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Parallels between the Caribbean and the Canary Islands: Research by Ignacio Díaz Sierra

The colonisation of the Caribbean took place at the exact same time as the conquest of the Sultanate of Granada and the Canary Islands, and it was directed by the same Crown officials, carried out by the same kind of settlers and using the same strategies of domination and exploitation.

Ignacio Díaz Sierra is a guest PhD researcher at Leiden University (Erasmus+Study), who is investigating the impact that the Castilian conquest and colonisation of Southern Iberia and the Canary Islands had on the agricultural landscape, between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries. Using archival, archaeological and ethnographic sources, he is studying the characteristics of agricultural spaces and practices prior to the establishment of Castilian settlers and how they were transformed to meet their economic needs and objectives. Settlers dealt with indigenous environments in a variety of ways, that ranged from them adapting to its characteristics, to its complete transformation, depending on how it could serve their specific economic goals. At the moment, he is researching two case-studies: Olvera (Cadiz), in Southern Iberia, which was conquered in the mid-fourteenth century; and Agüimes (Gran Canaria), that came under Castilian control in the late fifteenth century. In these specific cases, settlers radically altered the pre-existing agricultural landscape in order to mass-produce cash crops -namely wheat, sugar and wine.

Since his thesis stems from a comparative approach to colonialism, Ignacio is interested in establishing parallelisms between the results he is obtaining in Iberia and the Canary Islands and the findings made by historians and archaeologists in other parts of the world, especially in Latin America. Thus, he is spending three months as an Erasmus PhD student at Leiden University in order to learn about the research that the Caribbean Research Group carries out in the Antilles and South America, both on the indigenous population and the European settlers that established in the region after 1492. The colonisation of the Caribbean took place at the exact same time as the conquest of the Sultanate of Granada and the Canary Islands. It was also directed by the same Crown officials and carried out by the same kind of settlers, using the same strategies of domination and exploitation. For this reason, comparing research on colonialism on both sides of the Atlantic can help to better understand the shared characteristics of all these processes, as well as to observe how European colonists adapted to local conditions and how different indigenous societies responded to colonisation.

Ignacio Díaz Sierra

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