ANN: New book: We, the King: Creating Royal Legislation in the Sixteenth-Century Spanish New World

Adrian Masters Discussion

Dear colleagues,

I'm writing this email to shamelessly plug my new book, We, the King: Creating Royal Legislation in the Sixteenth-Century Spanish New World. I'm doing this mainly to reach readers with interests beyond the confines of the 1500s Spanish Empire. In his very kind blurb, Prof. Mark Thurner called this book "A must read for anyone interested in the early modern history of empires and governance." This blurb captures the spirit of the book: it's an attempt to write about empire and governance in general, more than just about a phase of the Spanish empire overseas. We, the King is thematically about how the monarchy produced 110,000 royal decrees between 1492 and 1598. But it's really about how all sorts of petitioners in the Spanish Empire proposed new policies, including new bottom-up institutions and racial categories - creating the so-called 'caste system' in the process. It's also about communication across near-impossible spatial and intellectual distances, myths of kingship, subaltern labor, the power of archives, and the roles of women in transforming early modern administration (among other things). I'm sharing a link to it on the off-hand chance it's of interest to those of you thinking through similar problems in other faraway times (and places).

It asks questions which I think might be relevant to us empirologists:

• What did 'seeing like a state' mean in a global empire whose supreme ruling council had as few as five ministers and whose subjects were often years of travel away?

• What, and who, make archives powerful?

• What were early modern petitions, and how could an indigenous woman write one?

• To rather misappropriate Spivak's question, could the subaltern not only speak, but phrase legislation?

• Did women have a role in the emergence of a 'bureaucratic' - that is, de-patrimonialized - early modern administration? And if so, how?

• What does a king do at his desk anyway?

• Where do mosquitos and donkeys fit into the lawmaking process?

I hope there is something interesting and useful for readers in here. And last but not least, thanks to H-Empire for always connecting us, even across the rather rigid disciplinary walls that often institutionally separate us.


Adrian Masters