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Jonathan Hart. Representing the New World: the English and French Use of the Example of Spain.

New York: Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, 2001. xi + 351 pp. index. $65. ISBN: 0-312-23070-2.

This effectively organized and dearly written study provides a thoughtful consideration of the ways in which French and English authors made use of the example of Spain as they presented their views on the Americas, particularly as they promoted the establishment of colonies there by their countries. Hart is well known for his previous works on the Renaissance and literary treatments of cultural differences. In the current book, he points out the "ambivalent and contradictory ways" (3) in which these writers made use of Spain's widely envied success in the Americas and its increased power and aggressive policies in Europe.

Hart restricts his choice of subjects to writers, sometimes already-well-known in their times as propagandists who overtly campaigned for their country to play an active role in the Americas. He wisely includes travel writers and translators of Spanish writings among the authors he covers. Hart finds that authors from both countries often utilized similar themes and rhetorical strategies in their arguments, and that these were not decisively shaped by whether the writer was Protestant or Catholic. In general, these writers admired Spain for its success in conquering and settling the Americas, but deplored their policies and impact on the native civilizations. Given the pro-colonial orientation of all of these sources, such conclusions may not be that surprising.

The book is organized into five substantial chapters that treat sequential eras in the period from 1492 to 1713, accompanied by an appropriate introduction and conclusion. In the first era of 1492-1547, the writers commonly shared a concern over Spain's claims to preeminence based on its supposed discovery of the New World and also on the papal division of the world between Spain and Portugal. The second much shorter period of 1548-66 was marked by the Spanish massacre of the French expedition to Florida and by Queen Mary's rule over England. The third period of 1567-88 is almost equally brief. It is marked by the appearance of numerous tracts denouncing Spain. These reflect England and France's heightened competition with Spain as the two countries undertook their initial serious efforts to plant colonies in the Americas. The end of the period is marked by the surprising disaster of the Spanish Armada. The fourth era, covering 1589-1642, is much longer and is not characterized by the sharply vituperative tone so often found among authors in the preceding one. The limitations of Spanish power in both the Americas and Europe were better understood, as French and English colonies persisted in the New World without serious threat from Spain and as the Dutch Revolt prospered in the face of Spain's vast efforts to suppress it. The final era, 1643-1713, displays France and England's decreasing concern about Spain, as its power visibly waned despite its continuing control over a vast American empire.

Readers of Hart's lucid study are likely to find coverage of previously littleknown but significant writers and fresh treatments of such familiar figures as Richard Hakluyt, Walter Ralegh, and Andre Thevet. The author does not attempt to develop a transforming vision of the subjects and writers under consideration. But he certainly provides a comprehensive and well-substantiated examination of their themes, approaches, and preoccupations.


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Article Details
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Author:Kicza, John E.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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