The Bishop's Utopia
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The Bishop's Utopia
Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru

Emily Berquist Soule

320 pages | 6 x 9 | 24 color, 1 b/w illus.
Cloth 2014 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4591-2 | $45.00s | £29.50 | Add to cart
Ebook 2014 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0943-3 | $45.00s | £29.50 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Early Modern Americas series
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"Astonishingly original and highly readable. With this ground-breaking study of the monumental work of Bishop Martínez Compañón, Emily Berquist Soule opens up a whole new world of research on the eighteenth century in Peruvian history. This is cultural, intellectual, and art historical writing at the very highest level."—Gary Urton, Harvard University

"A deeply researched, beautifully written account of a fascinating man. Bishop Martínez Compañón was a brilliant iconoclast who saw the need for change and did everything he possibly could to promote it. Emily Berquist Soule's impressive archival work and fine pen brought him to life."—Charles Walker, University of California, Davis

"A superb study of a neglected figure of the Spanish-American Catholic Enlightenment whose capacious mind and broad cultural, political, and social reforming agenda here expertly come alive. Berquist Soule casts her net widely, utilizing documentation from over a dozen archives, to reconstruct the bishop's agenda and struggles. Her work marvelously reminds readers that his utopia was disciplined by reality: competing and conflicting agendas of the locals taught the eager bishop the limits of his vision."—Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, University of Texas

In December 1788, in the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo, fifty-one-year-old Spanish Bishop Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón stood surrounded by twenty-four large wooden crates, each numbered and marked with its final destination of Madrid. The crates contained carefully preserved zoological, botanical, and mineral specimens collected from Trujillo's steamy rainforests, agricultural valleys, rocky sierra, and coastal desert. To accompany this collection, the Bishop had also commissioned from Indian artisans nine volumes of hand-painted images portraying the people, plants, and animals of Trujillo. He imagined that the collection and the watercolors not only would contribute to his quest to study the native cultures of Northern Peru but also would supply valuable information for his plans to transform Trujillo into an orderly, profitable slice of the Spanish Empire.

Based on intensive archival research in Peru, Spain, and Colombia and the unique visual data of more than a thousand extraordinary watercolors, The Bishop's Utopia recreates the intellectual, cultural, and political universe of the Spanish Atlantic world in the late eighteenth century. Emily Berquist Soule recounts the reform agenda of Martínez Compañón—including the construction of new towns, improvement of the mining industry, and promotion of indigenous education—and positions it within broader imperial debates; unlike many of his Enlightenment contemporaries, who elevated fellow Europeans above native peoples, Martínez Compañón saw Peruvian Indians as intelligent, productive subjects of the Spanish Crown. The Bishop's Utopia seamlessly weaves cultural history, natural history, colonial politics, and art into a cinematic retelling of the Bishop's life and work.

Emily Berquist Soule teaches history at California State University at Long Beach.

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