September 14, 1998
Volume 51, No. 4
Bakewell to travel to Spain to find material on 1570s Peru
While some may find it difficult to imagine history a consuming subject, British-born history professor Peter Bake-well has delved deep and found riches in the past. As a graduate student in romance languages at Cambridge University, he was drawn to explore the Spanish-American history of mining for precious metals. "I like the technological side of things. The focus of my studies comes of my general intellectual inclinations," said Bakewell, who also directs the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.
It was in the search for silver that Bakewell first came upon Spanish viceroy Don Francisco de Toledo, the subject of an upcoming book to be completed with a recently awarded Fulbright Senior Research grant.
During the colonial period from the 16th to the early 19th century, mining in Latin America was a fundamental source of income for Spain. Spain's King Philip II charged Toledo with governing the colony of Peru in the 1570s.
As viceroy, Toledo was arguably the most influential figure in the three centuries of Spanish colonization of South America. He gained notoriety for an obsession with inspecting his entire domain and for generating excessive new regulations regarding native labor and resettlement.
The Spanish king insisted that Toledo get more silver from the mines but to do so by paid incentives, not by force. Unfortunately, the viceroy found that building up the treasury was not possible without compromising local people whose homes were not in the mining region. Toledo took his responsibilities perhaps too seriously, establishing a forced resettlement and labor system that is now criticized as having been extremely damaging to indigenous Peruvians.
For the last 20 years historians have been concerned with past relationships between America and Europe and with the negative effects of colonization on native populations. "Toledo is a big figure, the object of a polemic. I want to investigate what he actually did, to determine to what degree he is to blame for what happened," Bakewell said.
Bakewell tracked Spanish treasury records and researched mining methods and systems of labor from the 1530s to 1810 in his initial archival digs. He used that data to evaluate the effect of mining centers on general patterns of colonial settlement. He will spend January to June 1999 at Spain's University of Salamanca completing that research and also visit Madrid, Simancas and Seville, where the Archive of the Indies serves as a primary source of documents on Spanish colonial history.
Bakewell said he will "particularly value the opportunity to consult and collaborate [in Salamanca] with historians of early modern Spain and of Spanish America." His work will be facilitated by his 40 years of studying and speaking Spanish and by his mastery of paleography, the reading of archaic writing.
The biography will not only relate to Toledo's conduct and reforms in Peru but will "treat his life actions and legal codes as realizations of the political and social beliefs and norms that Spain imposed on Middle and South America in the colonial period," Bakewell said.
His hope, said Bakewell, is that this enriched "insider view" of the colonial period in Latin America will help him make that time and place come alive in the classroom and in his interactions with graduate students.