Conquest of Borderlands in Latin America
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0006
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0006
The Spanish Borderlands occupy a vibrant, though relatively recent, field of historical inquiry. In 1921, Herbert E. Bolton issued the call to incorporate the Spanish Borderlands into the general history of the United States. A disciple of Frederick Jackson Turner, Bolton spent most of his academic career researching and writing about the Spanish Borderlands, which he defined as “the regions between Florida and California, now belonging to the United States, over which Spain held sway for centuries.” For Bolton, Spanish institutions shaped these frontier regions, distinguishing them from the northern frontier experiences described by Turner. Recent scholarship has departed dramatically from earlier characterizations of frontiers as meeting points between European civilization and Indian barbarism. By contrast, the “new” Spanish Borderlands are much more dynamic and complex zones of exchange, places where cultural, economic, religious, genetic, military, intellectual, and linguistic interactions intertwine to create something new and unique. At times, Borderlands were places dominated by violence and warfare; at other times, they were characterized by long periods of peace and accommodation. Borderlands transformed both Europeans and Indians, often in unexpected and unintended ways. To complicate matters further, Borderlands are no longer viewed exclusively as contested geographical spaces where Europeans and Indians competed for power. The New Borderlands historiography also recognizes the importance of non-European frontiers: spaces where two or more different Indian powers struggled for regional dominance. Not surprisingly, then, it has become increasingly difficult to draw broad theories and generalizations that can be applied throughout Latin America’s disparate Borderlands regions. No single school of thought, interpretive framework, or methodological approach has come to dominate the field, and the fundamental question of what precisely constitutes a Borderland remains contested and unresolved. The references that follow provide a broad overview of the rich historiography of the “conquest” of Borderlands in Latin America, with particular emphasis on Spain’s colonial possessions that now form part of the United States. Of course, the term “conquest” is misleading, as Europeans rarely exercised complete dominance over those they sought to subjugate and convert. For that reason, the entries below do not focus exclusively on the conquest expeditions of the 16th century. “The conquest” of the Spanish Borderlands was a protracted and incomplete process that in some regions persisted well beyond the end of the colonial period.
Theories and Approaches
No scholar has influenced 20th-century Borderlands historiography more than Herbert E. Bolton. Bolton’s pioneering role in the field continues to be recognized, and his writings remain a useful starting point for students and scholars. Bannon 1964 published a collection of Bolton’s writings, from his early writings to his late career, allowing readers to follow the long and productive trajectory of Bolton’s career. More recently, Magnaghi 1998 summarized Bolton’s far-reaching influences and, in particular, Bolton’s call for a broader comparative history of the Americas. However, despite his profound and lasting influence on the study of Spanish Borderlands, Bolton never advocated or articulated a clear “Borderlands” thesis. In fact, Borderlands historiography remains less theory-driven than many other fields of historical inquiry. As Weber 1986 convincingly argues, even Frederick Jackson Turner’s pioneering essay on the significance of the frontier in US history has had little direct influence on US Borderlands scholarship. For example, in his broad synthesis of the Spanish Borderlands, Gibson 1966 makes no mention of Turner’s thesis. Still, a number of Latin American frontier scholars have attempted to use Turner’s work as a starting point to explore frontier regions outside the United States. Wyman and Kroeber 1957, Hennessy 1978, and Weber and Rausch 1994 all build on Turner’s classic thesis in their volumes on Latin American frontiers. Jackson 1998 captures the spirit of much of the recent Borderlands historiography, which emphasizes regional diversity and the importance of moving away from the Eurocentric perspective of Bolton and his early followers. Jackson’s volume highlights the fundamental differences between New Spain’s northern frontiers and the Florida Borderlands. In one of the few attempts to articulate a theoretical model to distinguish between Borderlands and frontiers, Adelman and Aron 1999 proposes a provocative new approach to the study of Borderlands regions.
Adelman, Jeremy, and Stephen Aron. “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States and the Peoples in between in North American History.” American Historical Review 104.3 (1999): 163–199.
A thought-provoking essay aimed at constructing a new theoretical framework to distinguish between frontiers (which the authors define as “a meeting place of peoples in which geographic and cultural borders were not clearly defined”) and borderlands (“the contested boundaries between colonial domains”). The essay provides a useful model that should be tested in other frontier regions.
Bannon, John Francis, ed. Bolton and the Spanish Borderlands. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964.
This important volume assembles seventeen different essays and articles (some of which had never been published) written by Herbert E. Bolton, widely considered to be the pioneer of Borderlands historiography. The volume allows readers to follow the trajectory of Bolton’s remarkable career. Bannon also includes a detailed introduction, and a separate appendix lists Bolton’s other publications.
Gibson, Charles. “The Borderlands.” In Spain in America. By Charles Gibson, 182–204. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966.
Chapter Nine of his magisterial 1966 survey, Spain in America, represents one of the early attempts to integrate Spanish Borderlands into the wider historiography of colonial Latin America.
Hennessy, Alistair. The Frontier in Latin American History. London: Edward Arnold, 1978.
An early attempt to examine the significance of frontiers in Latin American history. Uses Frederick Jackson Turner’s influential frontier thesis as a theoretical tool to explore Latin America’s many frontier regions. Includes maps and a bibliographic essay.
Jackson, Robert H., ed. New Views of Borderlands History. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.
This collection of seven essays includes five regional studies of single provinces and two broad thematic entries. Considers the history of Northern Mexico and the Southwest Borderlands as fundamentally different from the Borderlands history of Florida. Includes useful maps but no separate bibliography.
Magnaghi, Russell M. Herbert E. Bolton and the Historiography of the Americas. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998.
Draws on the historiographical legacy of Herbert E. Bolton to advocate a return to a broader approach to the study of American history, one that includes all of the Americas. Contains detailed bibliography of early and more recent texts.
Weber, David J. “Turner, the Boltonians, and the Borderlands.” American Historical Review 91.1 (1986): 66–81.
Careful assessment of the roles that Frederick Jackson Turner and Herbert E. Bolton played in the evolution of Borderlands historiography. Despite the influence of Turner’s pioneering essay on the significance of the frontier in U.S. history, Weber convincingly demonstrates that the Turner thesis has had relatively little influence in Borderlands scholarship.
Weber, David J., and Jane M. Rausch, eds. Where Cultures Meet: Frontiers in Latin American History. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1994.
This valuable collection includes twenty different essays that cover a broad range of topics and regions throughout the Americas. The volume includes old classics, such as Frederick Jackson Turner’s influential essay on frontiers, as well as new contributions to the field. Introductory essay provides an excellent synthesis and appraisal of frontier scholarship.
Wyman, Walker D., and Clifton B. Kroeber, eds. The Frontier in Perspective. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1957.
An eclectic collection of fourteen essays that explore frontier regions from around the world. Aims to provide a comparative framework for frontier studies and expand the assessment Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis beyond the United States.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500-1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas