In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Iberian Atlantic World, 1600-1800

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks and Surveys
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Iberian Exploration and Discovery
  • The Spanish Caribbean
  • Evangelization
  • Native America
  • Economy and Society in the Iberian Atlantic
  • Africans and the Slave Trade in the Iberian Atlantic
  • Comparative Atlantic Empires

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Atlantic History Iberian Atlantic World, 1600-1800
Jane Landers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0055


Following the successful conclusion of their wars to recover the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim conquerors, Portugal, and later Spain, advanced into the Atlantic. Their early experiments in colonization focused on uninhabited and nearby islands like the Azores and Madeira, but the Iberians faced fierce resistance from the indigenous Guanches of the Canary Islands. Centuries of peninsular war against the Muslims and the conquest and colonization of the Canaries shaped subsequent Iberian policy in the Atlantic. While Portugal concentrated on establishing trading posts down the coast of west and central Africa, in 1492 Christopher Columbus claimed Hispaniola and the entire “New World” for Spain, which then extended its religious and territorial expansion into the greater Atlantic. After conquering the Caribbean Islands, establishing early mining, ranching, and sugar economies, and establishing the first European cities there, Spain advanced to the mainlands of North and South America. The conquests of the wealthy and populous Aztec and Incan empires financed Spanish settlements throughout the West Indies, across the entire southern tier of North America, and throughout South America, except for Brazil, which was claimed in 1500 by Portugal.

General Overviews

No general treatments yet exists that consider the Iberian Atlantic in a holistic and comparative framework, considering how the continents around the Atlantic engage with one another politically, militarily, culturally, and commercially, but many good works address the establishment of the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic empires. One should begin with The Cambridge History of Latin America (Bethell 1984–2008), a collection of essays by the top scholars of Latin America; MacLeod 1984, on Spain’s Atlantic trade system, is only one of the many important works included in it. Lockhart and Schwartz 1983 and the edited collection honoring John Elliott (Kagan and Parker 1995) are also key. Other important general treatments of the Iberian Atlantic include Parry 1990 and Elliott 1992, the works of Felipe Fernández Armesto (see Iberian Exploration and Discovery), and on the Portuguese world, Russell-Wood 1998 and Boxer 1991.

  • Bethell, Leslie, ed. The Cambridge History of Latin America. 11 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984–2008.

    This is the place to start for research on Latin American colonial history. Features essays by top scholars of Latin America and critical bibliographies.

  • Boxer, C. R. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825. 2d ed. Manchester, UK: Carcanet in association with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1991.

    A sweeping study of Portugal’s global expansion into Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Now older (first published in 1969 [London: Hutchinson]) but still critical.

  • Elliott, J. H. The Old World and the New, 1492–1650. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    A quick introduction to the main themes of Hispanic expansion into the Atlantic. Very useful for undergraduate classes.

  • Kagan, Richard L., and Geoffrey Parker, ed. Spain, Europe, and the Atlantic World: Essays in Honour of John H. Elliott. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

    Essays that demonstrate Elliott’s importance as a scholar and as a mentor to a later generation of excellent scholars who now place Spain in an Atlantic context.

  • Lockhart, James, and Stuart B. Schwartz. Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil. Cambridge Latin American Studies 46. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

    Sophisticated volume by two of the foremost scholars of colonial Iberian America. Probably best suited to upper-division classes. Includes a useful annotated bibliography.

  • MacLeod, Murdo J. “Spain and America: The Atlantic Trade, 1492–1720.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 1. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 341–388. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

    An excellent essay that establishes the framework of Spain’s commercial system in the Atlantic. Elegantly and humorously written.

  • Parry, J. H. The Spanish Seaborne Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

    A parallel volume to Boxer 1991. Also older (first published in 1966 [London: Hutchinson]) but valuable.

  • Russell-Wood, A. J. R. The Portuguese Empire, 1415–1808: A World on the Move. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

    Russell-Wood has succeeded Boxer as the premiere scholar of the extensive Portuguese empire.

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