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Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal…
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Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas

by Tamar Herzog

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Rather more of an extended essay than anything else, Prof. Herzog has a number of problems she sets for her self. Apart from reintroducing law to history, the main mission here is to tease out Portuguese and Spanish national self-understanding from the process by which boundaries were first established in the New World, and then how those boundary conflicts fed back into sovereignty disputes back on the Iberian Peninsula. This all being complicated by how Portuguese and Spanish historians have been reluctant to grapple with the meaning of the sixty-year period of unified Habsburg rule until rather recently. Does this work meander? A bit. But if you're interested in the process by which national identity is constructed this book is well worth your time. ( )
  Shrike58 | Dec 11, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674735382, Hardcover)

Frontiers of Possession asks how territorial borders were established in Europe and the Americas during the early modern period and challenges the standard view that national boundaries are largely determined by military conflicts and treaties. Focusing on Spanish and Portuguese claims in the New and Old Worlds, Tamar Herzog reconstructs the different ways land rights were negotiated and enforced, sometimes violently, among people who remembered old possessions or envisioned new ones: farmers and nobles, clergymen and missionaries, settlers and indigenous peoples.

Questioning the habitual narrative that sees the Americas as a logical extension of the Old World, Herzog portrays Spain and Portugal on both sides of the Atlantic as one unified imperial space. She begins in the Americas, where Iberian conquerors had to decide who could settle the land, who could harvest fruit and cut timber, and who had river rights for travel and trade. The presence of indigenous peoples as enemies to vanquish or allies to befriend, along with the vastness of the land, complicated the picture, as did the promise of unlimited wealth. In Europe, meanwhile, the formation and re-formation of boundaries could last centuries, as ancient entitlements clashed with evolving economic conditions and changing political views and juridical doctrines regarding how land could be acquired and maintained.

Herzog demonstrates that the same fundamental questions had to be addressed in Europe and in the Americas. Territorial control was always subject to negotiation, as neighbors and outsiders, in their quotidian interactions, carved out and defended new frontiers of possession.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:18 -0400)

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