Jonathan Gebhardt

Jonathan Gebhardt's picture
Research interests: 

Early modern Europe and the world (Spanish and Portuguese empires)

I am a Ph.D. candidate in early modern European and global history, with particular interests in the Spanish and Portuguese empires and maritime China. In my dissertation, “Global Cities, Incoherent Communities: Communication, Coexistence, and Conflict in Macau and Manila, 1550-1700,” I examine cross-cultural relations in Macau and Manila, which emerged as centers of global trade following the arrival of Portuguese and Spaniards in the sixteenth century. In each place, subjects of the Iberian empires came together with the seafaring people of southeastern China to engage in commercial exchange, while European missionaries worked to convert Chinese to Catholicism. While Macau has often been seen as a model of multicultural coexistence and Sino-Portuguese hybridity, scholarship on Manila has emphasized the tense and often violent relationship between Spanish colonists and Chinese migrants. In order to understand the divergent patterns of cross-cultural interaction and domination in these two interconnected, multicultural, urban communities, I focus on the way Portuguese, Spaniards, and Chinese communicated with one another. How did they deal with the linguistic barriers they encountered in Macau and Manila? Why did Iberian merchants and state officials, European missionaries, and Chinese traders and laborers deal differently with the obstacles to cross-cultural communication? What were the implications of their respective approaches for the multicultural urban communities that developed in Macau and Manila? Through an investigation of these questions, I seek to make an original contribution to the study of cross-cultural brokers, the Iberian empires, maritime China, and early modern globalization.
My dissertation advisors are Francesca Trivellato, Stuart Schwartz, Peter Perdue, and Ronnie Hsia (Penn State). My project has received support from the Ruth Landes Memorial Fund and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. I have conducted research in Seville, Madrid, Lisbon, Manila, and Macau, examining a variety of sources – including official correspondence, court documents, ship registers, baptismal records, missionary reports, local gazetteers – in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.
I received my B.A. in History from Princeton in 2003, with certificates in the Program in Latin American Studies and the Program in Spanish Language and Culture. My undergraduate thesis, “Interpreting New Worlds: Columbus, Linguistic Barriers, and the Discovery of the Americas,” showed how Columbus called upon previous knowledge and experience to negotiate the problems of communication he encountered during his first voyage.
While I plan to spend the 2013-2014 academic year completing my dissertation with the support of a Mellon/ACLS dissertation completion fellowship, I look forward to my next opportunity to teach. Before arriving at Yale, I taught mandarin Chinese at a high school in Boston. As a graduate student at Yale, I have served as a teaching fellow for courses on modern Japan, modern China, the origins of the British Empire, and 19th-century Britain. In the future, I hope to teach courses on early modern European history, Chinese or East Asian history, colonial Latin American history, and world history.