Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Bianca Premo

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

N. David Cook

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Richard Olson

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Victor Uribe

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


early modern state, crisis management, colonial administration, legal culture

Date of Defense



One early October morning in 1687, the ground under the large Spanish colonial city of Lima, Peru rumbled. If longstanding historiographical portraits of Spanish government as inefficient and weak were true, the earthquake that was about to shatter Lima should have devastated it beyond repair. The study of the aftermath of this natural disaster reveals that behind the landscape of destruction, the pillars of the colonial state in Lima not only held up but also permitted its rapid recovery after the event. As part of a more recent historiographical trend that reappraises the Spanish decline during the seventeenth century, my dissertation reevaluates the performance of colonial administration in Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. It focuses on deliberate changes carried out during the 1680s, when the metropolis implemented a series of fiscal and administrative reforms, whose effects were interrupted but not destroyed by the challenge posed by the earthquake of 1687.

The use of extensive contemporary archival sources, both official and private, provides a multifaceted vista on the performance of royal agents and colonial subjects responding to the earthquake. A close reading of these sources unveils the rebuilding of the state in various facets: government attempts to impose authority and bring order to the chaos; the patrimonial logic of rules that colonial administrators faced when trying to implement rebuilding projects; colonial subjects’ expectations of royal agents and each other; negotiations among authorities and ordinary people over the terms of rebuilding the city; and the importance of inhabitants’ understandings of justice, founded in law and custom, to carrying out city reconstruction.





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