The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra

ProfessorPh.D., University of Wisconsin

Professor; Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra



Early Modern Atlantic History; History of Science and Colonialism; History of Knowledge; Colonial Spanish and British America.


I am the Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. I got my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  Before UT, I taught at Illinois State University and SUNY-Buffalo. I have also been a visiting professor at several universities outside the United States, including the Universidade Federal do Ouro Preto (Mariana- Brazil); the Universidade Etaduale de Campinas (Campinas-Brazil); the Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá-Colombia); the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogota-Colombia); the FLACSO (Quito-Ecuador);the Universidad de los Andes (Santiago-Chile); and the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London

I have won numerous national fellowships given by the Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities (at the John Carter Brown Library), the Andrew Mellon (at the Huntington Library), the Charles Warren Center for Studies of American History (at Harvard); the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; and the Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program (at the University of Texas).  I  was the Andrew Mellon Senior Fellow of the John Carter Brown Library in 2010; a Senior Fellow at the Kellogg Institute, University of Notre Dame, in  2014-2015; and a Leverhulme Visting Professor at the University of London in 2016.

I have  received numerous prizes, including the 1999-2001 best article award from the Forum in the History of the Human Sciences of the History of Science Society; the 2001 AHA prize in Atlantic History; the 2001 AHA prize in Latin American and Spanish History; and the 2006-2007 biannual Honorable Mention of the Murdo MacLeod Book Prize of The Latin American and Caribbean Section of the Southern Historical Association. My How to Write the History of the New World was cited among the best books of the year (2001) by The Economist. It also made into the “best book of the year” lists of  TLS and the Independent (London). 


I am the author of more than 60 journal articles and book chapters, as well as of several books: How to Write the History of the New World (Stanford 2001--translated into Spanish and Portuguese); Puritan Conquistadors (Stanford 2006; translated into Spanish); Nature, Empire, and Nation (Stanford 2007); The Atlantic in Global History, 1500-2000 (co-edited, with Erik Seeman), and The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade (co-edited with Jim Sidbury and Matt Childs). My edited collection Entangled Empires and Severed Archives: Anglo-Iberian Atlantic Worlds 1500-1830  will be published by University of Pennsylvania Press. I am currently finishing a collection of essays tentatively entitled On Prophets and Hybrid Empires . My ongoing book projectBible and Empire: The Old Testament in the Spanish Monarchy, from Columbus to the Wars of Independence


CTI 375 • Bible In Colonial Americas

34148 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 900am-1000am GAR 1.126
(also listed as HIS 363K, LAS 366, R S 366)


From the moment Columbus first landed in America to the time Spain, Britain, and France lost control of their kingdoms in the New World, the Old Testament shaped the cultures of their empires. The Book of Samuel taught kings, priests, and the people the contested foundations of monarchical authority and popular sovereignty. While priests sought to recapitulate the lives of Aaron, Elijah and Jonah, magistrates aspired to be like Moses and Joshua.  Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers served out lessons on territorial expansion and colonization and the proper way to design the arks and tabernacles that were local temples. By looking at the history of the Old Testament in these Atlantic empires unusual perspectives emerge: Blacks in late eighteenth century British America created exodus narratives and saw their communities as elect, modern Israels seeking migration to a Promised Land in Sierra Leone;  Indians in Peru presented the silver mines of Potosi (and therefore their labor in the mines) as the “pillars” of the temple of Jerusalem and, therefore, of the Spanish Monarchy; Christian Ascetics sought to become African slaves of the Lord as their individual wills made metaphorical and actual use of the instruments of slavery to control the urges of their bodies; nuns set up cities of God and saw themselves as fully enfranchised citizens of republics, Israelite heroines like Deborah, Judith, and Jael,  wielding swords against powerful occult enemies.

This seminar exposes students to a variety of perspectives on the central role played by the Old Testament in the construction of colonial cultures in the Americas.

Class will be conducted like an experimental workshop. In class, students will be asked to work individually or in groups and answer questions about assignments. To work students need to bring laptops and be connected on line. Assigned readings and images will posted on blackboard.

Grades will be based on two exams and several small assignments.

CTI 375 • The Bible In Colonial Americas

33895 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 930am-1100am GAR 1.126
(also listed as HIS 363K, R S 366)

Are you aware that Christopher Columbus wrote a book of prophecies?  Yes, Columbus perused the Bible and identified passages that prefigured his own providential mission in the New World.  He liked to call attention to the prefigurative symbolism of his own name, for “Colomba” in Latin means dove (Holy Spirit) and “Christopher,”  Christum-ferens,  carrier of Christ. To see Columbus as a self-serving biblical scholar is jarring but much closer to the truth than to consider him swashbuckling, romantic adventurer.

One set of lectures, for example, will explore the traditions of political philosophy that established Moses, Aaron, and Joshua as models of rulership. Monarchs, popes, and magistrates drew on Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers to figure out the proper role of  (and balance between) civil and religious authorities as well as to discern policies of territorial expansion and colonization.  These sources also became blueprints to design churches and temples as Arks, Tabernacles, and Arks of Noah.

On the same vein, other lectures will discuss the early-modern literature on the Kings of Judah and Israel. The tale of the election of Saul by God, Samuel, and the Israelite, for example, spawned a huge body of commentary on the nature of monarchical power. One tradition (from John Milton to Tom Paine) emphasized God’s opposition to the election of Kings. In the Spanish Monarchy, however, these same texts created among the colonists a discourse that for kings to be legitimate they had to be elected by the “people,” not only God and the Church. Native American intellectuals in Peru, on the other hand, created a powerful critique of colonial rule with these same texts. Hammered out by a vast network of native lords ranging from Lima to Rome, this critique demanded that native nobilities be appointed friars, bishops, and viceroys. The critique cast the Spanish as evil Jews who hated Christ and Christians (the natives). The movement was initiated in the 1700 and culminated in the 1780s with the great uprisings of Tupac Amaru and Tupac Katari in Peru and Bolivia. Same texts, different results.

It should be clear that the Bible hovered over every development in the colonial New World like a ghost. Cities, churches, missions, labor institutions, treatises, and even constitutions were created with the Bible always in mind. This course explores the Biblical roots of the religious and political traditions, architecture and material culture of the various Americas of our forgotten colonial past.


Students will read primary sources, including sections of the Old and New Testaments and Columbus’ Book of Prophecies.


Mid term: 30 %

Final 30 %

1 Reading Report 20 %

2 Reading Report: 20 %



Our America

Published in Not Even Past on February 4, 2014

Iberian Colonial Science

Published in Apuntes, a Latino Journal on September 11, 2013

Shores of Knowledge

Published in Not Even Past on March 31, 2013

Los 500 años de Florida y el New York Times

Published in ABC España on April 6, 2013.

Simon Bolivar

Published in 15-Minute History on February 3, 2013.

Whose Apocalypse?

Published in The Appendix on Januay 23, 2013.

A Nineteenth Century Digital Humanities?

Published in The Appendix on December 10, 2012.

Re-Reading John Winthrop's "City Upon the Hill"

Published in Not Even Past on September 12, 2011.

Puritan Conquistadors

Published in Not Even Past on May 1, 2011.

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Bible and Empire: The Old Testament in the Spanish Monarchy, from Columbus to the Wars of Independence (work in progress)

America na Primeira Modernidade (1492-1750)

Coeditor with Luis Estevam de Oliveira Fernandes, (Rio de Janeiro: Global Editora, forthcoming)

Princeton Companion to Atlantic History

Coeditor with Joe Miller (general editor), Vincent Brown, Karen Kupperman, and Laurent Dubois. (Princeton, 2014)

The Black Urban Atlantic, in the Era of the Slave Trade

Coeditor with James Sidbury and Matt Childs. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013)

Catolicos y Puritanos en la Colonizacion de America

(Marcial Pons, 2008)

The Atlantic in Global History, 1500-2000

Coeditor with Erik R Seema. (Prentice Hall, 2006) 

Puritan Conquistadors. Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700

(Stanford University Press, 2006)

Nature, Empire, and Nation. Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World

(Stanford University Press, 2006)

How to Write the History of the New World. Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World

Spanish version

(Stanford University Press, 2001)


Silencing the Past: On Imperious Historical Categories

Silencing the Past: On Imperious Historical Categories
On Feb 14, 2013, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra gave the 2013 George and Dorothy Carson Memorial Lecture at OSU. His talk attempts to look past the blinders that historiographical categories such as The Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, Puritanism, the Reformation, and the Renaissance have imposed on scholarship.

Los frontispicios de Guamán Poma

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra: Los frontispicios de Guamán Poma. "La cultura del libro" / BNP
Especialistas peruanos y extranjeros de alto nivel en el campo de las artes visuales e historia del arte precolombino y colonial así como en la historia del libro y la lectura, se reunieron en Lima los días 22 y 23 de agosto de 2013 en el Seminario Internacional "La cultura del libro: aproximaciones desde la historia y el arte", organizado por la Biblioteca Nacional del Perú.

Puritan Conquistadors

Jorge Canizares-Esguerra on Puritan Conquistadors
Prof Canizares-Esguerra discusses his book, Puritan Conquistadors.

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