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Social Poetry

Anthony Pagden, 15 October 1987

Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times 
by Krishan Kumar.
Blackwell, 506 pp., £24.50, January 1987, 0 631 14873 6
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Lectures on Ideology and Utopia 
by Paul Ricoeur, edited by George Taylor.
Columbia, 353 pp., £21.90, December 1986, 0 231 06048 3
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Visions of Harmony: A Study in 19th-Century Millenarianism 
by Anne Taylor.
Oxford, 285 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 19 211793 9
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... Prophetically, the Island of Utopia is set in or near the Americas – More, characteristically, forgot to ask exactly where. And it was in the Americas that the most extensive, long-lived, and most fantastical, utopian experiments were conducted. The New World’s open spaces provided a constant challenge to the quirkier side of the European social and moral imagination until the end of the 19th century ...

Great Expectations of Themselves

Anthony Pagden: Was there a Spanish Empire?, 17 April 2003

Spain’s Road to Empire: The Making of a World 1492-1763 
by Henry Kamen.
Allen Lane, 609 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7139 9365 0
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... At its height, roughly between 1556 and 1640, the Empire of the kings of Spain stretched from the Philippines to the shores of the North Sea. The 19th-century Russian Empire covered more territory and the British had a larger population, but no other European empire was spread so widely or embraced so many different peoples. This behemoth has conventionally been called the Spanish Empire ...


Anthony Pagden, 13 June 1991

The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. VII: 1930 to the Present 
edited by Leslie Bethell.
Cambridge, 775 pp., £70, October 1990, 0 521 24518 4
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Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America 
by John King.
Verso, 266 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 86091 295 7
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Democracy and Development in Latin America: Economics, Politics and Religion in the Post-war Period 
by David Lehmann.
Polity, 235 pp., £29.50, April 1990, 0 7456 0776 4
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... Mexico, Mexicans sometimes say, is too far from God and too close to the United States of America. The same could be said of the whole of Latin America. Ever since the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, a piece of political effrontery which sought to deny a role in the affairs of the hemisphere to any extra-continental power, most North American administrations have looked on the entire Southern continent as their ‘backyard ...

Oak in a Flowerpot

Anthony Pagden: When Britons were slaves, 14 November 2002

Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 
by Linda Colley.
Cape, 438 pp., £20, September 2002, 0 224 05925 4
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... Tangier, 1684. A motley group of soldiers scrambles over the ruins of a town, burying beneath the rubble newly minted coins that bear the image of Charles II. This least remembered of the outposts of the fledgling British Empire is nearing its end. For more than a decade it had been a thriving commercial port, in which Charles, who had acquired it in 1661 when he married Catherine of Braganza, his Portuguese wife, had invested heavily – a considerably larger sum, as its last governor remarked, than he had spent on all his other overseas possessions put together ...

C is for Colonies

Anthony Pagden: A New History of Empire, 11 May 2006

Edge of Empire: Conquest and Collecting in the East 1750-1850 
by Maya Jasanoff.
Fourth Estate, 405 pp., £25, August 2005, 0 00 718009 8
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... A new history of empire, no longer either triumphalist or cast in the shades of black and white favoured by the post-colonialists, is beginning to be written. It assumes that the metropolis and the colonies were not self-contained realms (as the older ‘imperial history’ often assumed); it recognises that empires were made and ruled by individuals with often very different, even conflicting aspirations ...

Best at Imitation

Anthony Pagden: Spain v. England, 2 November 2006

Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 546 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 300 11431 1
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... At the beginning of the 17th century, the combined Spanish and Portuguese Empires – from 1580 until 1640 they were under one ruler and known collectively as the ‘Catholic monarchy’ – included, beyond the Iberian peninsula, Italy, the Netherlands, parts of southern France, the whole of America from California to Tierra del Fuego, the shores of West Africa, the Philippines, and regions of India and Japan ...

It’s as if he’d never existed

Anthony Pagden, 18 July 1985

The Transformation of Spain: From Franco to the Constitutional Monarchy 
by David Gilmour.
Quartet, 306 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 9780704324619
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... As Franco lay dying in the winter of 1975 wild conjectures circulated in Madrid as to what would happen when the old dictator who had already been twice rescued from what had looked like certain death, but who could not hope to escape a third time, finally departed. As in most societies where all but the most anodyne political debate has been rigorously forbidden and the only available political vocabularies have been emptied of any possible meaning, these conjectures often took the form of jokes ...

To kill a cat

Anthony Pagden, 21 February 1985

Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part One: I Grandi Staii dell’Occidente 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 463 pp., lire 45,000, July 1984, 88 06 05695 6
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Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part Two: II Patriotismo Repubblicano e gli Imperi dell’Est 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 1040 pp., lire 55,000, July 1984, 88 06 05696 4
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The Great Cat Massacre, and Other Episodes in French Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Viking, 284 pp., £14.95, July 1984, 0 7139 1728 8
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Rousseau, Dreamer of Democracy 
by James Miller.
Yale, 272 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 300 03044 4
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... It is the fortune, or perhaps the misfortune, of the Enlightenment that its historians frequently write very long books. Franco Venturi’s Settecento Riformatore, which must surely be one of the longest, has now reached its fifth and final volume. As an enterprise it can have few parallels even among dixhuitièmistes. It offers no less than the description of an entire culture seen from a single geographical viewpoint ...

Being a benandante

Anthony Pagden, 2 February 1984

The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi.
Routledge, 209 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 7100 9507 4
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... In the mountainous district of Friuli in Northern Italy there were good witches and bad, ‘good walkers’ (benandanti) and evil ones. On certain nights of the year during the Ember Days, in the valley of Josaphat, the two met and did battle for the crops. The benandanti came armed with stalks of fennell, the witches and warlocks with sorghum and sometimes the wooden palettes used for cleaning ovens ...

Calvi Calvino

Anthony Pagden, 19 July 1984

In God’s Name 
by David Yallop.
Cape, 334 pp., £9.95, June 1984, 0 244 02089 2
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... He died, one Jesuit said, ‘like a flower in the field that closes at night’. Some time in the evening of 28 September 1978 Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, abandoned his tenure of the throne of St Peter. He had been Pope for only 33 days. The news was entirely unexpected. Unlike his predecessor, John Paul had shown no signs of ill-health during his brief reign, and very soon it began to be rumoured that he had been poisoned ...

America first

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 7 January 1993

European Encounters with the New World: From Renaissance to Romanticism 
by Anthony Pagden.
Yale, 212 pp., £18.95, January 1993, 0 300 05285 5
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New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery 
by Anthony Grafton, April Shelford and Nancy Siraisi.
Harvard, 282 pp., £23.95, October 1992, 0 674 61875 0
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The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus 
by Valerie Flint.
Princeton, 233 pp., £16, August 1992, 0 691 05681 1
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Land without Evil: Utopian Journeys across the South American Watershed 
by Richard Gott.
Verso, 299 pp., £18.95, January 1993, 0 86091 398 8
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... is like Hamlet: someone is always seeing it for the first time, but rarely with fresh perceptions. Anthony Pagden’s European Encounters with the New World recounts episodes in a long history in which ‘the newness of America was recognised, confronted and explained’. Anthony Grafton’s New Worlds, Ancient Texts is ...

Double Doctrine

Colin Kidd: The Enlightenment, 5 December 2013

The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters 
by Anthony Pagden.
Oxford, 436 pp., £20, May 2013, 978 0 19 966093 3
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... If anything, the expression ‘Age of Reason’ was even less satisfactory. As Anthony Pagden convincingly demonstrates in The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters, the fixation with the rationality of the Enlightenment misrepresents trends in 18th-century moral philosophy. This was an era when reason was dethroned as the monarch of ...

The Moral Life of Barbarians

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 18 August 1983

The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology 
by Anthony Pagden.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £24, September 1982, 0 521 22202 8
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... such juntas and advise the Crown, into an argument that lasted for more than sixty years. And as Anthony Pagden explains, this argument can also be read as the start of what one can retrospectively recognise as anthropological thinking in Europe. Indeed, Pagden’s subtle account of it is a model for the history of ...

Clashes and Collaborations

Linda Colley, 18 July 1996

Empire: The British Imperial Experience, from 1765 to the Present 
by Denis Judd.
HarperCollins, 517 pp., £25, March 1996, 9780002552370
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Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire 
edited by P.J. Marshall.
Cambridge, 400 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 0 521 43211 1
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Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France, c.1500-c.1800 
by Anthony Pagden.
Yale, 244 pp., £19.95, August 1995, 0 300 06415 2
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... devote attention to the ideas behind empire. As scholars such as David Armitage, Peter Miller, Anthony Pagden, J.G.A. Pocock and Richard Tuck have reminded us repeatedly in recent years, the absence of mind which was sometimes in the past attributed to imperialism was, rather, a characteristic of some of its historians. ...


Benedict Anderson, 21 January 1988

Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800 
edited by Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden.
Princeton, 290 pp., £22, September 1987, 0 691 05372 3
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... creoles, ‘colonials’ as opposed to the ‘colonised’, who form the subjects of Canny and Pagden’s intelligent new book, Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800. In its compact pages we watch the crioulo Portuguese in Brazil, the criollo Spanish in ‘Latin America’, the créole French in Quebec, and the creole ‘English’ in ...

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