Natalie Cobo DPhil candidate, University of Oxford; translator of early modern Latin texts

Ethnology, conversion, and law in the early modern Philippines

I am a DPhil student in History at the University of Oxford. My thesis examines the process of constructing a colonial society in the Philippines in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It considers how Europeans understood indigenous societies in the Philippines as revealed through the ethnological texts that they wrote, which I attempt to situate in a broader framework of the production and circulation of knowledge that took place across the globe in this period. I am particularly interested in considering the role that Classical models and contemporary templates had in the writing of these texts.

My research also considers how, based on this ethnological knowledge, Spaniards attempted to transform local peoples into their vision of civilised, Catholic subjects, paying particular attention to the roles of the Catholic Church, indigenous leaders, and colonial institutions in the processes of negotiation that took place as ideals were forced to adapt to local circumstances.

As well as examining the extent to which the Spanish attempted to effect change within the Philippines, my project considers what the case of the Philippines reveals more generally about the nature of Spanish imperialism at this time. To do so it analyses the movement, production, and exchange of people and ideas, the nature of interactions with peoples outside the areas that the Spanish formally claimed within the Philippines, and the various attempts of the Spanish to extend both their spiritual and secular power within the broader region.