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Crafting a Republic for the World : Scientific, Geographic, and Historiographic Inventions of Colombia
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In the wake of independence, Spanish American leaders perceived the colonial past as looming over their present. Crafting a Republic for the World examines how the vibrant postcolonial public sphere in Colombia invented narratives of the Spanish “colonial legacy.” Those supposed legacies included a lack of effective geographic knowledge, blockages to a circulatory political economy, existing patterns of land tenure, entrenched inequalities, and ignorance among popular sectors.
At times collaboratively, and at times combatively, Colombian leaders tackled these “colonial” legacies to forge a republic in a hostile world of monarchies and empires. The highly partisan, yet uniformly republican public sphere crafted a vision of a virtuous nation that, unlike the United States, had already abolished slavery and included Indians as citizens. By the mid-nineteenth century, as suffrage expanded to all males over twenty-one, Colombian elites nevertheless tinkered with territorial divisions and devised new constitutions to manage the alleged “colonial legacy” affecting the minds of popular voters. The book explores how the struggle to be at the vanguard of radical republican equality fomented innovative contributions to social sciences, including geography, cartography, political ethnography, constitutional science, history, and the calculation of equity through land reform. Paradoxically, these efforts created a kind of legal pluralism reminiscent of the Spanish monarchy during the “colonial” period.