History Department
History Department

Adrian Masters

PhD, University of Texas at Austin

Adrian Masters



Atlantic world; Spanish Empire; law; state formation; material communications; imperial decision-making; caste; popular participation in ancien régime politics


My dissertation explores the petition-and-response system in the sixteenth century Spanish Empire's Council of the Indies. I show that anyone - Indian leaders and laborers, enslaved men and women, free Afro-descendants, and others could propose the Empire's legislation. By the end of the sixteenth century, the Empire had over 100,000 individual edicts, virtually all responses to subjects' petitions. The Crown then faced the enormous challenge of implementing decrees, a task that vassals themselves very often undertook. Subjects of all kinds thus not only won decrees, and implemented them, but shaped the entire Empire from below. 

This work focuses on law, state formation, material communications, and imperial decision-making. It also touches upon the origin of 'caste' terms in royal decrees, and the collective and individual responses by part-Indian and part-black vassals to these terms. 

I am also co-authoring a monograph with UT Austin's Prof. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (Harvard University Press, 2018) tentatively entitled The Radical Spanish Empire, which argues that while the Spanish lagged in printing sophisticated scientific, ethnographic, political, and historical works in the 1500s, and thus has appeared to many scholars to be deeply conservative and traditional, the Crown's powerful bureaucratic apparatuses prompted vassals to create countless sophisticated and radical manuscript works that place Spain firmly within our ideas of 'modernity' today. 



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