This book takes a bold new look at both Spain's and Portugal's
New World empires in a trans-Atlantic context. It argues that
modern notions of sovereignty in the Atlantic world have been
unstable, contested, and equivocal from the start. It shows how
much contemporary notions of sovereignty emerged in the Americas as
a response to European imperial crises in the age of revolutions.
Jeremy Adelman reveals how many modern-day uncertainties about
property, citizenship, and human rights were forged in an epic
contest over the very nature of state power in the eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries.
"Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic" offers a
new understanding of Latin American and Atlantic history, one that
blurs traditional distinctions between the "imperial" and the
"colonial." It shows how the Spanish and Portuguese empires
responded to the pressures of rival states and merchant capitalism
in the eighteenth century. As empires adapted, the ties between
colonies and mother countries transformed, recreating
trans-Atlantic bonds of loyalty and interests. In the end, colonies
repudiated their Iberian loyalties not so much because they sought
independent nationhood. Rather, as European conflicts and
revolutions swept across the Atlantic, empires were no longer
viable models of sovereignty--and there was less to be loyal to.
The Old Regimes collapsed before subjects began to imagine new ones
in their place. The emergence of Latin American nations--indeed
many of our contemporary notions of sovereignty--was the effect,
and not the cause, of the breakdown of European empires.
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