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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: The Renaissance World of José de Acosta: Empire, Religion, and Science (HIST10493)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn the sixteenth century, José de Acosta wrote some of the most enduring, widely read descriptions of South America, its peoples, customs, languages, natural wonders, beasts, plants, and geography. His experience encapsulated the intellectual challenges that faced Europeans encountering New Worlds, as well the choices, desires, and habits that early modern Europeans pursued throughout a fast-expanding genre of travel literature that remade the world. This course explores how Acosta and his contemporaries shaped cultures of empire, religion, and science that came to define the early modern world.
Course description This course uses the works of the Spanish Jesuit José de Acosta as a lens through which to refract some of the major questions of early modern European intellectual history. The course works through Acosta and his contemporaries' place in the Spanish Empire, as well as the educational and political frameworks that made them. We'll consider the cultural legacies that they drew upon and transformed, from Christian theology to discourses of natural law and human rights. We'll also look at how they used and modified humanist forms of natural history, and how this became a model for studying the global south; even Charles Darwin, on his famous travels around South America, began with Acosta. Throughout, Acosta's relationship to indigenous informants and his outsized profile in the history of the Atlantic will help us critically probe the colonising world picture he inhabited.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Historiography (HIST08044)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. show detailed knowledge of the early European experience of the Americas;
  2. analyse a range of original sources;
  3. evaluate and reflect critically upon existing scholarship relating to the topics covered by this course;
  4. plan and execute a substantial written analysis of an aspect relevant to the themes of this course.
Reading List
José de Acosta, Natural and Moral History of the Indies, ed. Jane Mangan, Walter D. Mignolo, and Frances López-Morillas (Duke University Press, 2002).

Annabel S. Brett, Changes of State: Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law (Princeton University Press, 2011).

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Stanford University Press, 2002).

Simon Ditchfield, 'What Did Natural History Have to Do with Salvation? José de Acosta Sj (1540-1600) in the Americas', Studies in Church History 46 (ed 2010): 144-68.

Renate Dürr, 'Early Modern Translation Theories as Mission Theories: A Case Study of José de Acosta "De Procuranda Indorum Salute" (1588)', in Cultures of Communication, Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond, ed. Helmut Puff, Ulrike Strasser, and Christoph Wild (Toronto, 2017), 209-27.

David M. Lantigua, Infidels and Empires in a New World Order: Early Modern Spanish Contributions to International Legal Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Sabine MacCormack, Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru (Princeton University Press, 1993).

Sabine MacCormack, On the Wings of Time: Rome, the Incas, Spain, and Peru (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).

Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).

Anthony Pagden, The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology, 2nd ed. ([1982] Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Anthony Pagden, The Burdens of Empire: 1539 to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Andrés I. Prieto, Missionary Scientists: Jesuit Science in Spanish South America, 1570-1810 (Vanderbilt University Press, 2011).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The ability to accurately synthesise significant amounts of new information on unfamiliar topics.
The ability to evaluate historical sources in order to draw valid conclusions about the past.
The ability to participate in scholarly debates by identifying and assessing competing lines of argumentation in both oral and written forms.
The ability to produce a sustained and effective analysis of a difficult research problem.
The ability to test, modify and strengthen one's own views through collaboration and debate.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Richard Oosterhoff
Tel: (0131 6)50 9110
Course secretary
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