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When Worlds Collide: European-Indigenous copper production during the Contact and Early Colonial Period of Michoacán, Mexico (1521-1607)

Garcia Zaldua, Johan Sebastian (2019) When Worlds Collide: European-Indigenous copper production during the Contact and Early Colonial Period of Michoacán, Mexico (1521-1607). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, Universidade do Porto.

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Abstract

The Spanish conquistadors arrived in the territory of today's Mexico in 1519 and immediately entered in contact with the indigenous people that inhabited this vast territory. This encounter put the Spaniards in contact with multiple social groups and with their languages, religions, socio-political and economic organizations, world views, and also technologies. This dissertation will focus on one of those technological encounters: the Indigenous-Spanish copper metallurgy of the 16th century in the region of Michoacán and its socio-cultural, political and economic background. During the entire colonial period, the South-Central region of Michoacán, Mexico was the main producer of copper in New Spain and one of the most important loci of production in the whole Spanish empire. Copper was a fundamental material for artillery, coinage and silver extraction, not to mention its importance in the manufacture of all sorts of daily life items (cauldrons, pans, knives, spoons etc.). However, when the Spaniards arrived, they had an almost complete lack of copper extraction knowledge. Spain did not have any copper mining operation at the moment nor an established copper production industry and all the copper consumed in Spain was acquired already in metallic form from production centers in Hungary and Germany, mostly through intermediaries in Flanders. On the other hand, the South-Central region of Michoacán had a natural occurrence of rich copper ore deposits and a well-established indigenous metallurgical tradition developed during the course of at least eight centuries and based on copper and its alloys. These set of factors and an increasing world demand of copper led the Spaniards to heavily rely on native knowledge, technology and labour, hence creating a long lasting relationship of production between them and the specialized native metalworkers of Michoacán. In order for this relationship to last and succeed, a dialogue was established; techniques and ideas were exchanged, and political and economic issues negotiated. The objective of this dissertation then is to explore the social, technological, economic and political aspects of copper production during the contact and early colonial periods of New Spain. This is done with the aim to understand how these communities of native miners, smelters, metalworkers, charcoal makers, and tamemes (load-bearers) adapted to a new socio-political and economic paradigm. How the encounter with the European metalworking technology (in the broader sense of the term) modified a nearly millenary tradition. And what was the role of these communities and their technology in the construction of a shared colonial world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Polónia, Amélia
Thesis advisor: Pettigrew, William A
Uncontrolled keywords: Latin America, Colonial History, Archaeometallurgy, West Mexico, Michoacan, Negotiation
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2019 09:36 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2019 09:36 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/74402 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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