History Colloquium - "These Noxious Little Animals: Battling Locust Swarms in Colonial New Spain"

Martha Few, Department of History, Penn State University


Starting in the 1680s and continuing through the 1830s, the archival record shows that locust swarms in the region of what is now Central America and southern Mexico (Chiapas and Oaxaca) intensified in frequency, duration, and geographic scope.

This talk will analyze the politics of colonial insect killing campaigns by juxtaposing archival examples of colonial, local, and indigenous knowledge claims about insect infestations and eradication by colonial scientists and physicians, lay people, political authorities and native peoples as they grappled with food shortages and famine, fear of disease spread, and threats of social unrest when locusts swarmed.