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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 October 2014
According to Gerbi's classical study, the “dispute of the New World” entered a new phase in the 1780s, one marked by voices coming from the Americas. New questions were then raised about the writing of history, its method, scope and proofs. This essay pursues a dual-track enquiry, confronting the History of America (1777) by the Presbyterian minister William Robertson, a leading figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, with the Storia antica del Messico (1780–81) by the Mexican exiled Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero. The two works, one written from the centre of the world's commercial expansion, the other from the Pontifical States, were engaged in a sophisticated dialogue, which yields two alternative, competing conceptions of history and of humankind. To Robertson's philosophical history, which developed from a long-distance perspective, characteristic of Enlightenment, Clavijero responded by reassessing the Jesuit and antiquarian tradition, based on closeness, local expertise and direct observation.
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47 See Gerbi, The Dispute of the New World, 233 ff.
48 Dissertations on the Land, the Animals, and the Inhabitants of Mexico: In which The Ancient History of that Country is confirmed, many Points of Natural History illustrated, and numerous Errors refuted, which have been published concerning America by some celebrated modern Authors.
49 Cañizares, How to Write the History of the New World, 63.
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57 Cullen, Preface to Clavijero, History of Mexico, 1: v.
58 Monthly Review, 76 (1787), 633–40. The same review also appeared in the Scots Magazine, 49 (1787), 446–9 and 548–51.
59 The European Magazine, and London Review, 12 (1787), 16–8; see also 125–9.
60 The English Review, or, An Abstract of English and Foreign Literature, 9 (1787), 401–10; 10 (1787), 170–82; 11 (1787), 176–87.
61 Monthly Review, 65 (1781), 462–4.
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