Ryan A Bean

 Ryan Bean

Contact Information

309 Gregory Hall
810 S Wright
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
View CV


I am a historian of colonial Latin America and the Atlantic world for whom the study of empire and native peoples is central to my research and teaching. I am completing my dissertation "Native Andeans in the Frontier City: A New Conquest History of Urban Peru, 1535-1700," and in May 2017, I will graduate with my Ph.D. in History.

Research Interests

  • Latin American history
  • Early Modern Empires
  • Early Modern Iberia
  • Religion
  • History of native peoples
  • Urban history
  • Comparative Frontier and Borderlands Histories
  • Politics, Law, and the Colonial State

Research Description

Based on two years ofresearch in Peruvian and Spanish archives, my dissertation examines the waysnative Andeans shaped experiences of the Spanish empire and imperial authorityin Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. For Spaniards, the foundationof towns was central to their conquest strategy, as it was one of the principlemeans of claiming and organizing territory, and integrating native populations.While scholars have demonstrated that indigenous peoples shaped the politicaland cultural life in colonial cities, they continue to hold that urban centerswere spaces of conquest where Spanish cultural hegemony and civic authoritywere most deeply felt. In contrast, my work reinterprets Peru—long consideredan imperial core due to its network of towns—as a frontier region, and byextension, recasts Lima as a frontier city enmeshed in the Andean frontierlandscape. In examining frontier and city in the same analytical frame—anapproach atypical in the colonial Latin American historiography—my dissertationoffers an innovative perspective for studying cities in the Andes. Indeed, ifwe understand mountainous Peru and Lima as a frontier society, we can see newpower dynamics and, thus, new cultural processes and social relationships incolonial Andean cities.


In my dissertation, I arguethat contestation over urban and rural space, interethnic intimacy, andungovernable indigenous mobility forged an Andean frontier world of which Limawas an integral part. As I show, during the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies, mobile native actors and colonial bureaucrats together continuouslyshaped the malleable borders of Spanish sovereignty in the rugged Andes,engendering the patchy and contested sovereign landscape that was frontierPeru. The coastal capital of Lima was not divorced from the frontier highlands.Despite urban enclosures and a spatial layout that sought to contain andregulate indigenous bodies and reinforce Spanish territoriality over the Limavalley, uncontrollable native migration from across the Andes Mountainscollapsed space and provided the linkages for disparate ethnicities to meet onthe urban frontier. Indeed, indigenous migrants produced an interethnicfrontier milieu in Lima, a social scene made possible by their spontaneous movements.


My project not onlyintervenes in colonial Latin American historiography, but also speaks tohistories of empire and colonialism, native people, early modern globalization,and mobility studies by advocating for troubled histories of empires, ones thatdecenter Europe and emphasize imperial disruptions from below. Unable tocontrol native and other colonial bodies in space, for example, officials fellfar short of achieving disciplinary power, rendering Lima a frontier city rifewith interethnic intimacy and, as a result, transcultural exchanges. I showthat in Lima and its valley culture did not flow in a unidirectional fashionfrom colonizer to colonized; rather, Spaniards of all classes—like theirindigenous, African, and castacounterparts—also became creolized, as they incorporated aspects of nativeAndean religion and customs into their cultural habits. I found that Spanish Limeños mixed baroque religiosity withchewing coca leaves, mountain worship, and conjuring the Inca king. With somany Spaniards from disparate classes engaged in this creolized frontierculture, my dissertation questions Spanish cultural ascendancy and, thus, theformation of Spanish hegemony in the most important city in Spain’s SouthAmerican empire. Extrapolating from my case study, I argue for a new politicaland cultural conquest history of urban Peru, one that was incomplete andongoing throughout the Habsburg period. 


  • B.A. Hendrix College
  • M.A. University of Illinois

Distinctions / Awards

  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students, 2012


  • INTERSECT Graduate Fellowship, 2015-2016
  • Nelle M. Signor Graduate Fellowship, 2012-2013
  • Dr. Joseph L. Love, Sr. and Virginia Ellis Love Fellowship, 2014
  • FLAS Fellowship, 2015-2016, declined
  • Graduate College Dissertation Travel Grant, 2015
  • University of Illinois Dissertation Fellowship, 2012-2013
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS), 2008-2011
  • University of Illinois Department of History Pre-dissertation Travel Grant, summer 2011
  • Tinker Foundation Grant, summer 2010
  • FLAS Fellowship for Quechua, 2016-2017


  • HIST 381: The City in Colonial Spanish America
  • HIST 362: History of Spain and Portugal to 1808