Beyond exotica : the consumption of non-European things through the case of Juan de Borja (1569-1626)
Title: Beyond exotica : the consumption of non-European things through the case of Juan de Borja (1569-1626)
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2018
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
Rhinoceros horns, Asian textiles, Chinese porcelain and Indian furniture populate the inventories of consumers in early modern Madrid. Since the opening of direct maritime routes to Asia at the end of the fifteenth century, these goods reached Europe in ever-greater quantities. By the end of the following century, many high-ranking individuals possessed several of these items. Until now, historiography explained their consumption behaviour as an interest and curiosity in exotic goods. An interest presumed to have culminated in the creation of cabinets of curiosity or in the display of a taste for Exotica. In this thesis, I argue that the perception of exoticness regarding things brought into Europe from overseas is a historical construction concurrent with the arrival of items at the ports of Lisbon and Seville. I claim that it is necessary to go beyond the exoticness attributed to these goods in order to understand the consumption practises in early modern Iberia. For that purpose, this thesis offers a methodology on how to investigate consumption. It takes into consideration the historical complexity of the moment of interaction between a consumer and a thing. In other words, the main aim of my dissertation is to explain the entanglement between the driving forces that lead to consumption and the mechanisms for accessing non-European goods. To achieve this goal, I focused my study in noblemen and noblewomen who held property near the court in Madrid at the turn of the seventeenth century. I developed my research around the former ambassador in Portugal, the then royal advisor, Juan de Borja y Castro (1533-1606). Thus, I determined the social frame and the period of my study. When Juan de Borja died, he left an exceptional number of exotic items, which provided an excellent opportunity for enquiry. Besides, given Borja’s extended contacts within Portuguese networks, my case study allows bridging an analysis of consumption patterns at the court of the Hispanic Monarchy with a capacity of access to global trade.
Defence date: 26 November 2018; Examining Board: Prof. Luca Molà (European University Institute) - Supervisor, Prof. Jorge Flores (European University Institute), Prof. Giorgio Riello (University of Warwick), Prof. Bernardo García García (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
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