Webinar with Dr. Gabriel Entin, University of Chile
Over the last fifty years, Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood and J.G.A. Pocock have helped shape republicanism as a historical, political and philosophical field of study. Quentin Skinner promoted the Cambridge School of republicanism and its contextualist approach to political ideas. A republican paradigm has been used to study political experiences and languages from the Italian Renaissance to the American Revolution. Broadly speaking, this paradigm is articulated in pre-Humanist and Humanist political thinking about the republic and its finitude, and in the Renaissance revival of ancient civic virtues. Republicanism is thus generally understood as a political (and secular) language of civic virtue, as opposed to the eschatological language of Christian redemption. From this perspective, the republic is seen as a free and popular government inconsistent with monarchy, and the republican theory of political liberty places non-domination or non-dependence at the center.
Although this republican tradition has been described as Atlantic, the comprehension of the Atlantic turns out to be geographically restricted. The Atlantic perspective reveals a more complex scenario for the study of republicanism during modern revolutions. From the American and French revolutions, the revolutions and independence of Haiti (1791-1804), Spanish America (1810-1825) and Africa (Liberia, Senegal, the Boer republics), along with other ephemeral or short-lived attempts to create republics (sister republics in Italy, Holland and Switzerland, 1795-1799; Pernambuco, 1817; Florida, 1817; Texas, 1836-1846, etc.), Atlantic republicanism is increasingly presented as a plurality of republican experiences that go beyond any model of republicanism avant la lettre.
With the exception of the Caribbean, where, recently, the republicanism of the Haitian revolution has drawn the attention of scholars, the problematization of modern republican experiences in Latin America and Africa beyond national boundaries are still rare in the historiography of Atlantic republicanism. Because these cases are not commonly taken into consideration, the early nineteenth-century is frequently left out of “the age of the republican revolution”. This is problematic not only because the Spanish American revolutions that arose from a monarchical culture and society are excluded from this process, but also because these revolutions represent the largest republican experience in the Atlantic world: from 1810 to 1825, more than twenty republics were created from Buenos Aires and Santiago, to Mexico.
Starting with reconstruction of the languages of political Hebraism in the Hispanic world, and particularly, in Spanish America during the revolution, I attempt to show in this presentation the limits of an understanding of republicanism as a political, secular and contingent discourse, as opposed to a Christian, theological and providential one. Over the past decade a common mode of political discourse based on readings from the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and post-biblical Jewish texts has been characterized as "political Hebraism”. The historiography of political Hebraism analyzes how interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, and its ancient and medieval commentators, comprised a mode of modern political thought that circulated in different areas of the Protestant Atlantic (Britain, North Germany, the Netherlands, the United States) between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The pervasive themes of Jewish Scripture studied from the period of early European humanism onwards are: Moses as prophet and lawgiver; the exodus of the Jews from Egypt; the Maccabean wars and the form of government of the Jews. In dialogue with the authors of the so-called Cambridge School republicanism, political Hebraism has been interpreted as a form of "exclusivist republicanism". This category alludes to the conviction, developed in England after the seventeenth-century revolution, of the republic as the only legitimate form of government, and the consideration of monarchy as a sin of idolatry based on readings of the Hebrew Bible.
Although the Hispanic world generally remains outside the bounds of studies of political Hebraism, in recent years the historiography of the revolutions in Spanish America has become increasingly interested in Old Testament political languages, in particular in the uses of biblical quotations as a source of republican arguments at the beginning of the nineteenth century. From the fifteenth century onwards a form of theological-political language, based on the uses of the references to the Jewish Scriptures, reveals different conceptions of the republic in Spain understood not as particular form of government but rather as a political community (res publica) which may have different forms of government, including monarchy. From the readings of the converted Castilian humanists in the fifteenth century to those of the Spanish-American revolutionaries in the nineteenth century, Hebrew references in the Hispanic world coexist to a greater or lesser extent with those of Greek, and especially Roman antiquity in shaping republican languages about the political community, its liberty through laws, and the virtue of citizens. However, Hebrew references also coexisted with a counter-concept of the Spanish monarchy as a unified political and Catholic body: the Jew as the other, and its synonyms, Hebrews or Israelites.
Gabriel Entin is Associate Professor in Latin American Studies at the University of Chile and researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina (CONICET). He has a PhD in History in the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris). His research interests focus on the study of republican building during Spanish American revolutions. He published "Catholic Republicanism: The Creation of the Spanish American Republics During Revolution," Journal of the History of Ideas (2018) and edited Rousseau en Iberoamérica. Lecturas e Interpretaciones entre monarquía y revolución (2018). He also co-edited the volume on the concept of liberty in the Dictionary Iberconceptos (2014). He was visiting scholar at the EHESS, UNAM and El Colegio de México, where he organised an annual CONCEPTA Summer School on Conceptual History in Ibero-America (2016-2019). He is the editor of Prismas. Revista de Historia Intelectual and member of the editorial board of Contributions for the History of Concepts.