An Aqueous Territory

Sailor Geographies and New Granada’s Transimperial Greater Caribbean World

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 27 illustrations Published: January 2017

Author: Ernesto Bassi

Caribbean Studies, History > World History, Latin American Studies

In An Aqueous Territory Ernesto Bassi traces the configuration of a geographic space he calls the transimperial Greater Caribbean between 1760 and 1860. Focusing on the Caribbean coast of New Granada (present-day Colombia), Bassi shows that the region's residents did not live their lives bounded by geopolitical borders. Rather, the cross-border activities of sailors, traders, revolutionaries, indigenous peoples, and others reflected their perceptions of the Caribbean as a transimperial space where trade, information, and people circulated, both conforming to and in defiance of imperial regulations. Bassi demonstrates that the islands, continental coasts, and open waters of the transimperial Greater Caribbean constituted a space that was simultaneously Spanish, British, French, Dutch, Danish, Anglo-American, African, and indigenous. Exploring the "lived geographies" of the region's dwellers, Bassi challenges preconceived notions of the existence of discrete imperial spheres and the inevitable emergence of independent nation-states while providing insights into how people envision their own futures and make sense of their place in the world.


"Bassi’s transimperial greater Caribbean allows for new and valuable perspectives that specialists and advanced graduate students should read. Highly recommended." — J. Rankin, Choice

"An Aqueous Territory provides a valuable addition to Atlantic as well as Caribbean historiography, managing to address a wide variety of themes and topics in a fairly slender volume. The methodologies that Bassi employs and the painstaking detail with which he recreates sailor geographies will be of interest to readers seeking to learn more about transimperial networks, maritime spaces, and the ways in which mariners conceived of geographic space." — James Hill, Junto

"An interesting tour d’horizon of the conceptual and material worlds of the inhabitants of Spanish colonial New Granada and its independent successor states. . . . An Aqueous Territory is a sophisticated tour of a world whose inhabitants might have taken a different historical trajectory, who might have forged different polities. Although the author stops short of offering an alternative history, readers are left in little doubt that the material presented in this interesting book would provide an excellent basis for one." — John Hickman, Journal of Global South Studies

"By highlighting alternative geographies, Bassi upends traditional nation-state historiography. . . . The book is a welcome addition to historical monographs examining the greater Caribbean basin." — Karl Offen, Journal of Latin American Geography

“A book based upon excellent use of multiple, and often ignored, archival holdings that provokes one to think deeply about the categories and changing dimensions of space, time, environmental contexts, and cultural perspectives. We warmly welcome Ernesto Bassi to the sub-?eld of historical geography.” — David J. Robinson, Journal of Historical Geography

“This clearly written book, and its concept of an aqueous territory, offers as much to scholars of the British and French Caribbean as it does to those who study Latin America.” — Adrian Finucane, Hispanic American Historical Review

Aqueous Territory is an important contribution to the understanding of the development of the independent nations of the New World.” — Alex Kerner, EIAL

“Ernesto Bassi's imaginative approach, rich primary sources, and provocative challenge to long-standing disciplinary boundaries allow historians to better comprehend the entanglements between Colombia, the islands of the Caribbean, and the world beyond.” — Edgardo Pérez Morales, Canadian Journal of History

"An innovative interpretation. . . . Provides a powerful antidote to the narrow and spatially fixed perspectives offered by national and imperial historiographies." — Fidel J. Tavárez, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Impressively rich and detailed. . . . [Bassi's] use of ideas of space and social geography, his concept of 'hidden harbors' that deeply influenced the perception of the Atlantic, and his theory of the Transimperial Greater Caribbean will prompt historians of the entire region, from Latin Americanists to Caribbeanists and colonial Americanists in particular, to engage with new theoretical frameworks to ground their own theses." — Christian Pinnen, The Latin Americanist

"A refreshing perspective of the Caribbean. . . . [Bassi] astutely shows the ways various historical actors developed ‘mental maps’ . . . He also does an excellent job showcasing the multiethnic diversity of this maritime Caribbean world. . . . An Aqueous Territory should be a must-read on the syllabi of graduate seminars on Atlantic, Caribbean, Latin America, and even maritime histories." — Sharika Crawford, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"[An Aqueous Territory] will be read usefully and with pleasure by scholars interested in more topics than those raised by Ernesto Bassi’s central arguments alone. . . . Ambitious on every level: theoretical, geographical, and chronological. . . . Scholars . . . will find rich pickings among Bassi’s careful research and provocative interpretations." — Adrian Pearce, American Historical Review

"Provokes tantalizing questions about regions typically not studied in connected histories. . . . Bassi makes a compelling case for why the Caribbean deserves a place in Colombian history and why Colombia should be part of Atlantic history." — Edward P. Pompeian, William & Mary Quarterly

"In An Aqueous Territory, Ernesto Bassi offers a powerful reframing of geographic and sociocultural space in colonial and early national Colombia. . . .  Bassi’s book is an essential contribution to an emerging scholarship that envisions the Caribbean basin as not simply a depot of sugar and slaves, but also a region whose counter-imperial character influenced early modern global commerce, politics, and revolutions." — Jesse Cromwell, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Bassi’s work is exhaustively researched and meticulously detailed, and advances a multitude of important arguments. . . . I found An Aqueous Territory to be not only a welcome contribution to the wider field of history but also an enlightening and enjoyable read." — Jamie Goodall, H-War, H-Net Reviews

"In An Aqueous Territory, Ernesto Bassi skilfully explores the dynamic interplay between the formation of geographic space and the creation of new geopolitical initiatives. . . . [He] provides an absorbing panorama of 'alternative geographies' and lived histories (204), which altered the Greater Caribbean world in both overt and subtle ways during this turbulent era of upheaval." — Brian Hamm, Itinerario

"An Aqueous Territory is a brilliant book that changes our mental maps and reminds us of the multiple ways in which people of the past have imagined their territories. It also reminds us of the many ways in which we can still imagine ours." — Marixa A. Lasso, New West Indian Guide

"Ernesto Bassi breaks new ground by revealing alternative, unexplored, and failed political projects during the so-called Age of Revolutions, an era usually associated with anticolonial wars and the creation of modern nation-states. Carefully reconstructing circuits of trade and communication, Bassi subverts the very idea of regional history, making An Aqueous Territory appealing not just to Latin American and Caribbean historians, but to all those interested in transnational, global, and imperial history as well." — David Sartorius, author of Ever Faithful: Race, Loyalty, and the Ends of Empire in Spanish Cuba

"With captivating biographies of maritime figures and impressive empirical documentation An Aqueous Territory is an innovative, creative, and pioneering book that will find wide audiences among scholars of Caribbean, Atlantic, and Latin American history." — Matt D. Childs, author of The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ernesto Bassi is Assistant Professor of History at Cornell University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction: Uncovering Other Possible Worlds  1

Part I. Spatial Configurations

1. Vessels: Routes, Size, and Frequency  23

2. Sailors: Border Crossers and Region Makers  55

Part II. Geopolitics and Geopolitical Imagination

3. Maritime Indians, Cosmopolitan Indians  85

4. Turning South before Swinging East  114

5. Simón Bolivar's Caribbean Adventures  142

6. An Andean-Atlantic Nation  172

Conclusion: Of Alternative Geographies and Pausible Futures  204

Appendixes  213

Notes  243

Bibliography  297

Index  331
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6240-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6220-3
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