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Professor Kirsty Hooper, Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship

Hispanic London: Culture, Commerce and Community in the Nineteenth-Century City

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?

In the nineteenth century, several thousand Spaniards settled in London.

Many more visited or passed through.

Because of the city’s role as a global cultural, commercial and economic hub with social and political freedoms, these settlers and visitors were often key agents in (or disrupters of) the networks holding together Spain’s fragmenting nineteenth-century empire.

Yet despite their significance, London’s nineteenth-century Spanish residents have remained largely invisible in literature.

Professor Kirsty Hooper’s Fellowship aims to produce an empirically-grounded history of London’s nineteenth-century Spanish community and its cultural, intellectual and material legacy.

The title page of a Spanish guide to London, published by the owner of one of the most notable Spanish guesthouses in the city.

A street sign at Spanish Place, where the church (St James, Spanish Place) is still connected to the Spanish embassy.

Examining historical artefacts

The Fellowship's wider objective is to bring a new understanding of nineteenth-century inter-imperial connections, by examining the city’s role in the transnational, colonial and imperial networks of the Hispanic world.

Research will draw on a range of materials, such as censuses and other records, newspapers, business and family papers, books, memoirs, art and museum holdings.

These will be used to reconstruct the individual, family and community stories underpinning London’s role in the histories of the nineteenth-century British and Spanish empires.

Professor Hooper will investigate how the ‘double agency’ of Spanish-born, London-dwelling individuals reveals the extent to which both British and Spanish imperialism fed through – and were challenged by – the shifting allegiances and codes of transoceanic colonial networks.

Paying particular attention to the Spanish community’s self-projection and changing views of what it meant to be ‘Spanish’, the project will also consider the community’s legacy: their impact on London’s cultural, intellectual, religious and commercial spheres, and the tangible and intangible traces of their existence still visible in London today.