A Thirsty Colonization: Water and Urban Political Ecology in the Silver City of Potosí, 1573-1770


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation explores how the fate of Spanish colonization and the people of the mining city of Potosí, Bolivia, converged around a dramatic search for water in the Andean highland from 1573-1770. Water was at the center of various conflicts in the wake of silver production and rapid urbanization — 120,000 inhabitants— in an environment without a permanent water source at 13,200 feet. The project examines the intersection between water and urbanization as a critical process in the making of Potosí’s mining ecology, expanding our understanding of mining cities not just as productive sites but as living spaces. It asks how empire, society, and active environment interplay forged the water infrastructure that shaped both Spanish hegemony and the people’s ways of living the landscape.