Le métier d'historien during the enlightenment : William Robertson and the writing of the History of America
Title: Le métier d'historien during the enlightenment : William Robertson and the writing of the History of America
Author: PUGLIESE, Ida Federica
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2010
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
This dissertation seeks to analyse the production of a historical work during the Enlightenment, focussing on the specific case of William Robertson and his masterpiece the History of America (1777). The crux of the research lies in the understanding of how history was written, sources collected, and opinions moulded during the Eighteenth Century. On a larger perspective, this thesis contributes to the European historiography in analysing the practical dimension of the cultural transfer theory. Once attested that circulation of knowledge took place during the Enlightenment, the question posed was how it really operated. The focus on the textual dimension of the History of America sheds new light upon the reason behind the historian’s decision to write the history of the Spanish conquest and colonization with a different approach. In a time in which philosophy often shaped history, Robertson was claiming the right to apply le métier d’historien to the historical writing, intended as the absolute attention towards the sources and towards a detailed and faithful reconstruction of the historical past. Within this context, the thesis analyses the sources that Robertson had used, included the questionnaires, and reconstructs the system of information networks he had arranged. Such examination offers an opportunity to appreciate his attempt to profit from the abundant circulation of knowledge of that time so as to produce a history which could revise the image of Spain in Europe. Finally, the paradoxical fortune of the book is resolved. It is only by taking into account the colonial policies at the dawn of the American revolution that it is possible to disentangle the reason why the History of America - despite the amendment of the Leyenda Negra - was ultimately prohibited in the Spanish territories.
LC Subject Heading: Robertson, William, 1721-1793; Historiography
Defense date: 20/12/2010; Examining Board: Prof. Bartolomé Yun-Casalilla (EUI) - Supervisor Prof. Antonella Romano (EUI) Prof. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas at Austin) Prof. Rolando Minuti (Università degli Studi di Firenze)
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