Rocky Mountain Map Society: Rationalization of Empire: The Cartographic Legacy of Spanish Military Engineers for the Greater Southwest

Ages: Adult


The ascension of the Bourbon Dynasty in 1702 initially initiated a period of reform and expansion for the Spanish Empire. In the spirit of the Enlightenment, the reforms sought to rationalize the empire better to inform the new monarchy what it contained, how much it cost, and the outlay needed to keep and expand it.

Trained military engineers played an essential role in this process, especially in the American Greater Southwest after 1763. They produced the first real scientific cartography of the region, and the maps of the likes of Miera y Pacheco, Urrutia, Lafora, and numerous others became invaluable to comprehending it more fully and to imperial strategizing and policy development. The Spanish military engineers also left a cartographic legacy that was critical to the opening of the American West to be taken up by their later Mexican and American counterparts and others as well.

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