16th-Century New Spain

Matthew Restall

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
16th-Century New Spain

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  • Regional and Area Studies
  • History of the Americas



The 16th century was a period of dramatic change in Mesoamerica. Beginning with first contacts in the 1510s, followed by a series of invasion campaigns that ran from 1519 into the second half of the century, the arrival of Spaniards and their African auxiliaries transformed the region into a new entity. The colonists called it New Spain. Yet, despite the profound changes in every arena of human activity—political rule, trade and tribute, ethnicity and social structure, demographics, religion and other cultural expressions—continuity was also considerable. Mesoamerica did not disappear; rather, it became colonial Mesoamerica. In the wake of war and epidemic, native peoples rebuilt their communities and consolidated a traditionally localized sense of identity. These complexities are reflected in the historiography of this place and time. As a generalization, over the past half century the historical literature has shifted from an emphasis on Spaniards, their conquests, and their institutions in Central Mexico, toward the indigenous and black experiences, social and cultural history, and the examples of regions outside the center. Two interrelated schools of scholarship have had a major impact: the New Philology, which rose to prominence in the 1980s and the 1990s; and the New Conquest History, which has emerged since the 1990s. Both are explained in this article. This bibliography focuses on works that study the period from 1520 to 1600, although many relevant studies fall outside of those dates. The geographical boundaries of New Spain varied greatly in the colonial period; here they are treated as more or less contiguous with the cultural area of Mesoamerica, stretching from northern Mexico down through Guatemala. This bibliography privileges monographs in English over dissertations, edited volumes, editions of primary sources, articles, and studies in Spanish (and other languages). This is because of space constraints and because monographs are excellent guides in leading researchers to those other items.

Article.  10030 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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