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Rereading the Black Legend

The Discourses of Religious and Racial Difference in the Renaissance Empires

The phrase “The Black Legend” was coined in 1912 by a Spanish journalist in protest of the characterization of Spain by other Europeans as a backward country defined by ignorance, superstition, and religious fanaticism, whose history could never recover from the black mark of its violent conquest of the Americas. Challenging this stereotype, Rereading the Black Legend contextualizes Spain’s uniquely tarnished reputation by exposing the colonial efforts of other nations whose interests were served by propagating the “Black Legend.”

A distinguished group of contributors here examine early modern imperialisms including the Ottomans in Eastern Europe, the Portuguese in East India, and the cases of Mughal India and China, to historicize the charge of unique Spanish brutality in encounters with indigenous peoples during the Age of Exploration. The geographic reach and linguistic breadth of this ambitious collection will make it a valuable resource for any discussion of race, national identity, and religious belief in the European Renaissance.

448 pages | 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2008

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, Romance Languages

Medieval Studies


“This book will be a major contribution to rereading not only the Black Legend but in navigating the very busy intersection of empire and racial and religious difference.  The authors deepen our understanding of how modern Western European practices of racialized discrimination developed in nuanced, nearly unimagined ways. Rereading the Black Legend, with its diverse essays, is about the formation of the world we live in today.”

Davíd Carrasco, Harvard Divinity School

Rereading the Black Legend is a superbly organized collection that boldly traverses early modern imperialisms of Spain in the Americas, of the Ottomans in Eastern Europe, and of the Portuguese in East India and China. As a guide and critical reference work, it will be useful to undergraduate students and advanced scholars alike. I know of no comparable work currently available in academic publication, and I think it truly innovative in plan, scope, and approach.”

William J. Kennedy, Cornell University

"The book is particularly strong on its superbly documented study of the appropriation of racial and religious categories in the New World. As such, this courageous and most worthy scholarly volume makes signal contributions to our understanding of the links between race, religion, and imperial projects within the painful transition into the early modern world."

Teofilo F. Ruiz | International History Review

"A welcome addition to the growing range of texts that critically explore the enduring legacies, desired and undesired, of a past that continues to shape our present."

Shankar Ramen | Renaissance Quarterly

"[The editors] have put their talents to work in assembling a volume that will have a significant impact on early modern studies. This reader was humbled by the display of analytical prowess and the sheer volume of information on the interstices of race and religion in different settings throughout the early modern world. . . . An exceptional book that can and should be read by scholars and students of east and west, north and south, minority and dominant cultures."—Lisa Vollendorf, Clio

Lisa Vollendorf | Clio

Table of Contents

1          Introduction     
Margaret R. Greer, Walter D. Mignolo, and Maureen Quilligan
Part I    Two Empires of the East
2          An Imperial Caste: Inverted Racialization in the Architecture of Ottoman Sovereignty    
Leslie Peirce
3          Hierarchies of Age and Gender in the Mughal Construction of Domesticity and Empire              
Ruby Lal
Part II              Spain: Conquista and Reconquista
4          Race and the Middle Ages: The Case of Spain and Its Jews                 
David Nirenberg
5          The Spanish Race        
Barbara Fuchs
6          The Black Legend and Global Conspiracies: Spain, the Inquisition, and the Emerging Modern World    
Irene Silverblatt

7          Of Books, Popes, and Huacas; or, The Dilemmas of Being Christian    
Gonzalo Lamana

8          The View of the Empire from the Altepetl: Nahua Historical and Global Imagination     
SilverMoon and Michael Ennis
9          “Race” and “Class” in the Spanish Colonies of America: A Dynamic Social Perception  
Yolanda Fabiola Orquera
10        Unfixing Race              
Kathryn Burns
Part III             Dutch Designs

11        Discipline and Love: Linschoten and the Estado da Índia         
Carmen Nocentelli-Truett 

12        Rereading Theodore de Bry’s Black Legend                
Patricia Gravatt
Part IV             Belated England
13        West of Eden: American Gold, Spanish Greed, and the Discourses of English Imperialism         
Edmund Valentine Campos
14        Blackening “the Turk” in Roger Ascham’s A Report of Germany (1553)         
Linda Bradley Salamon

15        Nations into Persons    
Jeffrey Knapp
Afterword: What Does the Black Legend Have to Do with Race?        
Walter D. Mignolo
List of Contributors   

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