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Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 Hardcover – April 15, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 103 ratings

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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)
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"[A] magisterial comparative history of empire of the Americas. . . . [A] richly textured comparative history. . . . [A] meticulously  researched and elegantly executed synthesis. . . . Mr. Elliott’s achievement is to identify with brilliant clarity the similarities and differences between British and Spanish America while embroidering his analysis with memorable details."—Niall Ferguson, Wall Street Journal
"[A] monumental analysis of two New World empires . . . Elliott . . . uses the story of each colonisation to illuminate the other. He challenges our prejudices about the Spanish conquest and the patriotic myths that have grown up around the English one. There is nothing black and white about this book. . . . Elliott's writing . . . moves with a gentle rhythm of a sea swell to carry the reader along."—Christian Tyler,
Financial Times Magazine
"A handsome and fascinating study of the two colonisations, so different in their scope, duration and outcome. The contrasts in administration, treatment of the natives and economic viability are intriguing."—Christian Tyler,
Financial Times Magazine
"My favorite recent book of American history is, perhaps surprisingly, by an English scholar of the history of Spain. A model of comparative history,
Empires succeeds in placing the formative years of the area that became the United States in a consistently illuminating hemispheric perspective."―Eric Foner, New York Times Book Review
"Our current debate about immigration isn't only about clamping down on the U.S.-Mexican border. It's also about what it means to be an American after 9/11 and about how the nation is revamping the concept of citizenship. And it's an opportunity to reassess yet again, the relationship between the United States and its neighbors to the south, a chance to reflect on the role of Hispanic culture in the English-speaking world. For those eager to understand the historical context behind these issues, I know of no more comprehensive, readable source than J.H. Elliott's
Empires of the Atlantic World. . . . A feast of insights."―Ilan Stavans, Washington Post Book World

"In a masterful account, Oxford don Elliott explores the simultaneous development of Spanish and English colonies in the so-called New World. . . . Elliott’s synthesis represents some of the finest fruits of the study of the Atlantic World."—Publishers Weekly

"Elliott's mastery of Spanish materials is especially impressive and allows him to show how Spanish America 'was large enough to provide the setting for a variety of holy experiments'. . . . It is refreshing to read, towards the end of this brilliant, compelling book, that in the British colonies 'a distinctively, American identity' was not so much the cause of revolution as the result."―Tom D'Evelyn,
Christian Science Monitor
"So skilled . . . that it continually generates fresh insights forged out of familiar materials. . . . This is an indispensable and richly rewarding contribution to both the art of comparative history and the story of early America."―Richard R. Johnson,
The Journal of American History
"Elliott has been writing about 'the old conundrum of the decline of Spain' with increasing skepticism since 1961, and his new
Empires of the Atlantic World is in many ways the culmination of a lifetime's exploration of the riddle."—Matthew Restall, William and Mary Quarterly
"An essential addition to scholarship on the broader impact of imperialism in the Atlantic World."―K. David Milobar,
History News Network
"A magisterial comparison of the Spanish and British empires in the Americas. . . . This story only hints at the scope and richness of Elliott's masterful comparative history."―Richard J. Ross,
Law and History Review
"Insightful and illuminating. . . . Rich and delightful. . . . Complete with wonderful illustrations that are well integrated into the discussion."―Ian K. Steele,
American Historical Review
"Evocative. . . . From his very first chapter, Elliott does wonderful work in breaking down oversimplified characterizations of the Spanish empire as one of 'conquest' and Britain's one of 'commerce.' . . . Elliott is to be applauded and thanked, not only for his perseverance in writing this much-needed comparative review, but also for the verve and vision with which he infuses his smooth and insightful narrative."—Kristen Block,
"Sir John Elliott, the undisputed dean of Hispanic New World and Golden Age historians, brings his formidable knowledge to bear on this important topic. His access to documentation and his nuanced reading, subtle marshaling of the facts, and elegant prose come together in a book destined to be the standard reference in the field."―
Virginia Quarterly Review
"This book amazes. Covering the span of the imperial experience in the Americas, its combination of erudition and depth of insight is rarely matched. . . . The book will prove to be a magnum opus―thorough, thought-provoking, definitive."―William J. McCarthy,
Nautical Research Journal
Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2007 by
Choice Magazine
Selected as a 2007 "Outstanding" book by
AAUP University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
Shortlisted for the 2006 Hessel-Tiltman History Prize, awarded by the English PEN Club
Winner of the 2007 Francis Parkman Prize awarded by the Society of American Historians for the best book in American history

"Others have offered comparisons between the English- and Spanish-speaking worlds, but none have been as fully nuanced or fully realized as this. A masterpiece by one of the English-speaking world’s most accomplished historians."—David Weber, author of Bárbaros: Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment

"Elliott’s close study of the empire the English founded in North America and the one that the Spanish built to the south has given him remarkable insights and perspectives. The result is to give new dimensions to the usable past of both Americas."—Edmund S. Morgan, author of Benjamin Franklin

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Yale University Press; 1st edition (April 15, 2006)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 546 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0300114311
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0300114317
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.69 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 9.84 x 7.14 x 1.77 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 103 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
103 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 24, 2007
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F. A. Rodner
5.0 out of 5 stars top class
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on June 30, 2013
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Will Bradshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars A great explanation of the trials and tribulations of Spanish and ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on November 19, 2015
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Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful for studying the histrory of maritime empires
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on November 26, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars Well balanced work by Elliott
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on September 15, 2014
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on July 8, 2016