[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]: Cooley on Flint and Flint, 'A Most Splendid Company: The Coronado Expedition in Global Perspective'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Fri Nov 8 11:52:36 MST 2019

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Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
> Date: November 7, 2019 at 11:47:45 AM EST
> To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]:  Cooley on Flint and  Flint, 'A Most Splendid Company: The Coronado Expedition in Global Perspective'
> Reply-To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Richard Flint, Shirley Cushing Flint.  A Most Splendid Company: The 
> Coronado Expedition in Global Perspective.  Albuquerque  University 
> of New Mexico Press, 2019.  Illustrations, maps, charts, tables. 464 
> pp.  $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8263-6022-9.
> Reviewed by Mackenzie Cooley (Hamilton College)
> Published on H-LatAm (November, 2019)
> Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz
> "People of ambition were attracted to a very ambitious plan" (p. 
> 321). So Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint characterize the 
> fateful story of the so-called Coronado expedition. When don Antonio 
> de Mendoza started gathering resources, people, animals, and 
> information for a three-phase approach to Asia, he captured the 
> imagination of the young men of New Spain, eager for glory and 
> riches. The expedition to this Tierra Nueva north of New Spain was 
> meant to realize the original goals of Christopher Columbus's project 
> by establishing a direct route to Asia. The resulting company marched 
> northward on the advice of native guides, with livestock, friars, and 
> various specialists in tow, relying on corn tortillas for sustenance 
> and disrupting the lives of indigenous Tierra Nuevans despite the 
> leadership's unsuccessful attempts to improve their treatment. With a 
> focus on a flurry of activity from 1539 to 1542, Flint and Flint 
> reveal a history of bold-faced hope followed by doubt, destruction, 
> and disintegration of the expedition, which located neither Asia nor 
> the seven cities rumored to tower over the North. The ambition that 
> had fueled the set of plans then started to crumble as the era of 
> exploration gave way to the sobering development of bureaucratic 
> colonialism in New Spain. 
> _A Most Splendid Company: The Coronado Expedition in Global 
> Perspective _is committed to demystifying the Coronado expedition. 
> Over eighty-nine chapters, the authors organize a colossal amount of 
> archival research into four chronological sections: "Essential 
> Background: Prior to 1530," "Before the Expedition: 1530-1539," 
> "During the Expedition: 1539-1542," and "After the Expedition: After 
> 1542." This study explores the many intersecting stories that came 
> together in this expedition. Flint and Flint seek to capture the 
> perspective of their historical actors by emphasizing their words, 
> worldview, and the contingent nature of their actions to pin down in 
> exacting detail the nature of the expedition and the logistics that 
> made it possible. 
> New archival research from Spain and Mexico, maps from the John 
> Carter Brown collection, and other primary source material underpin 
> this analysis. Flint and Flint triumphed over a considerable archival 
> challenge: not only was the Coronado expedition remembered "as a 
> colossal fiasco" in colonial New Spain but there is also no 
> comprehensive list of its participants (p. 329). Flint and Flint have 
> accumulated a wide array of data through which to understand 
> expeditionaries' ages, diverse occupations, reliance on local guides, 
> and preexisting social connections. Such careful data collection will 
> doubtless provide the empirical backbone for a new generation of 
> scholarship committed to the history of colonial Latin America and 
> centuries of migrations across what today are the US-Mexico 
> borderlands. The authors supplement their litany of archival 
> discoveries and informative charts with archaeological remnants of 
> the voyage, including slingshot stones used by indigenous allies, 
> Murano and Spanish beads, horseshoe caret-head nails, and crossbow 
> bolt heads. This rich integration of archaeological evidence 
> highlights the expedition's material constraints and forces the 
> reader to grapple with the logistics of the expeditionaries' 
> achievement. 
> Flint and Flint provide a comprehensive timeline of the events and a 
> succinct summary of hierarchies involved in executing and planning 
> the expedition. One of the central interventions of this study is a 
> revision of the expedition's leadership from viceroy to companies and 
> calpollis. Though the expedition was named for its young captain 
> general, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, the authors posit that, were 
> the expedition named for the driving force behind it, it would have 
> been called the Mendoza Expedition after its organizer and principal 
> investor, don Antonio de Mendoza. An alternate name would be the 
> Tierra Nueva expedition. The book's title sits somewhat awkwardly 
> with this revisionist position. 
> _A Most Splendid Company_ is filled with rich charts, appendices, and 
> lists built on years of research. The authors have organized and 
> quantified expeditionaries' previous fighting experience, 
> highlighting the many conflicts from the Italian Wars to Tunis to 
> Chontales that prepared the young men on this voyage. The appendices 
> are a strength of the volume, as they include a list of signatures 
> that not only reveal the paleographic difficulty of the research but 
> also bring the signatories to life through their unique hands. The 
> authors' coverage of animal involvement in this expedition--from the 
> similarities between bison and yak to the use of livestock on the 
> expedition--is already fueling new scholarship. Finally, in line with 
> a commitment to open-source historical data, Flint and Flint have 
> generously published the troves of research on which this book is 
> based at https://coronado.unm.edu/. This is a highly usable database 
> that would be excellent for both research and teaching US borderlands 
> and the sixteenth-century history of colonial Latin America and is a 
> true service to the field. 
> A few key figures emerge. Mendoza, his ambition curtailed by rising 
> doubt, is one of the most interesting. He had been writing to the 
> Spanish Crown since the mid-1530s to learn more about what lingered 
> beyond the boundaries of New Spain and had been preparing 
> reconnaissance and conquest missions to the North. However, by 1539 
> he seems to have questioned fray Marcos de Niza's wondrous reports 
> about Cíbola. Yet, if one thread of the expedition led to failure, 
> then another led to lasting results in the form of contact with Asia. 
> One of the greatest archival accomplishments of this volume appears 
> in chapter 70, "International Trade," where the authors discuss the 
> involvement of Guido de Lavezariis using documents found in the 
> Archivo General de Indias. Born to a family of Genoese booksellers 
> resident in Seville, Lavezariis worked as a bookseller and merchant 
> banker in Mexico City as the expedition was in the planning phases. 
> Through his keen interest in Mendoza's attempts to reach Asia, 
> Lavezariis invested more than twenty thousand pesos in the Tierra 
> Nueva expedition. Upon its failure, he became invested in the 
> Villalobos expedition across the Pacific to the Islas de Poniente, 
> which departed immediately after the return of the Tierra Nueva 
> expedition in 1542. While half of his company died in the voyage, 
> Lavezariis survived with a book of navigation in hand. He cultivated 
> connections to Asia with a ginger plantation outside of Mexico City 
> and eventually became governor of the Philippines. 
> While the underlying research is impressive, the volume is marred by 
> editorial weaknesses and might have benefited from improved graphics. 
> Similarly, the book suffers from some unresolved tensions between its 
> lengthy presentation of background information and its cutting-edge 
> research. The authors attempt to deliver both facets of their title 
> by providing a global perspective and detailing the "splendid 
> company" who constituted the Coronado expedition. It succeeds in the 
> latter but struggles with the former, the case of Lavezariis 
> notwithstanding. That said, the sheer breadth and depth of the 
> research collected in this volume makes it a must-have for any 
> scholar of colonial Latin America, the US borderlands, and 
> exploration history. 
> Citation: Mackenzie Cooley. Review of Flint, Richard; Flint, Shirley 
> Cushing, _A Most Splendid Company: The Coronado Expedition in Global 
> Perspective_. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. November, 2019.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54184
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 
> License.

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