Fashioning Identities and Building an Empire: Thomas Gage’s The English-American (1648) and English Puritan Proto-colonialism


  • Jesús López-Peláez Casellas



Thomas Gage, travel narrative, Spanish America, Oliver Cromwell, Puritan, Protectorate, Western Design, The English-American, identity, Anglo-Spanish relations


Thomas Gage, a seventeenth century English priest, traveler, and scholar was the first non-Spanish person to settle in, and travel extensively through, the Spanish Main. After his twelve-year experience as a Dominican in, mostly, Mexico and Guatemala, he returned to England and, after recanting, published his very popular The English-American, his Travail by Sea and Land, or, A New Survey of the West-India’s (1648).The success of this book (which rapidly went through several editions and translations) was mostly due to its coincidence, both in aim and content, with early seventeenth century English colonial ambitions especially as devised by Oliver Cromwell in his so-called Western Design of 1655to which it actively contributed. Gage’s successful retrospective construction of himself gained him a relatively influential position in Cromwell’s failed project to replace the Spaniards in the New World. In this paper I will examine how Gage’s insufficiently studied narrative influenced Cromwell’s military project, and will also focus on how this and similar writing produced a number of precarious and self-cancelling identities from which he tried to profit.


Download data is not yet available.


Aguilar, Sinforoso. 1946. “Prólogo”. In Aguilar, Sinforoso (ed.) Nueva relación que contiene los Viajes de Tomás Gage en la Nueva España. Guatemala: Tipográfica Nacional: iii-xxvi.

Armitage, David. 1992. “The Cromwellian Protectorate and the Languages of Empire”. The Historical Journal 35 (3): 531-555.

Battick, John F. 1972. “A New Interpretation of Cromwell’s Western Design”. Barbados Museum and Historical Society 34: 76-84.

Beer, George L. 1902. “Cromwell’s Policy in its Economic Aspects. II”. Political Science Quarterly 17 (1): 46-70.

Bindoff, Stanley T. (ed.) 1982. The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1509-1558. 2nd vol. London: History of Parliament Trust.

Birch, Thomas (ed.) 1742. A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, Volume 3, December 1654 - August 1655. London: Fletcher Gyles.

Borge, Francisco. 2007. A New World for a New Nation. The Promotion of America in Early Modern England. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Campos, Edmund. 2009. “Thomas Gage and the English Colonial Encounter with Chocolate”. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 39 (1): 184-200.

Cromwell, Oliver. (1654) 1742. “The Proctor’s Comission to General Venables”. In Birch, Thomas (ed.) A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, Volume 3, December 1654 - August 1655. 15-16.

Davies, Glynn. 2002. A History of Money. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Edelmayer, Friedrich 2011. “The ‘Leyenda Negra’ and the Circulation of Anti-Catholic and Anti-Spanish Prejudices”. European History Online. ‹›. Accessed June 15, 2016.

Gage, Thomas. 1648. The English-American, His Travail by Sea and Land, or, A New Survey of the West-India’s. London. Early English Books Online.

Gage, Thomas. (1654) 1742. “Some Briefe and True Observations Concerning the West-Indies, Humbly Presented to his Highnesse, Oliver, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, [by mr. Thomas Gage]”. In Birch, Thomas (ed.) A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, Volume 3, December 1654 - August 1655. 46-63.

Greenblatt, Stephen. 1980. Renaissance Self-Fashioning. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Hakluyt, Richard. (1584) 1993. Discourse of Western Planting. London: Hakluyt Society.

Helgerson, Richard. 2000. “Writing Empire and Nation”. In Kinney, Arthur (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to English Literature 1500-1600. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P.: 310-329.

Jones, Howard M. 1952. O Strange New World. New York: The Viking Press.

Juderías, Julián. (1914) 2013. La leyenda negra: Estudios acerca del concepto de España en el extranjero. Madrid: La esfera.

Knapp, Jeffrey. 1992. An Empire Nowhere: England, America and Literature from Utopia to The Tempest. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Knoppers, Laura. 2000. Constructing Cromwell. Ceremony, Portrait, and Print. 1645-1661. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

Kupperman, Karen. 1998. “Errand to the Indies: Puritan Colonization from Providence Island through the Western Design”. The William and Mary Quarterly 45 (1): 70-99.

Lewkenor, Lewis. 1595. A Discourse of the Usage of the English Fugitiues, by the Spaniard. London.

Lipson, Ephraim. (1931) 1956. The Economic History of England. Vol II. London: Black.

Maddison, Sir Ralph. (1640) 1655. Great Britain’s Remembrancer. London.

Medcalfe, John. 1995. “Thomas Gage —a Mitigated Scoundrel?” The Month 28 (1): 331.

Newton, Norman. 1969. Thomas Gage in Spanish America. London: Faber & Faber.

Pitt-Rivers, Julian. 1971. “Thomas Gage among the Naguals”. L’Homme 11 (1): 5-31.

Ross, E. Denison (ed.) 1946. Thomas Gage.

The English-American. A New Survey of the West Indies, 1648. London: George Routledge

(The Broadway Travellers).

Stephen, Leslie (ed.) 1889. Dictionary of National Biography. 20th vol. New York: Macmillan.

Strong, Frank. 1899. “The Causes of Cromwell’s West Indian Expedition”. The American Historical Review 4 (2): 228-245.

Tejera, Dionisia. 1988. “‘The English American or A New Survey’: La crónica de un hereje”. Hispana Sacra 40: 731-745.

Thompson, J. Eric. 1958. Thomas Gage’s Travels in the New World. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Whitfield, Christopher. 1964. “Sir Lewis Lewkenor and The Merchant of Venice: A Suggested Connexion”. Notes and Queries 11: 123-133.

Williamson, Arthur H. 2005. “An Empire to End Empire: The Dynamic of Early Modern British Expansion”. Huntington Library Quarterly 68 (1 & 2): 227-256.

Worden, Blair. 2010. “Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate”. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 20: 57-83.

Young, Francis. 2015. The Gages of Hengrave and Suffolk Catholicism, 1640-1767. Martlesham: Boydell & Brewer.




How to Cite

Jesús López-Peláez Casellas. (2017). Fashioning Identities and Building an Empire: Thomas Gage’s The English-American (1648) and English Puritan Proto-colonialism. Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, 56, 91–108.



ARTICLES: Literature, film and cultural studies