HIS 350L • Apocalypse in the Colonial New World-W
When the Europeans arrived in the New World, they thought the end of the world was near. Columbus compiled a common-place book on all the major narratives of apocalypse (Book of Prophecies), considered himself an elected messiah (Christi-fer: the bearer of Christ), and saw his arrival to the easternmost parts of Cathay (he had no idea he bumped into a New World) as the beginning of the conversion of all pagans and Jews prior to the Christian reconquest of Jerusalem, long hostage to the Turkish Anti-Christ. Columbus was typical of his age. Franciscan friars who followed the millennial prophecies of Joachim di Fiore sought to build a millennial church in Mexico; so too did the Puritans in New England. Leading religious figures in Peru died in prison or at the stake in the late sixteenth century for predicting the impending collapse of the corrupt church of Rome and the restoration in the New World of the ancient Israelite church lead by the Dominican Francisco de la Cruz, a new messiah-last emperor of the world. Indigenous groups in Peru, Mexico, and New England embraced many of these ideas themselves and associated the arrival of the millennium with the extermination of the European colonizers. This seminar seeks to explore the impact these ideas had on the peoples and societies of the early-modern New World. This is a reading and writing intensive-seminar.
This course seeks for you to partake of the excitement of being a scholar and a historian. It is my goal to give you the tools to learn how to read critically (reading is not an innate skill; it takes time and training to do it well) and how to reconstruct and understand sympathetically bygone cultures using images and texts. These are two basic skills in the historian's tool-kit that will serve you well the rest of your life, regardless of the profession you end up choosing. Lesser goals for this course are for you to become familiar with some possible historical interpretations of colonial Spanish, Portuguese, and British America.
Some possible readings: Laura Ackerman Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars (Princeton, 1995) Richard Kagan, Lucrecias's Dreams: Politics and Prophecy in Sixteenth-Century Spain (University of California Press, 1990) Christopher Columbus, Book of Prophecies (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004) Bernard McGuinn, Visions of the End (Columbia University Press, 1998)