Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The History Files #49: British Colonialism in India

As is becoming our habit of late, here are a few supplemental items to episode 49 of the History Files podcast.

This book, "The Kingdom of New Spain" was writtenoriginally in 1774, by one Don Pedro Alonzo O'Crouley y O'Donnell, who was born in Cadiz, Spain of (quite obviously!) Irish parents.  The Spaniards were quite fond of the Irish, as they made excellent bureaucrats for the Spanish Empire as they were Catholic, had a good Northern European work ethic, and hated the English, all of which endeared them to the Spaniards.

O'Crouley's book seems to have never been published, but it is a marvelous look at the attitudes and worldviews of the Spanish colonists of the 18th Century towards their colony of New Spain, of which modern Mexico occupies for the most part.

Doubtless to modern (21st Century) mores, the most alarming part of the book is the series of wonderful watercolours which show all of the various mutations of racial mixture which existed in the colony at the time, which of course, with fine Spanish attention to detail, all had specific names.

I've actually been privileged to see the watercolours in person, as an exhibit at the Seattle Museum of Art was lucky enough to host a wonderful show of Spanish Colonial material culture, entitled "Spain in the Age of Exploration" some 10 or so years ago.  They are indeed wonderful, though doubtless proved highly offensive to many of the patrons, but there it is.  "They did things differently in that day and age", as it were, so there you have it.

The book was translated by Sean Galvin and published some years ago, and I was extraordinarily lucky in that I was able to find a copy on remainder at one of the big-box book stores, probably 25 years ago by now, but I treasure it today.
Not much is available on-line to study, but if you get a chance, check out a copy of the book.  Perhaps your local library has a copy (if they haven't all been burned by "politically correct" librarians, that is!)  Worth the effort!

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