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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age

[Detail] General view of harbor at San Juan, Porto Rico looking South.

Introduction | World History | U.S. History


Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age is a rich collection of writings by prominent Puerto Rican political activists, authors, and historians. The collection consists of political pamphlets and monographs on government and politics, agriculture and botany, economics, education, and literature. Many of the early tracts, dating from the 1830s, are written in Spanish in a flowery style typical of the early nineteenth century and may be challenging even for students with a fluency in Spanish. Four books are in English, three pertaining to accounts of the Spanish-American War and one a travelogue of the island.

Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age is not a socially comprehensive view of Puerto Rican history. The books and pamphlets in the collection were written by highly educated men of European descent whose perspectives inevitably differed from the viewpoints of the majority of Puerto Ricans. The lower socio-economic strata of Puerto Rican society, including individuals of African descent, are either neglected or viewed through paternalistic lenses.

The collection contains documents that can be used to study both world history and U.S. history. In world history, students can explore the political and economic transformation of Spanish colonial possessions in Puerto Rico and, to a lesser degree, Cuba, in the nineteenth century. The collection also provides insights into the development of American expansionism during the Spanish-American War and the changing role of the United States in world affairs.

To effectively use Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age, students should examine "Related Resources" on the home page. Here students will find references to a number of American Memory collections that can be searched using Puerto Rico as the search term. In addition, students may be directed to The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures for motion pictures produced between 1898 and 1901 using actual film footage and reenactments of battles during the Spanish- American War and Philippine Insurrection. Cartographic Items, gallery, presents a number of maps of the island in Map Collections: 1544-1999, the earliest dating from 1785. "In Search of a National Identity," a series of brief essays on the history of Puerto Rico in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, provides useful background information and context for the items in the collection.