Hispanic Cultures I: Technologies of Learning in Spain and the Americas before 1700


This course provides an overview of the cultural history of the Hispanic world, from Roman Iberia to about 1700. It will address Islamic al-Andalus, Christian Spain and the late Middle Ages, the conquest of the "New World," the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas, the colonial age, and the decline of empire.

Course description

This class provides students with the fundaments of the historical development of the Hispanic territories from a cultural perspective starting in the late Antiquity up to 1700. During the semester, we will examine text, images, and cultural artifacts in order to reconstruct the social practices they hide. Therefore, students will acquire the knowledge of key social, political, and religious events that happened in the Iberian peninsula before the 18th century. While reading primary sources, we will focus on their contextualization; while reading secondary sources, we will focus on their critical analysis.

Selections of reading materials originally written in Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, Provençal, and Italian will be provided in Spanish.

Section description

Each section of Hispanic Cultures I chooses to develop a singular focus. This section’s focus is learning as a process of cultural transmission. Technological improvements such as the printed book, sites such as libraries and universities, and new practices such as silent reading appear associated to processes of learning. We will explore learning not as an activity bounded to an academic environment, but as a common anthropological denominator, as a basic form of cultural transmission.

The course will be divided into six parts that will be combine historic periodization and conceptual centers:

  1. Hispania Antiqua (before the 8th century): Memory
  2. Islamic Hegemony over the Iberian Peninsula (8th-12th centuries): Nature, the Self, & Observation
  3. Christian Hegemony over the Iberian Peninsula (13th-15th centuries): Reason vs. Faith
  4. Amerindian Cultures (Mayas, Mexicas, Incas): Material Culture
  5. Conquest & Colonization of America (16th century): Intellectual Debates
  6. The Rise of the Iberian Empire (16th century): Networks & Exchanges
  7. The Fall of the Iberian Empire (17th century): Visual Production

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