Last semester Honors College Director and History Professor Dr. John Chuchiak traveled to the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, Germany to aid in a research effort on the Maya. The institute has four research focus areas, each featuring special research fields. Dr. Chuchiak worked with scholars from across the globe researching the Maya people’s use of the Spanish colonists’ legal system in the special field of the legal history of Ibero-America. They found that the Maya were able to use the legal system against the Spanish effectively bankrupting them.
By looking at Maya and Spanish documents we could see how the conquered were able to defeat their conquerors in court. They acted as lawyers, speaking and writing in Mayan, Latin, and Spanish, manipulating the system for their benefit. They even directly appealed to the king about unfair taxes and won.
This research will be part of a book series sponsored by the Max Planck Institute including the primary Spanish sources. Images of the sources will appear with transcriptions and English translations to make it more accessible to those who don’t know Spanish. The book series will not only be available in print, but also in a digital form that will be offered for free.
Offering a free digital version will allow audiences, such as those in third world countries, the ability to have access to research that is normally unavailable. It is important that everyone be able to have research available to them to encourage a global academic community.
Dr. Chuchiak is a specialist on colonial Latin American history, emphasizing the history of Mexico and Maya ethnohistory. His general research focuses on the history of the colonial church in Mexico, specifically the Franciscan Missions, the Inquisition, and the Catholic Church in colonial Yucatán. He also serves as director of Latin American, Caribbean & Hispanic Studies Program.