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The Alchemy of Conquest

Science, Religion, and the Secrets of the New World
Ralph Bauer

BUY Cloth · 670 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813942544 · $79.50 · Oct 2019
BUY Ebook · 670 pp. · ISBN 9780813942551 · $39.50 · Oct 2019
BUY Paper · 670 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813942568 · $39.50 · Oct 2019

The Age of the Discovery of the Americas was concurrent with the Age of Discovery in science. In The Alchemy of Conquest, Ralph Bauer explores the historical relationship between the two, focusing on the connections between religion and science in the Spanish, English, and French literatures about the Americas during the early modern period.

As sailors, conquerors, travelers, and missionaries were exploring "new worlds," and claiming ownership of them, early modern men of science redefined what it means to "discover" something. Bauer explores the role that the verbal, conceptual, and visual language of alchemy played in the literature of the discovery of the Americas and in the rise of an early modern paradigm of discovery in both science and international law. The book traces the intellectual and spiritual legacies of late medieval alchemists such as Roger Bacon, Arnald of Villanova, and Ramon Llull in the early modern literature of the conquest of America in texts written by authors such as Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, José de Acosta, Nicolás Monardes, Walter Raleigh, Thomas Harriot, Francis Bacon, and Alexander von Humboldt.


The Alchemy of Conquest is brilliant, as one would expect from Ralph Bauer. His book is strikingly original and elegantly conceived. One cannot overstate its importance to the histories of literature and science: it represents a paradigm shift.

Ruth Hill, Vanderbilt University, author of Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America: A Postal Inspector’s Exposé

About the Author(s): 

Ralph Bauer is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland and the author of The Cultural Geography of Colonial American Literatures: Empire, Travel, Modernity.

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