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On the Frontiers of Peace. Cross-cultural Peacebuilding on the Global Frontiers of the Iberian Empires (1500-1580)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FRONTIERPEACE (On the Frontiers of Peace. Cross-cultural Peacebuilding on the Global Frontiers of the Iberian Empires (1500-1580))

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

The main research objective of this project was to provide an explanation on how peace was built on the global frontiers of the Iberian empires during the early modern period. More specifically, this project analysed how the frontier societies resulting from the Iberian overseas expansion gave room to the development of tools and practices to restraint the violence that characterised the first interactions with the societies they came into contact. If the project focus more on peaceful interactions rather than on cross-cultural violence it is not because it aims to hide the violent nature of the Iberian expansion, but because its main aim is to better understand this process by shedding light on how, when, and why Europeans and non-Europeans worked hand in hand to restraint the violence that characterised their previous interactions. The project’s main objective was divided into three subobjectives. The first was to identify the significant actors who established and sustained the violence restraint on the ground. The second sub-objective was to assess the impact of cross-cultural exchanges of goods and objects in the process of violence escalation and de-escalation. The third sub-objective was to analyse how the shaping of new frontier societies provided a favourable ground for overcoming unrestrained violence. This last sub-objective was twofold. First, it analysed the creation of a social fabric that included intermediary agents able to carry out the daily negotiations preventing violence escalations. Second, it reconstructed the shaping of tools and practices that allowed for conflict resolution through non-violent means. This project shows the need to look at the Iberian expansion paying attention to how cross-cultural interactions generated new forms of violence, but also new forms to restraint it. As such, it contributes to historically rethink current societal challenges such as the construction of non-violent coexistence between different cultural and religious groups as well as the fight against violent radicalisation.
During the first half of the project I conducted a broad archival research in a wide array of archives and libraries mainly but not only from Spain and Portugal. Most of this data collection has been conducted in the Archivo General de Indias (Seville), sections: Filipinas, Contaduría, Patronato Real, etc; Archivo General de Simancas (Valladolid) Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Lisbon), sections: Conselho Ultramarino, Índia, Norte de Africa; Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (Lisbon), sections: corpo cronologico, nucleo antigo, miscelâneas manuscritas do convento da Graça, etc.; Biblioteca da Ajuda (Lisbon). This intensive archival research allowed me to identify a series of frontier contexts particularly suited for the study of cross-cultural violence and its restraint. In the second phase of the project, the source materials previously gathered were subjected to an in-depth inquiry on the main factors sustaining violence restraint as well as those hindering the construction of a peaceful interaction after periods of unrestrained violence. I proceeded through an analysis of different processes of violence escalation and de-escalation that took place on the global frontiers of the Iberian empires. Special mention deserves the case study of Maluku. Placed at the crossroads of the frontiers of the Portuguese and Spanish settlements in maritime Southeast Asia, early modern Maluku offers a perfect ground from which to understand processes of violence restraint, either successful or failed. From this case study, comparisons were conducted to different peacebuilding and violent escalation processes from other frontier areas.

Throughout the 24 months of the action the project’s findings have been disseminated through academic presentations at a wide array of workshops, seminars and international conferences. Hence, seven academic presentations were delivered in Toronto, Madrid, Valencia, Lisbon, Naples, and Seville. I have organised an international workshop and an international conference in the host institution. In addition, the project’s results have been disseminated through a robust publication strategy that includes one journal article and four book chapters. Another two journal articles are under preparation.

In line with our firm commitment to communicate the results of our research to the general public, four public talks were given in different outreach events such as the local science week or the European Researchers’ Night, and four short articles for the general public were published in online newspapers and educational websites.
The project has contributed to push beyond the state of the art on the Iberian expansion and cross-cultural interaction during the early modern period going beyond traditional narratives that depict the construction of the Iberian frontier settlements as a process of unrestrained violence fuelled by cultural differences and religious radicalisms. Far from denying the violent character of this historical process, this research project has sharpened our understanding of this violence by reconstructing the different alternatives to restraint violence explored by a wide array of actors. The research conducted has allowed to trace the presence of shared practices to de-escalate violence even in the heart of the most violent conflicts on the global frontiers of the Iberian Empires. Furthermore, it has helped to better understand why frequently the attempts to restraint violence proved too fragile to prosper. Factors such as the multiplicity of opposed interest at stake, geopolitical changes or economic interferences had a negative impact upon them and restricted the agency of local societies to build peace from below. All this has opened up new opportunities to continue conducting further research in order to foster the debate on the inner workings of cross-cultural violence and its restraint in the early modern world. More generally, this project has offered materials to historically rethink present societal challenges like the making of more cohesive societies by fostering the non-violent coexistence of different peoples and the struggle against violent radicalisation. In so doing, it helps to emphasize the role of historical research in fostering current debates about the complex and changing world we live in.