Matthew Garvey '99
"Two Visions of Conquest: Reconciling Contrasting Accounts of Spanish Peru 1532-60"
Lockhart's Spanish Peru and Hemming's The Conquest of the Incas offer very different views of Peru during the period in which they overlap, 1532-1560. The varying views are in part due to the different topics and sources the authors choose to focus on. Hemming concentrates on "contacts" between the Spaniards and Indians. He never offers a clear thesis, but he does state that the book offers "an opportunity to refute some misconceptions and to reconstruct gaps in the chroniclers' narratives" (17). Hemming points out these misconceptions and gaps as he takes the reader through Peru, offering vivid descriptions - gleaned primarily from chronicles and official manuscripts - of Spanish-Indian interactions. Lockhart, on the other hand, does have a clear thesis. He limits his study to the Spanish society that evolved around the early Peruvian cities, and argues that "an essentially intact, complete Spanish society was transferred to Peru in the conquest and civil war period" (251). His ground-breaking study is based primarily on notarial records, and he expresses distrust of the "over-used," "one-sided," and "predictable" official reports (152) as well as the often fanciful chronicles (264).
But it is not enough to say that these two books deal with different topics and sources. The visions of Peru offered in these works contradict each other on some rather crucial points, and thus the historian has to reconcile the two points of view in order to gain a better understanding of Spanish Peru in the mid-sixteenth century. Each writer makes a single reference to the work of the other, offering a good place to start in an analysis of these contradictions. ... Though Hemming cites Lockhart's figures regarding the make-up of Spanish Peruvian society, throughout his book he places almost exclusive emphasis on the group Lockhart most discounts - the transients who came to pillage and plunder. He, therefore, offers a very incomplete and simplistic portrayal of the conquest. Hemming also fails to take into account how the stability of the emerging Spanish society could have contributed to the conquest and to the fact that Spanish Peru did not fall apart during the civil wars. On the other hand, Lockhart consciously challenges the Prescott tradition, of which Hemming is a part, and thus his argument holds up well against the evidence put forward by Hemming. But Lockhart would have done well to use at least some of Hemming's chronicles and official documents, as his notarial records demonstrate only that Spanish society was transplanted so completely, but do a poor job answering how and why.
Hemming's reference to Lockhart's work is notably brief. He uses Lockhart's conclusions to remark that Spaniards by 1560 had "established a remarkably stable society in Peru" (374). This establishment, according to Hemming, was just a precondition to the Spaniards instituting "the pattern of Spanish colonial rule," and settling "the fate of the Indians" under the viceroyalty of Francisco de Toledo (which began in 1568). Lockhart actually goes much further in his discussion of Spanish Peru's progress until 1560. He writes:
All the main population centers of Peru, all the main economic and social trends, had taken shape by 1545 or 1550, and in many cases much earlier, in the course of a spontaneous, undirected development concurrent with the conquest and civil wars (6).
The decision about what to do with the Indians, according to Lockhart, was primarily a function of the society the Spaniards had already shaped during the conquest (233).
The major factor behind this discrepancy in interpretation is the different emphasis each author places on the types of men that came to Peru. Hemming's portrayal reflects the stereotypical swashbuckling, greedy, but militarily heroic conquistadors. These conquistadors were partially tempered by a few enlightened minds, particularly in the Spanish administration, who attempted to curtail the exploitation of the Indians. He writes:
The men who were attracted to the American conquests were the most adventurous--as tough, brave, and ruthless as the members of any gold rush. In addition to greed they possessed the religious fervour and unshakeable self-confidence of a crusading people (111).
He gives us the example of Hernando Pizzaro, who, in 1536, lamented that "effeminate" and wounded men in Lima were reluctant to save the Spaniards surrounded in Cuzco, while "more virile men" immediately came to his aid (219). The voices of reason throughout this period, according to Hemming, were "the many Spaniards (who) had a strong moral conscience about their new conquests," especially some administrators in the colonies and in Spain concerned about the treatment of the Indians (265).
This traditional depiction of two extreme stereotypes determining the fate of Peru is exactly the view which Lockhart sets out to disprove. Lockhart argues that an overuse of official reports or "governor's myths" has distorted the perceived influence of free-wheeling soldier types in Peru (154). He enriches his portrayal of Spanish society by focusing on the large numbers of artisans, professionals, Africans, and women who also helped settle Peru, and who established trades within a rapidly stabilizing society throughout the period. Though he and Hemming agree that one-third of the population were "transients" - "rootless and unemployed" people who served mainly as temporary soldiers - Lockhart minimizes their role in forming society. This "floating population . . . hindered, (but) did not stop, the development of civil life in Spanish Peru" (154). In fact, according to Lockhart's view - more complete because it traces the business transactions of the warriors - not all the soldiers were from this population, and many functioned as artisans or businessmen whether at war or in peace. "Peru," he writes, "was conquered by hard-bitten, taciturn Spartans . . . who obviously continued business as usual in the face of death" (264).
This point brings us to the role of a stable Spanish society in the conquest of the Incas - the second major issue on which Hemming comes up short. Lockhart emphasizes that a stable society enabled the Spanish to sustain their initial success with the Indians, and to survive their own civil wars without losing the conquest. He emphasizes that merchants (107) and artisans (117) supplied the troops, and that women ensured some stability in the encomienda system by maintaining, through remarriage, the rights to their husbands' land (178). Especially intriguing is his contention that Africans played a major role in the conquest by serving as intermediaries between Spaniards and Indians and by effectively doubling the number of Spaniards in Peru (224). Lockhart notes that this role was overlooked by previous historians, who focused solely on official accounts that mentioned blacks in the context of rebelling cimarroons. It is only through the notarial records, he maintains, that we can get a true sense of the role blacks played in everyday business affairs (222).
Hemming simply neglects to mention the important roles artisans, merchants, Africans, and women must have had in the conquest - probably because these are rarely mentioned in the chronicles and official documents. In this way, he not only paints an incomplete picture of the period, but he also contributes a mythic air to the perception of the conquistadors. Their heroism is accentuated by the notion that they accomplished what they did without a stable Spanish-Peruvian society supporting them.
This point is exactly the one Lockhart raises with Hemming in the footnotes to his 1994 conclusion. He argues that this mythological heroism is a result of an overuse of chronicles. Even though Hemming went to great lengths to find unbiased chronicles and records, and to qualify biased ones, he still had the same problem as Prescott: separating "fact from fancy" (264). But Lockhart's aversion to chronicles and similar documents is actually his major weakness as a writer. Lockhart needs to supplement his notarial findings with documents - read judiciously, of course - that would help supply some of the possible motivations for the actions he describes. His social history is incomplete because he does not make clear how and why the Spaniards could have had such rapid success transplanting their society in such times of turmoil.
One major issue that Lockhart fails to explain is the stability of the encomienda system. Both he and Hemming note a significant number of instances in which encomenderos were killed by rebel Indians or Cimarroons, or in which they were replaced after a civil war. Such lack of security at the top of society must have been very different from the situation in Spain - what convinced the encomenderos that Peru was a safe enough place to invest in mining or agriculture? Lockhart partially addresses this question by distinguishing the stability of the encomienda system itself from the individual encomenderos - a rather dubious distinction. But even the encomienda system seemed endangered when the Crown appeared determined to do away with it in the 1530's (Hemming, 385). Lockhart needs to supplement his book with something along the lines of Hemming's political analysis of the hacienda perpetuity issue in order to make his social history more complete.
Of course, such a project would be limited by a lack of sources. In fact, the lack of chronicles dealing with the settlement of Peru is in part what led Hemming to neglect that element of the conquest (149). But such is the case with all historical writing. History would be a much different subject if every historian had access to the facts and motivations behind any action. Without such access, the historian is left to sort through the remains and piece together an account of what could have happened. Lockhart, by going through notarial records, was able to paint a much more realistic - if rather dry and uninspiring - depiction of the transfer of Spanish society into Peru. Hemming's account of the conquest, based on sources concerned only with the extraordinary, is not nearly as realistic.
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1970. Lockhart, James. Spanish Peru 1532--1560: A Social History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
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