Andrew Redden is a new arrival to Latin American Studies in SOCLAS. He’s a historian of the religious cultures of Early Modern Latin America and the Hispanic world and has a keen interest in understanding the links between the past and the present.

Andrew’s book, Diabolism in Colonial Peru, 1560-1750, looks at the interaction between demons and the population of Colonial Peru. It focuses on the diverse ways in which demons were experienced and even used by members of the various cultures that coexisted and intermingled in the Viceroyalty. Building on that research, together with Fernando Cervantes of the University of Bristol, he began hunting angels and demons in the Early Modern Hispanic World (in particular, the viceroyalties of New Spain (modern Mexico), Peru (including modern Bolivia and Chile) and New Granada (modern Colombia and Venezuela), and also Spain and Southern Italy). The idea was to use archival materials (letters and trial testimonies), theological treatises, chronicles and religious art, to look at the various ways in which these spiritual beings affected human lives. It’s about understanding how these entities interacted with humans and affected their lives in sometimes very physical ways. It’s also about understanding how spiritual and human (colonial) hierarchies reflected each other and worked within the same structures: for example there’s the story of how indigenous angel comforted a shipwrecked sailor on the coast of Chile and protected him from Mapuche warriors who had every intention of killing him, or avenging angels that physically punished individuals in order to bring about conversion.

 Hunting angels and demons all over the Hispanic world also brought Andrew into contact with a fair few martyrs (not to mention a good few witches and even one or two vampires). And this got him thinking about the whys and wherefores of martyrdom. His next project will be to investigate martyrdom in the Hispanic World, linking the Colonial period with the modern and even contemporary periods, as he’s particularly interested in the difficult relationship between dying for a cause and doing violence for a cause: for example the discourses used by Jesuits who took up arms (and sometimes died) to fight with their Guaraní parishioners against Portuguese slavers in the seventeenth century are none-too-far removed from those, who inspired by Liberation Theology in the twentieth, joined revolutionary movements and became ‘martyrs’ for their causes. This is a link between the past and the present that’s often forgotten as modern day movements are often explained away with reference to Marxism or other recently formed ideologies.

This investigation will be part of a network of other investigations that seeks to understand martyrdom in a global context across time. There have been so many different types of martyrs through the ages in so many different cultures that it seems really important to bring knowledge of these together for a better overall understanding of the phenomenon. Andrew took his first steps in this direction last summer working with Harald Braun (also of Liverpool University) and Igor Pérez (of the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville). The next stage took place this January at a conference in Culiacan (Sinaloa) Northern Mexico, where he was surprised to be asked to give interviews about his ideas on both the regional radio and in the local newspaper, El Debate. Since then, he’s been really happy that a number of non-academics from Culiacan got in touch with him after his return to the UK to talk more about these ideas.

So he’s looking forward to working with new colleagues and students here at Liverpool, whether this’ll be engaging them with angels and spirits, witches and vampires or martyrs and revolutionary movements.