Who were nineteenth-century London’s Hispanic residents? Where did they come from? What did they do? What can the cultural, commercial, religious and social networks they forged tell us about the relationship between the British and Spanish empires during a period of one’s expansion and the other’s decline? What is their cultural, intellectual and material legacy in the city?
These questions underpin my new research project, generously funded by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2020-2023). Hispanic London: Culture, Commerce and Community in the 19th-Century City will reconstruct geographically grounded microhistories of individuals, relationships and neighbourhoods, setting them within wider narratives of nation, empire and colonialism to foreground London’s role as a crucial hub in the commercial, cultural and intellectual networks of the nineteenth-century Spanish empire.
During this first year of the project, my objective is to establish a strong empirical foundation for answering the questions of who 19th-century London’s Hispanic residents were, where they came from, and what they did. So far I’ve gathered data on more than 4,000 individuals from all over Spain, as well as from the Spanish colonies of Cuba and the Philippines. They came to London for many different reasons, including business, love, and pleasure; some settled and made their lives in the city, while others were just passing through. They included refugees, tourists, sailors, artists, musicians, craftsmen, fundholders, lawyers, diplomats, servants, students, priests, merchants, bankers, soldiers, hoteliers, and (fortunately!) plenty of translators and interpreters.
I’ll be using this space to tell some of their stories. In the meantime, click here to read more about the project.
Image: frontispiece of Antonio Gil de Tejada’s “Guia de Londres”. Gil de Tejada arrived in London in 1840, and ran a popular Spanish hotel in Harley St from 1851 until his death in 1874.