"Frontiers of Possession" - "Meet the Author" event with Tamar Herzog
On the afternoon of 31 May, the Institute celebrated its first ever “Meet the Author” event, welcoming Tamar Herzog of Harvard University to reflect on her recent publication, Frontiers of Possession. Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015)—recipient of the 2016 James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History from the American Historical Association.
After Herzog offered a brief introduction to her motivations and objectives in writing the book, the roughly forty scholars in attendance peppered her with questions. From this dialogue arose several intriguing assertions. Addressing the question of the value of comparative history, she noted that whenever her doctoral students propose to her a comparative topic, she pushes them to consider whether the comparison answers any questions that a geographically-concentrated study would not. Herzog mused that one of the “provocations” intended by the organization of her book—starting with chapters focused on the Americas rather than the Iberian peninsula—elicited surprisingly less pushback from reviewers than she had expected. This perhaps is an indication that such a turning of the tables is being considered as an organic, and productive, re-thinking of causal relationships. These questions, ruminating upon issues of the discipline, were interspersed with others focusing on historiographical concerns – the important role of law and institutions in early modern society, the language(s) of negotiations, the relationship between social and territorial borders, maps as legal arguments, longue durée perspectives, and the employment of reasoning about the rights acquired from “time immemorial.”