The Viceroyalty of Miami: Colonial Nostalgia and the Making of an Imperial City

John K Babb, Florida International University


This dissertation argues that the history of Miami is best understood as an imperial history. In a series of thematic chapters, it demonstrates how the city came into existence as a result of expansionism and how it continued to maintain imperial distinctions and hierarchies as it incorporated new people, beginning as a colonial frontier prior to the nineteenth century and becoming an imperial center of the Americas in the twentieth century. In developing an imperial analysis of the city, “The Viceroyalty of Miami” pays particular attention to sources that elite imperialists generated. Their papers, publications, and speeches archive the leading and often loudest voices directing the city’s capitalist development and its future. This focus on the elite shows both their local power over the city and their global vision for it, putting local history into dialogue with newer scholarly approaches to global urban cities. Though imperialists worked to portray the area as untamed during the Spanish colonial period, taming nature became paramount in subsequent eras, especially during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century with the environmental transformation of south Florida. City founders intentionally introduced plants from the Americas and around the world that created an elite tropical culture in Miami, a consequence of overseas imperial acquisitions in 1898 in tropical parts of the world. Spanish revival architecture worked as the means of establishing U.S. sovereignty over a formerly contested frontier, but self-contained suburban development inaugurated persistent problems of metropolitan management. Finally, once imperialists laid claim to the soil and the building that sat upon it, they turned to the air, making Miami a projected site of U.S. power through aviation. In light of the four substantive chapters, the Epilogue recasts our understanding of ideological migration before and after 1959 as the final stage of Miami’s transformation from a colonial frontier to an imperial city.

Subject Area

Latin American history|American history|History

Recommended Citation

Babb, John K, "The Viceroyalty of Miami: Colonial Nostalgia and the Making of an Imperial City" (2016). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10259354.