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date: 22 July 2017

The Book in the Iberian Atlantic, 1492–1824

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.

The Atlantic world has not only been a geographic space for the exchange of people and products; it was, from the 16th century, a cultural space for the production, exchange, diffusion, and adaptation of printed objects. Whereas historiography in the independent era constructed the view that Latin America had been “closed to the outside world” during the years of the Spanish and Portuguese domination, research has shown that this was not the case. Latin American countries, especially from the 18th century onward, were part of a network of print through which all kinds of information was produced and circulated.

During the Spanish Enlightenment, and especially at the time of the wars of independence, this circulation intensified. The end of the Spanish and Portuguese trade monopoly in the region, changes in the regime of print rights, technological developments that lowered the costs of publishing, and the transformation in the forms of sociability that wars of independence themselves generated, gave way to an explosion of print all over the Atlantic word. Newspapers, pamphlets, and books on topics that were not only political were printed and circulated in the region. This contributed to change forever the way Latin Americans viewed themselves and contributed to the formation of new nations.

Although the circulation of ideas throughout the Atlantic does not account for the development of political and social transformations that led to the independence of the Latin American countries, print culture and political culture are connected in many different ways. This essay explores some of these forms of interaction.