The Science of Empire: The Bishop's Practical Utopia in Colonial Peru


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines how the Spanish Bourbon reforms of the late-eighteenth century were re-imagined at the local level in Peru. It centers on the work of a Spanish Bishop, Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón, who lived and worked in Trujillo from 1779 to 1790. Although as an ecclesiastic, Martínez Compañón was officially charged with spiritual matters, his political economy reforms (in mining, education, and agriculture) and his natural history research (in the areas of botany, zoology, ethnography, and archaeology) situate him within a broader network of administrators, bureaucrats, and scientists who sought to improve and transform the Spanish empire in the so-called Age of Enlightenment.