This richly detailed and well-researched book curiously and cleverly combines “old-fashioned” intellectual history with a postcolonial thesis. According to historian Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, the eighteenth-century debates that crisscrossed the Atlantic about how to write the history of the New World constituted nothing less than a revolution in historiographical sensibilities that anticipated postmodern approaches. The author uses manuscript sources found in Spain, Mexico, France, England, and the United States to painstakingly reconstruct the arguments of more familiar and less-known Spanish and creole scholars concerning how to interpret Spanish America’s precolumbian and colonial pasts. These ideological reconstructions are reminiscent of Antonelli Gerbi’s La disputa del Nuovo Mondo: Storia di una polemica (1955), but they are undertaken in a radically different, postcolonial framework that emphasizes rhetorical analysis, hybridities, socially constructed identities, gendered power relations, and the decentering of the “North Atlantic paradigms of progress and modernization underlying...

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