Alejandro Cañeque is a specialist in the history of colonial Latin America, early modern Spain, and the Spanish Empire. He has researched and taught in the UK, Mexico, Peru, Spain and the USA. His main area of research is the political and religious cultures of the early modern Spanish world, with an emphasis on colonial Spanish America and the Spanish Atlantic world. He is the author of The King’s Living Image: The Culture and Politics of Viceregal Power in Colonial Mexico (2004), a study of the transatlantic political culture that developed in New Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He has also published a number of articles and essays on the political culture of the Spanish Empire, including a historiographical essay on the political and institutional history of colonial Spanish America (History Compass) and studies on the role of images (CLAR) and emotions in the establishment of imperial authority in the New World. He has also collaborated in the bilingual edition of Juan de Palafox’s The Virtues of the Indian.
He is currently working on a book-length study of the historical significance of the propagation of stories and images of martyrdom around the Spanish Empire from the late-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries. While the historiography of colonial Spanish America has shown great interest in processes of spiritual conquest, conversion to Christianity, and extirpation of idolatries, it has almost completely overlooked the phenomenon of martyrdom (understood as the killing of numerous members of the religious orders in the course of their attempts to convert the indigenous populations of remote frontier regions). These killings were recounted in hundreds of publications that are still awaiting interpretation. A careful reading of the accounts of martyrdom may reveal significant aspects of the religious, social, cultural and political history of the Spanish empire. The book reconstructs the culture of martyrdom that pervaded the empire and argues that martyrdom was not a strictly religious phenomenon, suggesting that the stories and images of martyrdom were tools which, in the hands of the religious orders, served to consolidate and expand Spanish colonialism. In the last analysis, this project uses martyrdom as a window through which to interpret the intersection of religion and Spanish imperial power.
Professor Cañeque teaches courses on the history of the encounter between Europeans and natives in the New World, colonial Spanish America, early modern imperialism and colonialism, and the Atlantic world.