Hispanophiles’) as well as those who came from the Hispanic world to any point of the British Isles as visitors, exiles and/or migrants. A key question we are addressing is how these individuals and networks worked with and/or counteracted growing restrictions imposed on the movement of people, ideas, goods and capital during the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries.

The network has been working in partnership with the National Trust Tyntesfield, the stately home founded by the Madrid-born merchant William Gibbs who for long was believed to have built much of his fortune mainly on the importation of Peruvian guano. Our research has now revealed a far more complex and fascinating story, see for example Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, ‘Love, prejudice, pandemics, and global entrepreneurship: William ‘Guillermo’ Gibbs’s long route to Tyntesfield’ in idem (ed.) The Hispanic-Anglosphere from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century – An Introduction (New York and London: Routledge, 2021). Scholarly discussions had been held in the context of the estate’s rich collection of material culture with the intention of contributing to improving and extending their interpretation. Expert knowledge has been tested and disseminated through discrete scheduled meetings with the general public and through mass and social media, thus encouraging dialogue with wider audiences outside academic circles. The project operates through this online interactive platform that serves to host scholars’ exchanges and to showcase peer-reviewed material generated as a result of the networks’ research such as working papers and an online exhibition (see INDIVIDUALSNETWORKS and COMMUNITIES, PUBLIC HISTORY).

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