Map of Rio de Janeiro by Jacques Van de Claye, Bridgeman Art Library International

Tamar Herzog – Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas

In Frontiers of Possession, I suggest observing the formation of the border between Spain and Portugal in both Europe and the Americas not as an exercise in political, diplomatic, or military history but as a way of understanding how individuals and communities argued their right to land at the same time as they defined who they (and others) were.

Professor Tamar Herzog (Harvard University)

Tamar HerzogTamar Herzog is Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs at Harvard University, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, and an Affiliated Faculty Member at the Harvard Law School. 

A legal scholar and historian by training, her work engages with early modern European history, colonial Latin American history, imperial history, Atlantic history, and Legal history. It centres on the relationship between Spain, Portugal, Portuguese and Spanish America and the ways by which Iberian societies changed as a result of their involvement in a colonial project.

Among her publications are:

She is the recipient of several scholarships and awards, including, most recently, the James A. Rawley Prize for best book in Atlantic History, awarded by the American Historical Association in 2016 for her most recent work, Frontiers of Possession. She was named Walter Channing Cabot Fellow in 2016, also in recognition of her most recent work.

In episode 10 of History Hub’s podcast series – ‘Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra: conversations on the history of Portugal and Spain, 1415-1898‘ – Professor Herzog is in conversation with series host Dr Edward Collins. In the episode, which is available to podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud, they discuss Frontiers of Possession.

The book examines how territorial borders were established in Europe and the Americas during the early modern period, and challenges the view that national boundaries are determined mainly by military conflicts and treaties. Rather than a political, military or diplomatic history, it analyses how boundaries were formed on the ground by neighbours and how the right to land and the use of territory were discussed, negotiated, obtained or denied.

‘Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas’ with Professor Tamar Herzog (Harvard University).

Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra

This History Hub podcast series features interviews with experts in the areas of Portuguese and Spanish history, from the beginning of the Portuguese discoveries in 1415 to the end of Spanish dominion in America in 1898. The interviews, conducted by historian Dr. Edward Collins, cover a range of topics on the domestic and overseas histories of both nations, which include, among others: the Portuguese explorations of Africa and Asia, Spanish navigation and settlement in America, the church in Portugal and Spain, monarchy and intermarriage in the Iberian kingdoms, natural science and mapping in America, the role of nautical science, Irish historical relations with Portugal and Spain, and imperial competition in Europe and overseas. The interviewees comprise a number of established and renowned academics, as well as up-and-coming researchers from universities and institutions worldwide.

This History Hub series is funded by UCD Seed Funding and supported by UCD School of History. Series editor is Mike Liffey (Real Smart Media).

Download series episodes on iTunes or listen via Soundcloud.


Image: detail from ‘Map of Rio de Janeiro’ by Jacques Van de Claye, Bridgeman Art Library International, as used on cover of Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas (Harvard University Press).