In this course, Clash of Empires in Latin America, we examined the scene of international rivalry from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. We were subjected to imperial history as a framework for exploring the creation of an “Atlantic World”, in which Europe, Africa, and the Americas interacted to shape key political, economic, and social developments. In many ways, the increasing interdependence of these regions marked the beginning of modern globalization. Through the texts disused throughout the semester, we have learned about comparative colonization, the transatlantic slave trade, privateering, piracy, plantations in the Caribbean, and the age of revolution.
The text, Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World by Patricia Seed informed my understanding of Atlantic empires the most of all the texts analyzed because it allowed for an in-depth insight into European empires’ culture and proceedings of conquest which enabled the reader to understand different societies ideologies and justifications for conquest. The values and principles discussed by Seeds are continually mirrored by these Empires throughout the Atlantic World, and Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World established a key proponent of why they did what they did throughout centuries of conquest.
Many treacherous acts were performed on local tribes and native peoples throughout the Atlantic world by European powers. Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World examines the four European powers of the British, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French, and the Spanish in their ceremonies and rationale for their actions in present-day Brazil and Latin America.
This pathway into their logic and beliefs gives the reader an insight into their culture and the reasoning behind their decision-making in many of their conquests throughout the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. For example, the British cultural complex was prominent in the idea of territorial units. English law, building fencing, especially the idea of houses, hedges, and gardens within these fenced-off areas show the assertion of one’s power and control over that land. The French, instead of using physical objects, wanted to create a consented alliance and companionship before enacting the assimilation of the people. The Portuguese pioneering of nautical astronomy, like modern technology or intellectual rights, lead them to claim a right to monopolize access to regions unattainable without the techniques they had pioneered, otherwise known as dominion by discovery. The Dutch were similar to the Portuguese with the inheritance of nautical pioneering but incorporated control of the natives through trade and commerce. Lastly, the Spanish ought out their right to rule by conquest not consent, through the Requirimiento. This speech was a fully ritualized protocol for declaring war against indigenous people unless they recognize the superiority Spain and of Christianity.
All these different ceremonies of possession allow for a deeper understanding of the culture and the mindset each empire believed in. Each of these ceremonies could be seen recurring throughout their colonizing years. For example, the Dutch founded the West India Company (WIC) in 1621 so that they could connect commerce and conflict (trading/war machine). When the Dutch entered the Caribbean, they claimed Curacao (1634) and accumulated tons of neighboring small lands, like Aruba, together calling them the Dutch West Indies. This was a play to demonstrate power as well as an economical based idea. In the European Markets, the demand for sugar was increasing constantly and by acquiring land in the Caribbean they could capitalize on its unbelievable climate for growing sugar cane. This demonstrates how seeds’ text of dutch possession ceremonies was important in understanding the underlying reasons for many of their strategies. Commerce was a driving force behind how they ceremonially possessed a region and colonized and it continued through the next few centuries Seeds’ insight into this was very useful.
Subsequently, we can see this type of nation-state thing done by other European powers Seeds analyzes. The Spanish, throughout theirs. reign as the superpower in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With their just war and aggressive ceremony of possession tactics, they carried this mindset of conflict and combative behavior through many instances like their loss in the Spanish Armada (1588) as well as the loss of authority in the low countries (Spanish Netherlands). The Armada mission was a failure and almost half the 15,000 soldiers and sailors perished during the enterprise of England, with at least one-third of the ships never to Spain. The loss of power in the low countries sparked by the catholic reformation sparked the Dutch revolt in the protestant Netherlandish regions, leading to the outbreayearshe 80 years war in 1568. Even though Spain was able to suppress the initial rebellion, in 1572 the rebels captured Brielle and the rebellion resurged, later leading to the first nation-state of the Dutch people, creating the Dutch Republic. Both these instances and many others in Europe and the Caribbean connected to Spain, were the result of aggression and oppression by the Spaniards, much the same as the ceremonies of possession Seeds illustrates. The insight of we learn from the text can help us better understand why Spain’s died with and sought out so much conflict, as in the eyes of the Spanish, means to an end were justified in a pervasive manner.
The trend demonstrated in Seeds’ text by these European powers can be seen recurring throughout the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century as demonstrated, and that is why Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World informed my understanding of Atlantic empires far above any other text covered. The justification demonstrated by Seeds is not from her viewpoint but from the point of view of the European power, which deals with great value to the reader as you get another insight into the heart of their culture and why they do what they do in the manner that they do it in.