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Nicholas F. Russell

China inspired and invigorated the thinkers and policymakers behind the European enlightenment, but the extent and contours of the Chinese influence remain poorly understood. This article remedies this situation by delineating and evaluating major appearances of China in a Spanish newspaper, the Diario de Madrid, the capital’s official daily. Specifically, the article analyzes the Spanish accounts of two Dutch ambassadors to China, as well as a “Description of China” that takes into account multiple sources. Both accounts were prepared by an English observer and publisher, Thomas Astley, and later translated into French and from the French into Spanish. Taken together, these accounts show the diversity of sources on China as well as the eagerness with which Europeans apprehended new knowledge about the Middle Kingdom. There was also an underlying political message, in support of absolutism, which threw fuel onto the raging debate about the appropriate bounds of monarchical powers.