In Search of the Spanish Past: Ships, Sailors and Sources in the Early Modern Period
A Public Lecture by
Dr. Carla Rahn Phillips
Union Pacific Professor of Comparative Early Modern History [Emerita]University of Minnesota
Transatlantic trade routes, galleon fleets, sunken treasures, Caribbean piracy… These and other topics related to the Spanish seaborne empire continue to elicit the interest of the general public, but they remain largely enshrouded in mystery. This lecture addresses some of the myths and realities of Spanish ships and shipping on the transatlantic route during the Early Modern Period. The history of the sea has long focused on great naval battles and commanders. That is still an active field of study, but scholars are now paying more attention to what is often called the 'social history of the sea,' which looks more closely at seafarers and their families and communities on land. Without them, Spain's global network of trade, communication, military pursuits, and colonial administration from 1450 to 1800 would not have been possible. We learn about the ships and individuals in that global network by following the paper trail left behind in Spanish archives. The result is a
richly detailed portrait of seafaring and the ships that represented the highest technological achievement of their times.