Professor Rebecca Earle
Today's Potato Quote:
‘The introduction of improvements tending to increase the comforts and innocent enjoyments of that numerous and useful class of mankind who earn their bread by the sweat of their brown, is an object not more interesting to a benevolent mind than it is important in the eyes of an enlightened statesman. There are, without doubt, great men who will smile at seeing these observations connected with a subject so humble and obscure as the boiling of potatoes, but good men will feel that the subject is not unworthy of their attention.’
Benjamin Thompson, Essays, Political, Economical and Philosophical, 3 vols. (London, 1797-1803), vol. 1, p. 277.
Room 327 Humanities Building, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL
Telephone: 024 765 23466 (outside UK: 44 24 765 23466)
Ph.D 1994 University of Warwick, Department of History
M.A. 1990 University of Warwick, Department of History
M.Sc. 1987 University of Warwick, Mathematics Institute
B.A. 1986 Bryn Mawr College (major in Mathematics, minors in German and History of Art)
I am a cultural historian of Spanish America and early modern Europe. I am interested in how ordinary, every-day cultural practices such as eating or dressing, or using stamps, or reading poems, shapes how we think about the world. Although my early work was rooted in a very specific part of the world--southern Colombia--these days I tend to study the movement of ideas and practices across larger geographies. I use an eclectic range of sources, from
My first book, Spain and the Independence of Colombia, tried to explain the collapse of Spanish colonialism in early nineteenth-century Colombia (or New Granada, as it was known at the time). Subsequent work took on larger time-spans and broader geographies. My second monograph, The Return of the Native, offered a hemispheric interpretation of elite nationalism in post-colonial Spanish America, based on both written texts and also visual and material culture. More recently my work has examined the early colonial era, again from a broadly hemispheric perspective. The Body of the Conquistador explores the centrality of food, and eating, to the construction of colonial space across the Spanish Indies.
My current projects grow out of my interest in the cultural significance of food and eating, and explore the impact of new world foods on early modern European mentalities and political culture. Together with my colleague Claudia Stein, we have begun an exploration of the reception of new world foods in early modern Europe. Food, we argue, was central to the exercise of the new biopolitical tactics of governance used by early modern states, because these tactics targeted the human body. We thus locate early modern European debates about new world foods such as the potato in the context of these biological strategies and their oscillation between the body of the individual and the body of the population. This project thus links transformations in individual eating habits to state efforts to ensure territorial security and economic strength. For more information, see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/emforum/collaborate/primary/potato
I am also exploring the distinctive Spanish American pictorial genre known as casta painting. An example appears below:
José de Paez, De Español, y Negra, Produce Mulato
Conference and Workshop Organisation
‘Race and Nature in the Hispanic World’ Palazzo Pesaro Papafavo, Venice, 16 March 2013
'Seeing the Nation: Cartography and Politics in Spanish America', Universidad de los Andes, 25-27 August 2010 (with Mauricio Nieto and Santiago Muñoz)
'Mexico at Warwick Day', University of Warwick, 25 November 2009 (with John King)
'Moctezuma's Feast', British Museum, 21 November 2009
'Seeing the Nation: Costumbrismo in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America', University of Essex, 18 September 2009
'Writing the Republic: Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America', University of Warwick, 7-8 November 2008 Programme
The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492-1700, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2012), 265pp. (Winner of the Conference on Latin America History 2013 Bolton-Johnson Prize)
The Return of the Native: Indians and Mythmaking in Spanish America, 1810-1930, Duke University Press (Durham, 2008), 367pp. (Winner of the Conference on Latin American History's 2008 Bolton-Johnson Prize Honorable Mention)
Spain and the Independence of Colombia , University of Exeter Press (Exeter, 2000), 254pp.
Edited Collections and Special Editions
Edited Dossier: ‘European Cuisine and the Columbian Exchange’, Food and History, vol. 7:1 (2010), pp. 1-102.
Rumours of War: Civil Conflict in Nineteenth Century Latin America , University of London/Institute of Latin American Studies (London, 2000), 195pp.
Epistolary Selves: Letters and Letter-Writers, 1600-1945 , Ashgate Press (Aldershot, 1999), 231pp.
‘European Cuisine and the Columbian Exchange: Introduction’, Food and History, vol. 7:1 (2010), pp. 3-10.
‘‘If You Eat Their Food . . .’: Diets and Bodies in Early Colonial Spanish America’, American Historical Review, vol. 115:3 (2010), pp. 688-713. (Winner of the Agricultural History Society's Wayne D. Rasmussen Award)
‘Algunos Pensamientos sobre “el indio borracho” en el imaginario criollo’, Revista de Estudios Sociales (Colombia), vol. 29 (2008), pp. 18-27.
'Sobre Héroes y Tumbas: National Symbols in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America', Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 85:3 (2005), pp. 375-416.
‘Padres de la Patria and the Ancestral Past: Celebrations of Independence in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America’, Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 34:4 (2002), pp. 775-805.
‘‘Two Pairs of Pink Satin Shoes!!’: Clothing, Race and Identity in the Americas, 17th-19th Centuries’, History Workshop Journal, issue 52 (2001), pp. 175-95.
‘Creole Patriotism and the Myth of the Loyal Indian’, Past & Present, vol. 172 (2001), pp. 125-45.
‘Information and Disinformation in Late Colonial New Granada’, The Americas, vol. 54:2 (1997), pp. 167-84.
‘A Grave for Europeans?’: Disease, Death, and the Spanish-American Revolutions’, War in History, vol. 3:2 (1996), pp. 371-83.
‘Indian Rebellion and Bourbon Reform in New Granada: Riots in Pasto, 1780-1800’, Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 73:1 (1993), pp. 99-124.
‘La iconografía de la independencia en Cartagena y la Nueva Granada’, Cartagena de Indias en la Independencia, eds. Haroldo Calvo Stevenson and Adolfo Meisel Roca, Banco de la República (Cartagena, 2011), pp. 561-598.
‘The French Revolution in the Spanish American Imagination, 1789-1830’, War, Empire and Slavery, 1770-1830, eds. Richard Bessel, Nick Guyatt and Jane Rendall, Palgrave (London, 2010), pp. 179-200.
‘Clothing and Ethnicity in Colonial Spanish America’, The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives, eds. Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeill, Routledge (London, 2010), pp. 383-5.
‘Nationalism and National Costume in Spanish America’, The Politics of Dress in Asia and the Americas, eds. Mina Roces and Louise Edwards, Sussex Academic Press (Eastbourne, 2007), pp. 163-181.
‘Consumption and Excess in Colonial and Early-Independent Spanish America’, Imported Modernity in Post-Colonial State-Formation: The Appropriation of Political, Educational and Cultural Models in Nineteenth-Century Latin America , eds. Marcelo Caruso and Eugenia Roldán Vera, Peter Lang (Frankfurt am Main, 2007), pp. 341-61.
'Monumentos y museos: La nacionalización del pasado precolombino en la Hispanoamerica decimonónica', Galerias del progreso: museos, exposiciones y cultura visual en America Latina , eds. Beatriz Gonzalez Stephan and Jens Andermann, Beatriz Viterbo Editora : Colección Estudios Culturales (Buenos Aires, 2006), pp. 27-56.
‘Luxury, Clothing and Race in Colonial Spanish America’, Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods , eds. Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger, Palgrave (London, 2003), pp. 219-27.
‘The Role of Print in the Spanish-American Wars of Independence’, The Political Power of the Word , ed. Ivan Jaksic, University of London/Institute of Latin American Studies (London, 2002), pp. 9-33.
‘Rape and the Anxious Republic. Revolutionary Colombia, 1810-1830’, Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America , eds. Maxine Molyneux and Elizabeth Dore, Duke University Press (Durham, 2000), pp. 127-46.
Recent and Current Research Topics Supervised
I am happy to supervise postgraduate research on topics concerned with the cultural history of colonial and 19th-century Spanish America. I have also supervised projects related to the history of masculinities, femininities and race in the USA. Here are some of the topics and students I have supervised, co-supervised and advised:
Desiree Arbo, 'The Reception of Rome in 19th century Paraguay and its Role in the Formation of Paraguayan Nationalism' (co-supervised with Andrew Laird, Classics)
Marcos Estrada 'The Brasiguaio Identity: Conceptualising Transnational Identity Constructions in the Brazil and Paraguay Shared Border' (co-supervised with Anton Popov, Sociology)
María Estrada Fuentes, 'Stages of Conflict: Performance in Social-reintegration of Former Child Soldiers in Colombia' (co-supervised with Silvija Jestrovic, Theatre Studies)
Rebecca Noble (co-supervised with Hilary Marland, History)
Anastasia Styliano (co-supervised with Peter Marshall, History)
Andrea Cadelo, 'Luxury, Sensibility, Climate and Taste in the Eighteenth-Century Worldwide Racialisation of Difference' (sole supervision)
Helen Cowie, 'Naturalistas sin Fronteras': Conquering Nature in the Spanish Empire (1750-1850)' ( (co-supervised with Anthony McFarlane, History)
Rebecca Griffin, 'Marriage and Courtship in Slave Culture in Antebellum North Carolina' (co-supervised with Cecilia Jones, Sociology)
Sergio Lussana, 'Band of Brothers: Enslaved Men of the Antebellum South' (co-supervised with Tim Lockley, History)
Deborah Toner, 'Alcohol, Literature and National Identity in Nineteenth-Century Mexico' (sole supervision)
Cecilia Tossounian, 'The Body Beautiful and the Beauty of Nation: Representing Gender and Modernity (Buenos Aires 1918-1940)' (co-supervised wtih the European University Institute, Florence)
Sergio Lussana, 'Band of Brothers: Enslaved African-American Masculinity in the Antebellum United States'
Kim Patrick, 'Why a Million Men Marched: An Analysis of Politics, Identity and the Million Man March'
Emma Rhodes-Brown, '"Know First Who You Are, Then Deck Yourself Out Accordingly": Dress and Adornment As a Form of Expression under Slavery in the American South'
Lewis Smith, 'Eating Indigène: Food, Hunger and (Post)-Colonial Governance in France and North Africa 1830-2011'
Hannah Stephenson, 'Symbolising Slavery: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth and the Female Slave Experience'
Deborah Toner, 'Maize, Alcohol and Cultural Identity in Colonial Mexico'
Christopher Zacharia, 'Drool Britannia: Cookbooks, the Imagined Community and Identity in Contemporary Britain'
For information about the Warwick-Essex-Los Andes Leverhulme Trust Academic Collaboration International Research Network visit