Fernandez de Oviedo's Chronicle of America: A New History for a New World

Fernandez de Oviedo's Chronicle of America: A New History for a New World

Fernandez de Oviedo's Chronicle of America: A New History for a New World

Fernandez de Oviedo's Chronicle of America: A New History for a New World

Synopsis

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478-1557) wrote the first comprehensive history of Spanish America, the Historia general y natural de las Indias , a sprawling, constantly revised work in which Oviedo attempted nothing less than a complete account of the Spanish discovery, conquest, and colonization of the Americas from 1492 to 1547, along with descriptions of the land's flora, fauna, and indigenous peoples. His Historia , which grew to an astounding fifty volumes, includes numerous interviews with the Spanish and indigenous leaders who were literally making history, the first extensive field drawings of America rendered by a European, reports of exotic creatures, ethnographic descriptions of indigenous groups, and detailed reports about the conquest and colonization process. Fernández de Oviedo's Chronicle of America explores how, in writing his Historia , Oviedo created a new historiographical model that reflected the vastness of the Americas and Spain's enterprise there. Kathleen Myers uses a series of case studies- focusing on Oviedo's self-portraits, drawings of American phenomena, approaches to myth, process of revision, and depictions of Native Americans- to analyze Oviedo's narrative and rhetorical strategies and show how they relate to the politics, history, and discursive practices of his time. Accompanying the case studies are all of Oviedo's extant field drawings and a wide selection of his text in English translation. The first study to examine the entire Historia and its evolving rhetorical and historical context, this book confirms Oviedo's assertion that "the New World required a different kind of history" as it helps modern readers understand how the discovery of the Americas became a catalyst for European historiographical change.

Excerpt

In 1493 a fourteen-year-old boy serving as a page for the Spanish prince Don Juan stood in awe as Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella. Columbus unveiled to the royal court in Barcelona his findings from his first voyage, displaying colorful parrots, enticing bits of gold, and native people. Nearly forty years later this boy, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, would write about this first presence of the New World on European land in his General and Natural History of the Indies (1535, 1850s). Appointed official royal chronicler of the Indies by the king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (the Catholic Kings’ grandson), a post he held from 1532 until his death in 1557, Oviedo lived in the midst of radical changes in western Europe: the Age of Exploration and the birth of the Hapsburg Empire as well as the new intellectual and religious trends born out of the Renaissance and the Reformation. Writing from the island of Hispaniola, the crossroads for the Spanish enterprise in the New World during the sixteenth century, Oviedo composed the most comprehensive history of the discovery, conquest, and colonization of the Americas from 1492 to 1547. Both a chronicle of the Spanish domination of America and a description of its flora, fauna, and indigenous peoples, the two-thousand-page general and natural history is the most authoritative text on the Americas from the first half of the sixteenth century. Granted a royal decree, Oviedo had access to all the official reports about America. in addition, he knew or interviewed many of the major figures of the period. in Europe, Oviedo worked with three generations of Spanish monarchs (the Catholic Kings, Charles V, and Philip II) and an array of prominent political and religious men. in America, Oviedo knew Columbus and his sons, Juan Ponce de León, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Francisco, Gonzalo, Juan, and Hernando Pizarro, Diego de Almagro, Hernando de Soto, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, and many others. He also met a number . . .

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