María Bárbara Zepeda Cortés’s research centers on the study of politics, particularly reformist movements, political culture, corruption, and biography. Her current book manuscript is the long-awaited, first biography of José de Gálvez, an eighteenth-century Spanish stateman, who directed a program of wide-reaching administrative, economic, and social reforms that transformed the lives of peoples around the globe. It is the product of rigorous research conducted in thirty-three archives and libraries in nine countries. Minister, Madman, Mastermind will become a necessary reference in future works on the Bourbon Reforms period but also in more general studies on colonial Spanish America, imperial Spain, eighteenth-century politics, and the Enlightenment. Theoretically, this book examines the dynamics of state reform, bureaucratic rationalization, and corruption. The completion of this massive work of scholarship will be funded by a year-long membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ during 2023–2024.
Her first book, Cambios y adaptaciones del nacionalismo puertorriqueño (UMSNH, 2015), studied how a leftist leaning populist movement with an “intermediate nationalist” formula became a more attractive political alternative for Puerto Ricans than the struggle for independence in early-twentieth century Puerto Rico. The new political formula advocated economic development through the colonial link with the United States, combined with political autonomy and a strong emphasis on the retention of national identity traits.
Her third book project provisionally entitled Toolkits for Government examines the content of the private libraries of eighteenth-century Spanish and Spanish American statesmen from a material, symbolic, and intellectual perspective. Standing at the crossroads of book history, history of reading, intellectual history, material culture studies and political history, it relies on “Thing Theory,” an approach proposed by Heidegger, Appadurai, and Brown. With a focus on the interplay between the owner, his ideas, and his book collection, this study expands book history’s geographies and will become a point of reference in works on the Global Enlightenment. This project will be funded by a John Carter Brown Library fellowship in 2024–2025.