Project website: https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/trajectories-of-reform/
This AHRC-funded project explores how early modern empires were built through the experiences, relationships and careers of individuals whose lives were spent in multiple sites of empire. It challenges our tendency to study ‘composite monarchies’ as sets of bilateral relations between a dominant centre and multiple peripheries, highlighting both the dialogic nature of these relations and the importance of periphery-periphery connections and interactions. Its main aim is to study how ideas, institutions and social structures often associated with the ‘centralising absolutism’ of the early-Bourbon monarchy in Spain were influenced by travel to and contact with different sites of empire across the Spanish world. By analysing the careers, networks and writings of royal officials involved in the design or implementation of reform in the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish Circum-Caribbean and the Andean highlands, the project will show that experiencing various sites of empire shaped their understanding of the constituent territories of the monarchy, their views of the empire as a whole, opinions of what needed to be reformed, and of how such reforms should be introduced. Simultaneously, by studying their careers and the familial and patron-client networks they built, the project will contribute to our understanding of how different parts of the Spanish world contributed to the formation and transformation of institutions and personnel associated with imperial reform, thus further problematising our understanding of the relationship between sites traditionally described as centres and peripheries.