Early Modern Atlantic World: Slavery, Race, Governance

Brian Sandberg: Historical Perspectives

The Center for African American History at Northwestern University held a conference this weekend on “The Early Modern Atlantic World: Slavery, Race, Governance.”

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I was able to attend two sessions of the conference and heard some fascinating presentations by Kristin Huffine, Nancy van Deusen, Susan Deans-Smith, and other scholars. Kristin Huffine, who presented on Jesuit theories of cosmography and human origins, is one of my colleagues in the Department of History at Northern Illinois University.

Many of the papers at the conference dealt with the early modern Spanish empire, including European and Mediterranean contexts such as indios and moriscos in Iberia.

Almost all of the papers treated the concepts of race and racism in various ways. Susan Deans-Smith provided an excellent critical response in the first session on the debates over the concept of race, arguing that there are currently three main approaches to race in the early modern period…

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