In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Colonial New Granada

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Writing and Depiction: Primary Sources
  • Writing and Depiction: Historiography
  • Indigenous History and Archaeology
  • Invasion
  • Demography
  • Identifications and Difference
  • Colonial Institutions: Governance and Economics
  • Agrarian History
  • Reducciones, Resguardos, and Cities
  • Slavery and Marronage
  • Evangelization and Everyday Life
  • Bourbon Reforms and the Enlightenment
  • The Age of Revolutions

Latin American Studies Colonial New Granada
Santiago Muñoz Arbeláez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0215


In the 1530s, the Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada coined the term “New Kingdom of Granada” to talk about the highlands of the northern Andes inhabited by native peoples he and his fellow explorers called the moscas—a term the conquerors adapted from the term these indigenous groups used for “people” or “humans,” but also because they abounded like “flies,” moscas in Spanish. From then on, the term New Kingdom of Granada had a volatile and dynamic existence. In political terms, the New Kingdom of Granada revolved around the Audiencia de Santafé, a political entity in charge of justice administration that reported directly to the Council of the Indies. It wove together diverse ethnic groups from different geographic areas, from the Amazon to the Andes, from the Pacific to the Caribbean, and from the Isthmus of Panama to the Orinoquia, including an Andean region divided into three ranges, each with its own characteristics. The Jesuit missions of the Amazonia differed from the slave, gold-mining coasts of the Pacific, and from the agrarian Andean economies. On the Caribbean coast, Cartagena stood out as one of the largest slave-trading hubs in the Atlantic, yet one with an economic framework atypical in the Caribbean, where plantations were not predominant, and home to one of the largest populations of “free men of all colors” (libres de todos los colores) in the Americas. The province of Popayán, with a remarkably diverse jurisdiction that covered a vast region from the Amazon to the Pacific coast, including the Andean groups that marked the northern boundary of the Inca Empire, oscillated between the royal courts of Santafé and Quito. In the 18th century, the imperial administration created the Viceroyalty of New Granada to give administrative unity to the area, and reformed the fiscal and administrative scheme, detonating a wide range of political reactions from a variety of social groups. In all, New Granada should not be understood as a cogent “region” with a coherent and cohesive cultural, economic, or political system, but as an effort to create a unified imperial scale of governance out of a diverse set of peoples and landscapes.

General Overviews

Few overviews of colonial New Granada span the whole area during three centuries. The need for a general survey of the history of the New Kingdom of Granada is poignant. Colmenares 1997a and Colmenares 1997b are perhaps the only works by a single author that provide an analytic framework to understand the region’s early colonial history. Jaramillo Uribe 1992 (first published in 1979) is a wide-ranging edited volume that brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines to think about the colonial past in their fields.

  • Academia Colombiana de Historia. Historia extensa de Colombia. 24 vols. Bogotá, Colombia: Ediciones Lerner, 1965–1986.

    A reference work of dozens of volumes coordinated by the Academia Colombiana de Historia after a 1943 legal mandate charged it with writing a comprehensive history of Colombia. The volumes dealing with colonial New Granada address topics ranging from the European invasion to the imperial presidencies and evangelization.

  • Colmenares, Germán. Historia económica y social de Colombia. Vol. 1, 1537–1719. 5th ed. Bogotá, Colombia: Tercer Mundo Editores, 1997a.

    A comprehensive account of the social and economic history of New Granada. Provides a broad sweep of the Spanish conquest and indigenous societies, before exploring imperial institutions, land tenure, mining, royal finances, commerce, and the social formations of the 17th century.

  • Colmenares, Germán. Historia económica y social de Colombia. Vol. 2, Popayán, una sociedad esclavista. 5th ed. Bogotá, Colombia: Tercer Mundo Editores, 1997b.

    The second volume of Colmenares’s magnum opus explores the creation of a slave society in Popayán dependent on the extraction of gold in the lowlands of the Pacific coast.

  • Jaramillo Uribe, Jaime, ed. Manual de historia de Colombia. Vol. 1. Prehistoria, Conquista y Colonia. Bogotá, Colombia: Tercer Mundo Editores, 1992.

    The first of three volumes coordinated by Jaramillo Uribe on the history of Colombia, with comprehensive essays on archaeology, conquest, colonial economy, political administration, art, and architecture.

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