History's Peru: The Poetics of Colonial and Postcolonial Historiography

History's Peru: The Poetics of Colonial and Postcolonial Historiography

History's Peru: The Poetics of Colonial and Postcolonial Historiography

History's Peru: The Poetics of Colonial and Postcolonial Historiography


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This book is a history of history. As such, it is a book about a world made by and in the words of history. The name of this world is Peru. And the history of that name is Peruvian.

The history of the Peruvian history of Peru is of unusual interest for the simple reason that “Peru” is one of the first colonial subjects of the modern historical imagination. “Born in an abyss of history” at “the edge of the world” in the early 1500s, Peru’s colonial genesis as a historical subject dovetailed with the earth-shifting daybreak of the global or “modern” age. This age and Peru’s genesis saw the revival of the classical “arts of history” both in Europe and beyond, and as a result Peru was soon fashioned as a marvelous subject of those high arts. Centuries later, Peru’s enlightened rebirth as a postcolonial historical subject corresponded with the fiery dawn of the Age of Revolutions and with the rise of historicism in Europe and elsewhere. In words and things postcolonial, Peru was also a pioneer. In sum, the history of Peruvian historiography registers an intellectual history of the colonial and postcolonial world that runs, at an illuminating critical distance, zigzag to the better-known early modern, modern, and contemporary history of European historical thought. My contention in this book is that this colonial and postcolonial zigzag offers new critical insights into the history of history at large. If world history is something more than a European invention, then Peru is a good place to look for that “something more.”

The chapters that follow consist of a series of critical meditations on the key turning points, authors or writing subjects, and texts that have shaped the long course of the history of Peruvian historical writing. I begin with the beginning, that is, with the early colonial poetic invention of “Peru” as a historical subject, which I argue was largely the work of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, and I end with the end, that is, with the twentieth-century philosophical historicism of Jorge Basadre, who pushed the concept of a “Peruvian history of Peru” to its aporetic finale. In between I retrace the colonial history of a Peruvian “Book of Kings” or dynastic tradition in its Renaissance, Baroque, and . . .

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