Mangan’s New Book Examines Peru/Spain Family Connections

Professor of History Jane Mangan has published Transatlantic Obligations: Creating the Bonds of Family in Conquest-Era Peru and Spain (Oxford University Press, 2015).

The first systematic study of families in 16th-century Peru with a transatlantic focus, Mangan's monograph details family obligations connecting Peru and Spain through dowries, bequests, legal powers, and letters.

Though the archival stories she found date back 500 years, they have implications even today–for instance, modern migratory or refugee families negotiate obligations over space and time.

While the broadness of 16th-century time and distance, the overarching influences of church and state, and the relationships between sex, gender and ethnicity were different in some ways from today, Mangan found similarities to the kinds of loyalties that continue to define family.

"The colonial context really helps us understand the limits of institutional power to define what family means," Mangan said.

Oxford University Press summarizes:

"The sixteenth-century changes wrought by expansion of Spanish empire into Peru shaped the ways of being a family in colonial Peru. Even as migration, race mixture and transculturation took place, family members fulfilled obligations to one another by adapting custom to a changing world.

"Family began to shift when, from the moment of their arrival in 1532, Spaniards were joined with elite indigenous women in political marriage-like alliances. Almost immediately, a generation of mestizos was born that challenged the hierarchies of colonial society. In response, the Spanish Crown began to promote the marriage of these men and the travel of Spanish women to Peru to promote good customs and even serve as surrogate parents.

"Other reactions came from wives in Spain who, abandoned by husbands, sought assistance to fulfill family duties. For indigenous families, the pressures of colonialism prompted migration to cities. By mid-century, the increase of Spanish migration to Peru changed the social landscape, but did not halt mixed-race marriages. The book posits that late 16th-century cities, specifically Lima and Arequipa, were host to indigenous and Spanish families but also to numerous 'blended' families borne of a process of mestizaje.

"In its final chapter, the legacies for the next generation reveal how Spanish fathers sometimes challenged law with custom and sentiment to establish inheritance plans for their children. By tracing family obligations connecting Peru and Spain through dowries, bequests, legal powers and letters, Transatlantic Obligations presents a powerful call to rethink 16th-century definitions of family."

Mangan is also author of Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí (Duke University Press, 2005) and co-editor of Women in the Iberian Atlantic (LSU Press, 2012).


  • June 20, 2016