It’s the political economy, stupid. A new approach to conceptualizing the dynamics of the Conquista


Thursday, April 12, 2018, 4:15pm to 5:15pm


RCC Seminar Room, 26 Trowbridge St., Cambridge MA

Scholarship of the world-changing process, known as conquest of the Americas, has advanced a lot in the last decades. Approaches of the epistemological and cultural history (e.g. ‘spiritual conquest’) and studies focusing on the role of the ‘subaltern’ (e.g. ‘indian conquest’) have introduced new paradigms to the state of the art. These findings about the indigenous’ agencies etc. have questioned the narratives, which told the conquest of the Americas as a ‘European miracle’, originating in a variety of European superiority that allegedly allowed a small group of Spaniards to conquer whole empires. Meanwhile, scholars have paid less attention to the organization of the expeditions and the (micro-)dynamics of the Conquista. It was not a regular royal army that undertook the Conquista. This has been clear. In order to explain the process of conquest, though, it is important to consider its specific political economy.


This presentation scrutinizes the special entanglement of political and economic schemata of incentives and rewards. It asks about the specific contractual fundament, on which the ventures were undertaken. Furthermore, it carves out the peculiar role of booty and the prime importance of the notion of distributive justice for the expansive dynamics. Based on empirical evidence it finally offers a new approach to conceptualizing the dynamics of the Conquista and the emergence of the Spanish empire.

Speaker: Vitus Huber, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Janggen-Poehn Foundation at History Department, Harvard University

Sponsor: RCC