My first idea for a research question is: how did new national identities emerge from the Spanish colonial viceroyalties of Latin America prior to and during the Napoleonic Wars, and what motivated the large-scale uprisings against and distancing from Spanish rule? I’m interested to learn more about how nations and national identities sprung up in central and south America, driving thousands of people to revolt against colonial rule and create independent countries in a relatively short span of time. I also want to know more about the leadup to the revolutionary movements and how the local identity already in place in various regions may have contributed to the explosion of nationalist and independence-minded thought around this time – specifically, were there already large segments of the population that were pushing for freedom and self-government, and how did those segments become prominent enough to topple colonial rule in nearly all of Latin America?
This semester, I want to learn more in general about Latin America and the history of its colonial past – I have never really taken a history class that covered this area of the world and its past in depth, despite having taken quite a few in the past. I feel that it’s an extremely important area of history that is not nearly discussed enough, especially concerning the culture of the Native American societies present in Latin America prior to the arrival of Europeans. I’ve always been both fascinated and horrified by the sheer scale of the epidemics that wracked the Americas during this period of time. The truly unprecedented events that occurred are only made more interesting for me by the continuously emerging evidence of larger and larger population sizes and developed civilizations. I’m deeply interested in learning more about these societies, and how they dealt with the events brought on by European contact.
Another, far removed area of Latin American history I’m very interested in learning more about is the era of the revolutions and independence movements in the emerging nations of the region during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. I feel that this time period is criminally underrepresented in comparison to its sheer importance to the history of Latin America, especially in American education. When compared to the likes of the American or French Revolutions, I feel that these events are almost completely ignored by the majority of popular history. I certainly haven’t learned much about them, and I’m hoping that this class will do a lot to advance my knowledge of the subject. This is also why I chose a book about Mexico City during the revolutions for my report.