Carla Gardina Pestana

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

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  • History of the Americas
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Religion shaped the early modern Atlantic world in many ways. Although Iberian expansion began before the Protestant Reformation, Europe soon divided between Protestant and Catholic, and this division created a context for European understandings of the purpose of expansion. With permission from the pope to evangelize outside the Old World, the Spanish and the Portuguese split the extra-European world between them; Spain was responsible for most of the Americas (excluding only the area that would become Brazil), while Portugal took Brazil and Africa (as well as Asia). Soon representatives of each kingdom were at work, conquering, colonizing, and evangelizing. Protestantism, although it arrived late in the contest for colonies and trade in this New World, was central to Spanish understanding of its work; evangelizing the native peoples of the Americas would add additional souls to the church, making up for those who had been lost to the Protestant Reformation. When Protestants finally became involved in colonizing the Americas and trading with Africa, they similarly understood their role as combating the reach and influence of their Catholic rivals. If in 1600 the European presence outside of Europe was overwhelmingly Catholic, by 1700 a map of the spread of Christianity showed varied results. Spain controlled the central area of the Americas, including much of South America and the Caribbean, all of Central America, and all the southern area of North America (from Florida and New Mexico south). Portugal had Brazil, while Catholic France held Quebec to the north and selected islands in the Caribbean. The Protestant presence was predominantly British, and included eastern North America between Quebec and Florida as well as some islands in the Caribbean. The Protestant Dutch also held island colonies and a South American outpost. West Africa and West Central Africa hosted trading forts controlled by most of these European powers, from which were shipped slaves as well as trade goods. The religious rivalries of early modern Europe had been effectively exported. Every faith represented along the shores of the Atlantic prior to contact would participate in the intermixing that occurred afterward. The history of religion in the Atlantic world therefore explores the variety of traditions within that world and the effects of the circulation, transplantation, and encounter of these various faiths.

Article.  10269 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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