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Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 Paperback – April 24, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In a masterful account, Oxford don Elliott explores the simultaneous development of Spanish and English colonies in the so-called New World. Though colonists tried to recreate traditional institutions on American soil, there were inevitable differences between colonial life and life in the mother countries: familial roles, for example, were reconfigured across the ocean. In addition to differing from Europe, Spanish and British settlements differed from one another, says Elliott. Whereas Spain determined to prevent Jews and Moors from entering its territories, Britain's grudging acceptance of religious diversity was evidenced in the Crown's allowing, and in some cases encouraging, persecuted minorities to join colonial ventures. The English colonies' fractious Protestantism made Spain's Catholic colonies look homogeneous by contrast. Yet the "pigmentocratic" social order of Spanish colonies proved to be exceedingly complex. English colonies, with their adoption of racial slavery, came to be organized around the deceptively simple categories of black and white, while Spanish America was home to varied ethnic groups that readily produced "mixed-blood" offspring. Ultimately, British colonies would privilege innovation and entrepreneurship, while Spanish-speaking society held on more firmly to "the old hierarchies." Elliott's synthesis represents some of the finest fruits of the study of the Atlantic world. Illus., maps. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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"Richly illustrated and based on a thorough and thoughtful reading in the vast literatures of British and Spanish America, [Elliott's] masterful synthesis is unlikely to be equaled—let alone surpassed—any time soon."—Carla Rahn Phillips, Eighteenth-Century Studies
(Carla Rahn Phillips Eighteenth-Century Studies 2008-12-01) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780300123999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300123999
  • ASIN: 030012399X
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By David Montgomery on September 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an eye-opener for me as I knew very little on Spain's American territories, besides brief descriptions of some of the conquistadors such as Cortes and Pizzarro. What Elliott has done in this book is to show the comparisons and contrasts between England's New World Colonies and Spain's. There are many fascinating facets underlaying the reasons for acquiring these territories, how both sides viewed their mission and goals, and how they governed them. This is without a doubt a remarkable book that revealed a lot for me.

The first colonization was begun by the Spanish in the early 16th Century. The English made their first successful attempt in the early 17th Century. Both South and North America posed different challenges for both governments, i.e. the size of the indigenous populations, the geography and climate, natural resources and so forth. For me, the real fascination was learning more about the Spanish colonies and the establishment of the viceroyalties of New Spain (based in Mexico City) and Peru (based in Lima) with additional ones developing over time. The interaction with the natives, the attempts at Christianization, trade, and many other aspects of Spain's colonization were quite enlightening.

Being more familiar with United States history, I felt more familiar with the material covered on England's planting of settlers in Jamestown and later in New England. However, the real education was in Elliott's efforts to show how each of these two powers (Spain and England) confronted the realities and challenges of establishing their presence in these very different regions. The differences were often quite stark.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Richard Sawyer on January 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is comparative history at its very best. Elliott superbly describes and chronicles the history of the British and Spanish exploration and colonization of the Americas, as well as the process whereby both the British American and Spanish American colonial societies brought about their independence from the imperial governments. It is a comprehensive, detailed, and yet highly readable overview of the political, economic, social, military, and religious forces at play in the Americas during the time period. Elliott goes beyond the telling of historical events and facts, to provide analysis and interpretation of why history unfolded as it did. The writing is excellent and clearly reflects a highly learned historian who has the ability to tell history in a an engaging manner. His juxtaposition and comparison of British and Spanish America in a single volume results in a very interesting and stimulating way to learn about the two empires. The book contains very attractive end papers, a number of excellent maps and numerous color plates. Very highly recommended.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Stewart Stokes on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the history of the Americas, colonial history or comparative studies of the American countries. Although it is based largely on secondary sources it reflects the enormous amount of work that the author has carried out in his previous books on Spain. The most interestin feature of the book is how Elliott points out the similarities between the British and Spanish Empires in the Americas; a fact that most historians have previously tended to ignore.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lehigh History Student VINE VOICE on December 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Elliott delivers the masterpiece that those who study the Atlantic World have been waiting for. The idea of studying history from the perspective of the Atlantic has been growing in popularity and worth taking a further look at. Britain and Spain established mammoth empires and Elliot looks at their rise and fall. He also considers other powers including the French and Dutch but focuses mainly on the first two mentioned. The age of exploration is put in context and in true Atlantic fashion the slave trade and development in Latin America are very important. The revolutions of the Atlantic world are very clearly explained in this book and Elliott leaves you wondering where else this field can go. Elliott writes very well and this book is a must read for those who want to consider how the Atlantic world impacted Europe and the United States.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
This well written and well organized book is a careful synthesis of the enormous secondary literatures on colonial British America and colonial Spanish America. Elliott provides a pair of parallel narrative overviews of British and Spanish America from their foundings to the revolutions that severed ties to their home nations. The narratives provide the basis for some comparative analysis that recurs throughout the book.

Knowledgeable readers will probably be familiar with much of the narrative about British North America. Much of the information about Spanish North American will probably be new to many readers (like me). For example, the small British settlements of the 17th century were dwarfed by the scope of the Spanish colonial enterprise. When Boston and Philadelphia were modest seaports, Spanish America boasted several large cities. At the time of Harvard's foundation, Spanish America already possessed several universities.

Elliott divides this book into three sections; Occupation, Consolidation, and Emancipation. Occupation is devoted to the initial experience of exploration, colonization, and encounters with the native peoples of the Americas. The chapters in Consolidation describe the development of mature colonial economies and imperial government, the challenge of developing European style societies in radically different circumstances, and the sense of identities developed in these new societies. Emancipation describes the 18th century conflicts between the metropolitan centers and the colonies, particularly as London and Madrid attempted to develop closer control and upset traditional arrangements. All chapters are particularly good combinations of political, economic, and social history.
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