CORDIS - EU research results

'Re-presenting the 'Black Legend': conflict, coalition and the press in early modern Europe'

Final Report Summary - COCONPRESS ('Re-presenting the 'Black Legend': conflict, coalition and the press in early modern Europe')

Throughout Phases 1 and 2, ‘Re-presenting the “Black Legend”: conflict, coalition and the press in early modern Europe’ (CONCOPRESS) sought to explore the relationship between three emerging superpowers of the early modern period: England, Portugal and Spain. In particular, it examined how the relationship between England and Portugal was inextricably linked to not only their mutual aspirations as maritime empires but also to their complex relationships with Spain. The project has examined how these aspirations and fears manifested in the printed literature of the period. Dissemination of ideas via the printing press was a new and emerging technology during this period – the internet of its age – and it could be used to inspire your allies and attack your enemies. The project has revealed the various ways in which England and Portugal identified their relationships with each other and with Spain in print. It has revealed key fault lines in their diplomacy, how the rise of a Black Legend of seismic proportions exploded into the bookshops of Europe, and how its aftershocks were felt for centuries, through to the present day.

Throughout Phase1, a series of surviving printed and manuscript materials were researched in order to map the course of this propaganda campaign in England and Portugal – and to assess how Spain responded. Phase 2 revealed some important and unexpected central themes running throughout responses to the ‘Black Legend’ and Spain’s shared histories with England and Portugal. At an elite level, commonalities were depicted in literature far more than first expected – particularly through discussion of their shared chivalric past. In theological disputation, the disparagement of Spain remained rife, and at non-elite level, the Legend perpetuated vociferously. What became apparent in this tripartite analysis was the array of media used to reinforce commonalities and disagreement; visual display (including tournaments, art and theatre), for example, were explored in detail, through a wide range of printed accounts attesting to their relevance and influence in England, Portugal and Spain.

The Objectives of CONCOPRESS have been:

1. To create an account of the printed interactions of English and Portuguese authors, the associated printing industries, and their combined contributions to the conflict and consensus within early modern Europe.
2. To reassess the concept of print culture, as well as how propaganda, non-elite texts and printers need to be figured more fully into models of its creation and operation.
3. To develop research networks in the field of Anglo-Portuguese history, and to foster intellectual exchange between the USA and Europe, by organising events and attending key conferences.
4. To develop research networks in the field of early modern European printing, and foster intellectual exchange between the USA and Europe, by organising events and attending key conferences.
5. To disseminate the research results through sharing the initial printed sources and printer databases online, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and a monograph with a major academic publisher.
6. To transfer synthesised knowledge acquired in the EU through undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, through public outreach work (an exhibition), and through an international conference.

Given the wealth of material uncovered on relations between England, Portugal and Spain (far beyond expectations – particularly for Spain), the output will be somewhat different in its delivery, since the envisaged single-author monograph will now split into two monographs, in order to accommodate the additional material. One key strain that developed throughout the research phase was the wealth of evidence for the manipulation of English perceptions of Portugal – its oldest ally – via the public and private theatres in England, which was then reinforced via printed editions of the plays. Having discussed in a meeting with the Mentor and UK Host Institution Head of Department in 2015 (after the PI’s return from sick leave) how best to incorporate a series of case studies uncovered into the written output, these additional findings will now form an additional monograph detailing how dramatic portrayals infiltrated print culture. The material on the book trades, contexts, and locations is now includes the Spanish trade as well, and will therefore now form a larger-than-envisioned tri-lingual analysis of printed literary perceptions of Anglo-Iberian relations.

Thus, the publication output for the project will be larger than predicted, with the production of two monographs in the field, rather than one, as well as the production of a bilingual (English and Portuguese) critical edition of an important – and hitherto much understudied – Portuguese play about treason and ethnicity in Europe. The main output, The Iberian Book: Print and Literature in Portugal, Spain and their Empires, c. 1480-1750. A comparative analysis with the English Trade is under consideration by Palgrave Macmillan and expected to appear in 2017.