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Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed
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Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed

Coloured lithograph depicting a Chilean silver and copper works. A man is laying the sediment containing silver onto hides, while women and boys can be seen on the right washing the silver.A Chilean silver and copper works from Peter Schmidtmeyer's account, Travels into Chile, over the Andes, in the years 1820 and 1821.He who serves a revolution ploughs the sea.

With these words Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), military and political leader in Latin America’s struggle for independence from European rule, summed up the magnitude of the task facing him, as he tried to unite the various regions and factions of  present-day Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador into a single republic.

Ploughing the sea has indeed proved to be an apt metaphor for much of Latin America’s long history of turmoil and revolution and for the often unhappy attempts by both domestic political leaders and external powers to shape its future.

In this exhibition we look at the sub-continent’s tumultuous history, particularly as affected by those foreign countries - Britain, Spain, Portugal and the United States among them - which have sought to gain a position of power or influence over Latin America’s destiny.

From 17th century privateers to 19th century mining speculators and the 20th century Falklands War much of this story is one of rapaciousness and bloodshed, but some of those who came to Latin America also recorded their fascination with the sub-continent’s natural wonders and with the cultures of its indigenous peoples. We look at the ways in which writers, naturalists and artists have sought to capture this land of contrasts, of beauty and brutality.

Items included in this exhibition are drawn principally from two of our most important collections: the libraries of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), transferred to King’s in 2007, and Canning House, transferred in 2012. Old, rare or notably significant items in these collections, such as those displayed here, are housed in the Foyle Special Collections Library; other items from both collections are available in the Maughan Library.

Exhibition curators: Brandon High, Adam Ray and Katie Sambrook

PLEASE NOTE: This exhibition originally ran from 17 October - 15 December 2012 in the Weston Room of the Maughan Library, King’s College London, and is now available to view as an online exhibition only.

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