Early Modern Exchanges


Dire Straits: Patagonia and the Magellan Circumnavigation at 500

An online conference marking 500 years since Portuguese mariner Ferdinand Magellan sailed through the strait at the southernmost tip of the Americas that now bears his name (1519-22).

Cape Virgin Mary at the north entrance of the Magellan Streights
November 2020 marked 500 years since Portuguese mariner Ferdinand Magellan sailed through the strait at the southernmost tip of the Americas that now bears his name as part of the first circumnavigation of the globe (1519-22). Providing Europe with a new route to Asia, the Strait of Magellan became an important strategic location that attracted the interest of numerous nations throughout the early modern period and beyond.

On the eve of this significant anniversary, this conference aims to unite new and diverse critical perspectives on the Strait, its surrounding regions, and the Pacific spaces that it brought into European view for the first time, across a broad time frame. This event seeks to avoid the triumphalist commemorative narrative typifying many celebrations of this anniversary, and provide a space that privileges alternative, decolonial and emerging research that continues to question the tropes of barrenness and desolation that have long been associated with Patagonia. By welcoming scholars working across fields as diverse as environmental history, historical geography, visual culture, and Latin American politics, we hope to shed further light on the contested nature of Patagonian space and how it has been understood by different peoples at different times. We also seek to continue the important work that is already being done by Latin American scholars in particular that speaks to the significance of Patagonia and its indigenous peoples in the history of the Americas and of the world.


12:45 (London) | 08:45 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)


Elizabeth Chant and Alexander Samson (UCL)

13:00 (London) | 09:00 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)

Panel 1: Mobilities and Mythologies (Chair: Katherine Parker) - click link to view recording

  • Carmen Channing (University of Edinburgh): From Magellan to Drake: The Locus of the Strait of Magellan in England's Worldview (1520-1578)
  • Carolina Martínez (CONICET-Universidad Nacional de San Martín): Moving Frontiers, Global Interests. The South Atlantic Expedition of Brothers Bartolomé and Gonzalo García de Nodal (1618-1619)
  • Alexander Samson (University College London): The Armada del Mar del Sur, Global Mobility and the Limits of Empire

14:30 (London) | 10:30 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)


14:45 (London) | 10:45 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)

Panel 2: Maps and Imaginaries (Chair: Elizabeth Chant) - click link to view recording

  • Katherine Parker (Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc): Magellan’s Straits or Round the Horn?: The British Discourse on Passing from Atlantic to Pacific, 1670-1770
  • Natalia Gándara (University College London): Competing Maps: Cartographic Production and Circulation in the Age of Imperial Rivalries (1780s-1830s)
  • Marcelo Figueroa (CONICET-Universidad Nacional de Tucumán): In Pursuing of a ‘Complete’ Geographical inspection of the Spanish Empire: Juan Gutiérrez de la Concha in the Eastern Coast of Patagonia (1794)

16:15 (London) | 12:15 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)


16:30 (London) | 12:30 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)

Panel 3: States, Images and Conflicts (Chair: Natalia Gándara) - click link to view recording

  • Cielo Zaidenwerg (CONICET-UBA/Universitat de Barcelona): La Patagonia desde ‘afuera’. Representaciones transnacionales del espacio otro en la prensa española (XIX-XX)
  • Alberto Harambour (Universidad Austral de Chile-IDEAL Center): The Invention of the Strait of Magellan’s Discovery: The New Racial Project of Chilean Settler Colonialism in 1920
  • Samuel García Oteíza (Instituto de la Patagonia, Universidad de Magallanes): Exploradores y el registro cartográfico del camino en fuegopatagonia; una aproximación a las caminerias del territorio 1870-1885

18:00 (London) | 14:00 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)


18:30 (London) | 14:30 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)

Keynote with Ximena Urbina - click link to view recording

(Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso): Imperio global, diseños locales: la proyección de la capitanía general de Chile hacia el estrecho de Magallanes y la nunca hallada Ciudad de los Césares

19:30 (London) | 15:30 (Santiago/Buenos Aires)

Closing remarks

Elizabeth Chant

Hosted by the University College London Institute of Advanced Studies and the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Kindly supported by the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies

This conference took place online on 30 March 2021, 12:45 pm–8:00 pm. View event listing.