History Department
History Department

Chloe Ireton

M.A. History, The University of Texas at Austin

PhD Candidate
Chloe Ireton



Atlantic History, Iberian Imperial Expansion, Religion and Culture, Colonial Latin American History, African History, Mediterranean World.


I am a historian of colonial Latin America and the early Iberian world with a focus on empire, race, and religion in early Mexico, Colombia, the Caribbean, and Spain. My research weds intellectual, social, and cultural histories, particularly through the lenses of race, religion, and empire, and contributes to various fields, including histories of colonial Latin America, African Diaspora, the Atlantic world, the Renaissance, and early modern Europe. My broader research interests lie in the complex Atlantic world in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries; a space where people, ideas and knowledge, and commodities and trade (to name just a few examples) from European, American, Asian, and African worlds intersected and interacted. My teaching fields span the Iberian world in the Age of Discovery, slavery & Atlantic Slave trades, British, Spanish and Lusophone Americas, Africa & the Atlantic World, and the Mediterranean World.

My dissertation, Ethiopian Royal Vassals: free black itinerancy in the Iberian Atlantic (1500-1640), explores the lives of hundreds of free black individuals who became colonial settlers in the early Hispanic Caribbean, and traces black intellectual histories across the Hispanic empire. Ethiopian Royal Vassals challenges the long-standing historiographical tradition that claims that Iberians considered black Africans as the ultimate outsiders in the Spanish monarchy. Such views supposedly rendered Africans as converts (New Christians) rather than Old Christians due to their irredeemably stained or impure blood, and precluded black individuals from becoming vecinos (subjects or citizens). Employing cross-disciplinary research methods, the project places plural sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Iberian discourses on blackness and religious lineage – across published texts, religious treatises, art, literary plays on stages, and cartographic representations of Africa – in conversation with a de-centered multi-sited archival social historical research method that uncovers the transoceanic lives of hundreds of free black individuals across the Hispanic Atlantic. Reading these diverse sources in conjunction demonstrates a deep contradiction in a historiographical consensus that views black African Diasporas as outsiders in the period under study. On the one hand, the rise of a discourse of an ancient and mythical African and, specifically, Ethiopian Christianity among certain religious missionaries, playwrights, literati, artists, and cartographers, highlights a plural and flourishing landscape of discourses regarding the relationship of black skin color to purity of blood and religious lineage. On the other hand, the untold history of hundreds of free black Castilian Old Christian vecinos who settled as colonists in the Indies and whose wealth funded specific narratives of ancient African Christianity that sought to present black vecinos as equal to white Castilians, highlights the varied experiences and meanings of blackness in the Castilian empire. This project recovers the voices of early African Diasporas, placing them at the center of the early Iberian Atlantic intellectual world.

Ethiopian Royal Vassals has received generous financial support for archival research and writing from the American Historical Association, The John Carter Brown Library, The Leverhulme Trust, Social Science Research Council Andrew W. Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship SSRC-IDRF, The Huntington Library, The Renaissance Society of America, the Conference on Latin American History, various centers at the The University of Texas at Austin, including, The Graduate School, British Studies Program, John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies, the Tereza Lozano Institute of Latin American Studies, and the History Department.