In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Translated Primary Sources
  • Travelogues
  • Bibliographies
  • Conquest and Colonial Culture
  • The New World Order and Social Consequences
  • The Philippine Agricultural Economy
  • The Manila Galleon Trade System
  • Cultural Comparisons and Exchanges between the Philippines and New Spain
  • Relations between China and the Philippines
  • Chinese and Chinese Mestizos
  • Nationalism and Revolution

Latin American Studies Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
Edward R. Slack
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0164


Miguel López de Legazpi’s (b. 1502–d. 1572) conquest of Manila in 1571 ushered in a 327-year epoch of Castilian rule in the Philippine Islands, but his actions also created unintended historical by-products that made the undertaking dissimilar to any other colony in the Spanish empire. Most notable were that the archipelago was located in Asia, it consisted of many islands inhabited by a variety of Malay and Austronesian peoples, and Chinese cultural and economic influences, which had been developing since at least the Tang dynasty, competed with Castilian/Mexican. Manila became both a battleground and mixing pot for Asian, Malay/Austronesian, and Iberian/Mexican peoples, religious beliefs, political institutions, technologies, and cultivated crops and domesticated animals, to name but a few of the exchanges that occurred over the three centuries of Spanish dominion. Before the word “globalization” became a ubiquitous catchphrase in the late 20th century, the Manila Galleon, Amoy, Malay, and Portuguese trade routes converged on Manila, uniting Europe, the Americas, East/South/Southeast Asia, and Africa through maritime commerce across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans in the late 16th century. From that time, traditional scholarship on the Philippines tended to be Iberian-centered narratives flowing unidirectionally from Madrid/Cadíz to Mexico City/Acapulco to Manila and presenting nationally biased and commodity-centered analyses, penned by academics in Spain and Mexico. Beginning in the early 20th century, scholars from the United States in various disciplines began writing their own interpretations of the colonial period that preceded the half-century of American occupation. Filipino social scientists have entered the fray since the 1920s, but exponentially more so following independence in 1946, contributing an important indigenous perspective that had been absent from previous erudition. Despite this centuries-old body of literature, the era of Spanish colonialism is, relatively speaking, an understudied field of academic inquiry. This bibliography is an attempt to frame the 1571–1898 era on a more globally comparative canvas, highlighting the cultural exchanges systematically linking the greater Manila region, China, and New Spain/Mexico, and to accentuate recent trends in scholarship while simultaneously acknowledging classic works from earlier periods.

General Overviews

Since the islands of the archipelago were never unified before the Spanish arrived, and even after three centuries many of them still displayed autonomous tendencies (especially the Muslim islands of Mindanao and the Sulus), the geographical scope of broad surveys on this era is essentially limited to the island of Luzon and the Visayas. Centered on Manila, Castilian power in the Philippines can be explained as a series of concentric circles of weakening influence. A common thread running through the books in this section are gratuitous examinations of the initial conquest, various civil and religious administrative practices, the process of Hispanization, indigenous reactions against exploitative policies, the co-optation of local elites into the power structure, financial and economic matters, security concerns (both foreign and domestic), and Chinese immigration and trade. Early works, epitomized in Zúñiga 1966, are simply chronological storytelling from the Spanish point of view. The second phase of general histories is more analytical (benefiting from ethnographic and anthropological approaches), and the overviews are penned by American-educated Filipino intelligentsia. Benitez 1929 and Zaide 1949 exemplify the attempt to add pre-Hispanic indigenous and Asian influences to the discussion, coinciding with a more objectively critical evaluation of Castilian colonialism. The third and present phase builds upon this foundation and re-centers the focus on Filipino experiences and cultural practices that either resisted or blended with Hispanic, Chinese, and American cultural assimilation strategies. Cushner 1977, with its synoptic style, reveals an empathetic understanding of Philippine culture and its history. The multivolume works in Roces 1977 and Punongboyan, et al. 1998 present multifaceted snapshots of Filipino history, with its people on center stage. Abinales and Amoroso 2005, a welcome addition to the genre, contextualizes more recent events into the longue durée of the archipelago’s history.

  • Abinales, Patricio N., and Donna J. Amoroso. State and Society in the Philippines. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

    Abinales and Amoroso follow the complicated trajectory of Philippine history from pre-Hispanic times to the turn of the 21st century. Written for both students and scholars, the book blends textbook facts with sophisticated analysis. Although most of the book is dedicated to examining the legacy of US colonial and post-colonial relations on Philippine politics, economics, and society, it provides adequate coverage on a wide range of topics.

  • Benitez, Conrado. History of the Philippines: Economic, Social, Political. Boston: Ginn, 1929.

    The author of this massive (472 page) volume dedicated to Philippine history was the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of the Philippines. The book contains an enormous amount of information from prehistory, through the Spanish colonial era (the bulk of its contents) to the early period of US occupation. Although rather dated and dry by today’s standards, it is nevertheless an authoritative work for its time.

  • Cushner, Nicholas P. Spain in the Philippines: From Conquest to Revolution. Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University, 1977.

    The best English-language monograph available on the history of Spanish imperialism in the Philippines. Cushner’s book condenses the entire spectrum of Castile’s economic, religious, political, and social program into just over 200 pages of narrative. Especially enlightening are the chapters that discuss the exploitative practices of forced tributes and labor, and colonial trade and finance.

  • Punongboyan, Raymundo, and Prescillano Zamora, et al. Kasaysayan: The Story of the Philippine People. 10 vols. Manila, Philippines: Asia Publishing, 1998.

    A solid Filipino-centered study that in many ways mirrors the structure and organization of Roces 1977 two decades earlier. The result of a Philippine-American joint venture between A–Z Marketing and Readers’ Digest, each volume contains a collection of essays penned by a myriad of respected academics.

  • Roces, Alfredo R., ed. Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation. 10 vols. Manila, Philippines: Lahang Pilipino, 1977.

    A very detailed and nationalistic ten-volume work that encompasses the long arc of history from pre-Hispanic times through the Marcos era. The strengths of this encyclopedic approach are the numerous articles written by renowned scholars and an amazing variety of illustrations that include rare documents, paintings, drawings, and maps.

  • Zaide, Gregorio F. The Philippines since Pre-Spanish Times. Manila, Philippines: R. P. Garcia, 1949.

    A hefty tome close to 500 pages in length; the prolific and esteemed Filipino historian Gregorio Zaide organized an excellent survey. Zaide spends the first fifth of his work excavating Asian influences in the archipelago prior to Magellan’s arrival. The remainder of the book evaluates a panorama of Spanish colonial policies, international and regional conflicts, the Galleon trade, and wars with Muslim sultanates in Mindanao and the Sulu Islands.

  • Zúñiga, Joaquín Martínez de. An Historical Overview of the Philippine Islands. Manila, Philippines: Filipiniana Book Guild, 1966.

    Originally published in 1803. The first few chapters (1–6) describe the conquest of the islands, while the next thirty evaluate in chronological order the major achievements and noteworthy events during the administrations of each governor-general. The final chapters cover Britain’s occupation of Manila from 1762 through1764 and the guerilla tactics of Simon de Anday Salazar (1701–1776) that kept the English from conquering Luzon, and ends with the city’s restoration to Spanish control.

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