Henry Kamen's examination of the Spanish Empire serves as a deconstruction of the very idea of Spain itself. His position takes the often cited observHenry Kamen's examination of the Spanish Empire serves as a deconstruction of the very idea of Spain itself. His position takes the often cited observation that Spain did not exist in any concrete sense during the early modern period to one extreme. If Spain did not exist, then precisely who presented the most formidable presence in Europe and the force capable of colonizing the New World? The answer he puts forth argues that the Spanish monarchy encompassed a global enterprise, inlvolving not only Castilians, but also Basques, Catalans, Italians, Germans, Aztecs, Incans, and others.
These non-Spainiards created the very idea of spain by marshalling the resources necesary to perform the tasks of empire. Yet, as an empire united under one monarchy this assemblage of peoples was exceptionally difficult to maintain. As a new take on the Spanish colonial project, Kamen's interpretation offers a new perspective on the problem of Spanish decline. ...more
David Ringrose's "Spain, Europe, and the 'Spanish Miracle,' 1700-1900," builds an engaging reevaluation of Spanish historiography out of recent work oDavid Ringrose's "Spain, Europe, and the 'Spanish Miracle,' 1700-1900," builds an engaging reevaluation of Spanish historiography out of recent work on the historical period encompassing the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His primary argument challenges the convention that Spain floundered economically at the close of the early modern period, as the rest of Western Europe entered a phase of heavy industialization, and failed to recover lost ground in later centuries. Though his conclusions are drawn from an incomplete analysis of the period, there does appear to be strong support for the view that Spain actually exhibited a previously unrecognized degree of economic resiliency.
This resiliency is based off a view of the later colonial period that sees the loss of Spanish America as an unremarkable moment in Spain's economic relationship with the Americas. Ringrose argues trade between Spain and its colonies had become by the early eighteenth century similar to that with other independant states. The only territories of real colonial value - Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines - remained tied to the Spanish Crown. This developement, in turn, relied on a series of liberalizing reforms launched in the late eighteenth century that broke down the existing monopolistic trade system in favor of increasing commodification. This change favored ports along the North Atlantic coastline and Mediterranean especially.
Ringrose's analysis divides the country into four geographic region. The first, composed of the Mediterranean littoral, streching from Genoa to Gibraltar and centered at Barcelona, proved especially strong economically. In the North, the second region, extending along the Atlantic coastline centered around Bilbao and later Santander, grew especially strong from mining. Of all regions, the third region or Castilian interior, suffered some stagnation. However, it was by far the Andulsia of the Guadalquivir basin that suffered most draatically from the loss of monopoistic protections on trade with Spanish possessions in the Western Hemisphere.
In closing, Ringrose argues that despite his accout of the economic "successes" of modern Spain, the political and social state of the country eveloved very little during this period, maintaining its reliance on powerful families and local privileges. Though, perhaps here too there remains much work to be done....more
"Communities of Violence" traces the nature of ethnic relations in France and the Kingdom of Aragon - not all of Europe as the title suggests - in the"Communities of Violence" traces the nature of ethnic relations in France and the Kingdom of Aragon - not all of Europe as the title suggests - in the waning years of the middle ages. David Nirenberg's approach presents many challenges to the conventions of studing intergroup conflict. His methodological technique in particular offers a new means to interpret source documents. Concerning the larger field of Jewish history, Nirenberg seeks to free historians from a reliance on a strict teleology that sees all persecution as leading to the Spanish expulsion of 1492 or even the Holocaust.
Rather than construct a universal theory of ethnic violence, Nirenberg emphasizes local context. In the case of France, anti-Jewish violence is seen to be supportive of the intensely sacred identity of the Crown. In Aragon, by contrast, the Crown actively saught to protect its Jewish subjects. Both examples characterise differing responses to what Nireneberg describes as cataclysmic violence
Nirenberg's analysis explores more than Christian-Jewish relations alone. The difficult place of Muslims, lepers, and prostitutes in this society receive extended attention as well. Perhaps Nirenberg's most remarkable finding is that much of the violence (he uses a liberal definition of the term to be certain) was systematic. In this sense, everday forms of violence stabilized society and served the forces of order more so than chaos.
The book ends with consideration of violence in the wake of the Black Death. Interestingly, here the author finds more continuity than change. Though limited geographically, this conclusion warrants further examination of the frequent invocation of the 1340s as a decisive turning point in the periodization of European history. ...more