James Alexander Robertson

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James A. Robertson (b. August 19, 1873- d. 1939) was born in Corry, Pennsylvania. He was educated at the Adelbert College, Western Reserve University.

James Alexander Robertson was the preeminent American scholar on Spanish Philippines. Together with Emma Helen Blair, he was co-editor of the monumental 55-volume "The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898."

He was born in 1873 and died on March 20, 1939. He was the first editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review, a term he held from 1918 until his death.

Working for a Chicago publisher A.H. Clark & Co., co-editors James Robertson and Emma Helen Blair traveled all over the world between 1902 and 1907, visiting archives, libraries, and museums, collecting, transcribing, translating and annotating over 1,500 documents. By the end of 1909 the printing and publication was completed and the volumes were released in rapid succession. The result was"The Philippine Islands: 1493-1898", 53 volumes containing nearly 20.000 pages of historical documents and books translated to English for the first time, as well as annotated with extensive notes and introductions.

Modern Philippine historians, most notably Gregorio F. Zaide have noted its over-reliance on manuscripts found in Seville's Archivo General de Indias and its glaring omissions: Propaganda Movement, Jose Rizal, the Katipunan movement, the pre-Hispanic past, and the Philippine Revolution. Indeed, the largest number of volumes are dedicated to the early centuries of Spanish rule, whereas the nineteenth century is summarily treated in the last few volumes. Whatever its faults Philippine scholars have continued to cite it for the last 10 decades, ignoring the fact that they are only citing skewed translations from Spanish into English and that many of the originals are now published on the internet by the Archivo General de Indias and Filipiniana.net.

Similar projects of publishing original source documents in Spanish were undertaken by Wenceslao E. Retana's 5-volume Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino, a more balanced representation of revolutionary Philippines, and Pablo Pastell's 10-volume Coleccion General de Documentos relativos a las Islas Filipinas en el Archivo General de Indias, which was published by the Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas or Tabacalera which devolved after 5 volumes into a listing of Filipiniana in the great Spanish archive. On the latter's initial publication in 1919 of the first volume, James Robertson wrote in the Hispanic American Historical Review: "If this plan is carried out in its entirety, it will be the first time that all the documents of the archives relating to a given regional unit of considerable size have been published. The time that will be consumed in exhausting the documents of the archives relating to the Philippines may be estimated somewhat by referring to the Blair and Robertson collection, the majority of the original documents of which came from Seville, and yet that series touched but a very small part of the material available. To complete the present series, even wit a generous appearance of volumes each year,.. probably more a generation will be required. The material of the first volume and its mechanical get-up are inspiring and the best wishes of those interested in the Philippine field go with the Tabacalera company in its daring venture."

External Links

Review of The Philippine Islands on CD-Rom by Jeroen Hellingman [[1]]

Full page access to the 55 volumes at University of Michigan's [[2]] website

Filipiniana.net's index of full-text fully searchable Blair and Robertson documents [catalog], part of its flagship project Virtual Blair and Robertson

Excerpt of James A. Robertson's review of a similar project by Pablo Pastells [[3]]



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