Contrasting Empires

J.H. Elliott looks at the differences – cultural, religious, ethnic and economic – between the Spanish and British approaches to their empires in the Americas, and asks how they turned out, both for the mother countries and for the colonies and states that eventually emerged from them.

In the early 1770s, J. Hector St John de Crèvecoeur, later to win fame with his Letters of an American Farmer, wrote an unpublished ‘Sketch of a Contrast Between the Spanish and the English Colonies’. ‘Could we have a perfect representation’, it began, ‘of the customs and manners of the Spanish Colonies, it would, I believe, exhibit a most astonishing contrast, when viewed in opposite to those of these Provinces’– the colonies of British North America.


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