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Wesleyan University

Spanish Historiography and Iberian Reality

Author(s): J. N. Hillgarth
Source: History and Theory, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Feb., 1985), pp. 23-43
Published by: Blackwell Publishing for Wesleyan University
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This paper is concerned with one of the most constant features of Spanish in-
tellectual history, the quest by Spaniards for the meaning of the history of
Spain, and with the way this quest and Spanish history itself have been
influenced, oversimplified, and distorted by the power of certain myths.
I should make clear that while I am not concerned here with non-Spanish
views of Spanish history, this is not because I believe that the "Black Legend"
of Spain, which has dominated so much foreign thinking about that country
since the sixteenth century, is any less powerful (or less harmful) than what one
might baptize as the "White Legend" or legends, the subject with which I am
It seems useful to begin with the debate on the nature of Spanish history in
which the main protagonists were the late Americo Castro and Claudio
Sainchez-Albornoz, a debate which represents in our own time the perpetually
recurringSpanish anxiety to explain the past of Spain -an anxiety I cannot see
prevailing to the same extent in other Western European countries such as
France or even Germany. The fact that in Spain -to adapt a medieval phrase-
"las cafias se han vuelto lanzas," academic arguments have often turned into
street battles in which the "Moors" of the past become the Liberals of the nine-
teenth century or the Communists of the present, itself tells us a good deal
about the passions which historical debates can arouse.
The debate I mentioned began over thirty years ago with the publication, in
1948, of Castro's Spain in Its History: Christians, Moors and Jews. Sanchez-
Albornoz's massive rejoinder, Spain, An Historical Enigma, appeared in 1956.
Both works have reappeared in revised versions and differentlanguages (though
only Castro's work has been properly translated into English) and many other
authors have joined in the fray on both sides.'
It is not my purpose to discuss in detail the rival interpretations of Spanish
history provided by Castro and Sainchez-Albornoz, but rather to point to the
way the debate illustrates the power of established myths. A Spanish historian
remarked some decades ago, "Spanish history is somewhat in love with myths"

1. See my review of the English "translation"of Sdnchez-Albornoz, Espafia: un enigma histdrico

(now in its 8th edition in Spanish; I use here the 2nd ed., Buenos Aires, 1962) in American Histor-
ical Review 83 (1978), 455f.

(um tanto mitofilica).2 This tendency was already perceived by the great
Aragonese historian Zurita in the sixteenth century when he remarked that
historians use legends as geographers do fabulous animals-to symbolize un-
known countries in their maps. It is true that in the Renaissance Spaniards were
not exceptional in the credulity - or, if you prefer, ingenuity - with which they
celebrated the mythical glories of their country. One only has to think, in
France, of Ronsard, and in England of Milton's rejection, when confronted
with the early history of Britain, of "too strict an incredulity."3But, in later cen-
turies, after the unknown country has been explored, there is a Spanish
"propensity to sustain the myth" longer, perhaps, than would be the case in
other countries. Certain periods of Spanish history thus serve, by turn about,
as exemplary model or exemplary warning.
In 1629 there appeared a Libro de las cinco excelencias del espafiol. These
five "excellencies" were passionate zeal for religion, military glory, purity of
lineage, the monarchy, and extreme generosity. From the point of view of most
non-Spaniards and even of some contemporaries inside Spain these virtues ap-
pear as fanaticism, one-sided pride, lust for dominion, rodomontade, and
vulgar ostentation.
In the eighteenth century-and down to our own day-the decline of Spain
under Philip II and his successors (long accepted as catastrophic, now seen -as
a general explanation-as only another myth) was viewed as an exemplary
warning of the perils of absolutism (the very real restraints on Hapsburg power
being generally ignored).4 In the period after the Second World War, the eigh-
teenth century, in turn, was rejected as "anti-Spanish,"because of its supposed
capitulation to non-Spanish (principally French) ideas, and was accused of
breaking up a "spiritual unity" which traditionalist historians had long seen-
or wished to see-existing before 1700.'

2. Jose Ma. Ramos Loscertales, "Los Jueces de Castilla," Cuadernos de historia de Esparia 10
(1948), 75. The quotation, below, on the Spanish "propensity to sustain the myth" is from the same
3. These parallels are noted by Raimundo Lida, "Sobre Quevedo y su voluntad de leyenda,"
Filolog(a (1962), 278.
4. Benito de Pefialosa y Mondrag6n, Libro de las cinco excelencias del espariol que despueblan
a Espafia para su mayor potencia y dilataci6n (Pamplona, 1629), cited by Julio Caro Baroja, El
mito del cardcter nacional (Madrid, 1970), 86f. See Henry Kamen, "The Decline of Spain: A His-
torical Myth?," Past and Present 81 (1978), 24-50; and Spain in the Later Seventeenth Century,
1665-1700 (London, 1980). Charles Jago, "Habsburg Absolutism and the Cortes of Castile,"Amer-
ican Historical Review 86 (1981), 307-326, points out that the Cortes were far more important even
in the seventeenth century than had been thought in restraining royal absolutism. For eighteenth-
century views see Pedro Sdinz Rodriguez, Evolucidn de las ideas sobre la decadencia espafiola
[1924] (Madrid, 1962), 99f.
5. For instance, Sdinz Rodriguez, ilif. The traditionalist side of the eighteenth century was for-
gotten. Julio Caro Baroja, Las formas complejas de la vida religious (Religion, sociedady cardeter
en-la Espafia de los siglos XVIy XVII) (Madrid, 1978), 73f., points out that representativesof an
earlier spirit of piety were as popular in the eighteenth century as was Feijoo. He also points to
the fact that Spain before 1700 was not immune from every type of religious problem, including
atheism (201f., 220, 223, and passim).
In the nineteenth century other periods of Spanish history were adopted as
mythical models-the Cortes of the Middle Ages or the revolt of the Com-
munidades in the 1520s by the "Liberals"-who ingenuously saw these oligar-
chical assemblies and revolt as embodying the principles of liberty and popular
sovereignty.6The "Liberals"also had their own exemplary warning in the In-
quisition, which they viewed, somewhat simplistically, as "the key to our his-
tory,"the explanation of every Spanish disaster. To this the traditionalists natu-
rally responded by exalting the period when the Inquisition was created, the
reign of the Catholic Monarchs. This exaltation perhaps reached its highest
point during what one may term the long reign of General Franco, who, like
Fernando and Isabel (but unlike Juan Carlos I) claimed to reign "by the Grace
of God," but similar views were expressed early in this century by such very
different thinkers as the "Liberal"Azorin and the traditionalist Joaquin Costa.
Costa blamed the "Germanism" of the Hapsburgs for preventing the "natural
development of Spanish civilization from the reign of the Catholic Monarchs"
and proposed a dictatorship as a means of converting Spain from what is called
an "historical expression" into a "reality."It was during Costa's wished-for dic-
tatorship, that of Primo de Rivera, that a Spanish historian had the courage
to point out that this craving for a dictator was a form of Messianism, since
it placed all its hopes on an outside, almost miraculous agency.7 I shall return
to the roots of this Spanish Messianism; they can be found before Fernando
and Isabel, though it is with them that Messianic ideas attain full political reali-
While I shall stress the native roots of later Spanish myths it would be absurd
to see the Iberian Peninsula as ever being sealed off from outside influences
(even Philip II did not succeed in doing this). A great deal of modern Spanish
political rhetoric, always reiterating the need for realizing the pre-existent unity
of the Spanish nation, is in fact - whether or not its exponents are conscious
of this -a poor imitation of French revolutionary models, "tacked on" to a
Spanish situation to which (because of regional differences) it does not really
apply. This is clear from the time of the Cortes of Cadiz in 1812.

The reason why the debate between Castro and Sainchez-Albornoz became so
envenomed was certainly owing to the challenge leveled by Castro at the central
myth of Spanish historiography, that of "one, eternal Spain." I shall return to
Castro's views. For the present it is enough to remind you that he argued that

6. For corrections to the classic view, enshrined especially in Francisco Martinez Marina, Teoria
de las Cortes, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1813), see Jose M. Perez-Prendes, Cortes de Castilla (Barcelona,
1976), and my work, The Spanish Kingdoms, 1250-1516, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1976-1978), II, 190-197.
On the Comunidades, Joseph Perez, La Revolution des "Comunidades" de Castile (1520-1521)
(Bordeaux, 1970), represents a more optimistic, "liberal"view than that here expressed.
7. Sdinz Rodriquez, 132, 137. J. A. Maravall, Estado moderno y mentalidad social (Madrid,
1972), II, 324, 349 n. 146, cites Azorin to the same effect. For earlier writers' comparable views see
below, n. 32.

a crucial break in Spanish history was caused by the Islamic invasion of 711.
In contrast, Sainchez-Albornozmaintained an essential unity and continuity in
Spanish history, an "Iberian man" engaged in a "long adventure, the-Recon-
quest and Repopulation of the national land, from Pelayo's [victory at]
Covadonga (in 722) to the conquest of Granada (in 1492)." For Sanchez-
Albornoz and the Castilianist school in general (which includes many non-
Spaniards) the peoples of the Iberian peninsula are "heirs to a common tradi-
tion, and at any given period of medieval history shared a common historical
experience."' There is a continual attempt to unify the peninsula, the driving
engine behind which is Castile. To quote an American member of this school,
"The quest for unity, whether achieved or not, is the characteristic theme of
medieval Hispanic history."9
In view of the obvious disunity and plurality of the peninsula throughout
most of its history (and today)-apart from other regions one can hardly ig-
nore the existence of Portugal-these views seem surprising. It appears worth-
while to ask where they come from. "Quest for unity," when analyzed, proves
to be a modern, secularized, somewhat metaphysical version of a much older
idea, the idea that Spanish history is the history of a crusade, that in it one can
see the struggle of one favored religion against its rivals, and its ultimate tri-
umph over them. This providential explanation of history can be traced back
over many centuries, to the troubled age which followed the collapse of Roman
rule in Western Europe during the barbarian invasions. If one looks at Spain
in the aftermath of the invasions the major intellectual figure is Isidore of
Seville. That Isidore's historical writings are less well known than his immensely
influential encyclopedia of ancient knowledge, the Etymologiae, is not sur-
prising. As an historian Isidore is disappointingly dry, frustratingly laconic, as
compared to his contemporary in France, Gregory of Tours. And in fact Isi-
dore's Historiae - in comparison to his immensely popular other works -
circulated very little outside Spain in the Middle Ages.'0 But inside Spain they
enjoyed great influence. Their success there was certainly owing to Isidore's
achievement in providing a working hypothesis which made sense of a Roman
world suddenly taken over by unpredictable barbarian tribal leaders; here Isi-
dore was perhaps more successful than Gregory of Tours. We like Gregory be-
cause he reflects in fascinating detail the political chaos of his times, through
which the shrines of saints stand out as the main remaining power-centers."

8. Sdnchez-Albornoz, Espafia, I, 15. The second quotation is from Joseph F. O'Callaghan, A

History of Medieval Spain (Ithaca, 1975), 20. See also J. A. Maravall, El Concepto de Esparia en
la Edad Media, 2nd ed. (Madrid, 1964).
9. O'Callaghan, 24 (italics mine).
10. See the list of manuscripts in the new critical edition by Crist6bal Rodriguez Alonso, Las
Historias de los Godos: Vandalos y Suevos de San Isidoro de Sevilla (Le6n, 1975), 123-160 (five
non-Spanish MSS. only).
11. See P. R. L. Brown, Relics and Social Status in the Age of Gregory of Tours (Reading, Eng.,
1977); and The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago, 1981), a
work in which Gregory bulks large while Isidore is totally absent.

Isidore does not give us blood feuds and relics of saints but he gives us (and
gave his contemporaries) a "vision of history" in which the particular tribe
which happened to conquer Spain, the Goths, were selected by God as the
people chosen to succeed Rome.12 This vision was to influence a long series of
chronicles written after the Islamic invasion of 711.
The acceptance of the Isidorian view of history was not immediate or
universal. Some of the men of ninth-century Asturias saw the beginnings of
their new kingdom as owing entirely to its native resources; Pelayo, its first
ruler, was elected by the Asturians alone, and his kingdom was a new entity of
"Christiansand Asturians," not a continuation of the Gothic realm of Toledo.13
This view, which is close to that of some modern scholars who see the resistance
to Islam as springing from the native traditions of the unromanized north
which had similarly resisted Romans and Visigoths, was only gradually su-
perseded by an insistence on Oviedo as a new Toledo, its kings the linear heirs
of Visigothic rulers."4This neo-Isidorian synthesis became standard in Leon
and later in Castile, and was, as it were, canonized in the works of Rodrigo
Jimenez de Rada, the historian of the thirteenth-century Castilian conquest of
most of Al-Andalus. It is he who tells us that those who beheld the "Toledan
glory" restored in Oviedo wept and rejoiced as the Jews returning after the cap-
tivity rejoiced at the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. (The "translation"
of a chest of relics from Jerusalem via Toledo to Oviedo seals the parallel
neatly)."5It has seldom been noted, however, that after Jimenez de Rada (who

12. See my "Historiography in Visigothic Spain," La Storiografia Altomedievale (Spoleto, 1970),

I, 295-299.
13. The earliest known reference to Pelayo, in the founding charter of the church of San Sal-
vador of Oviedo (in 812) states that the Goths "cum rege Roderico regni amisit gloria. Merito enim
arabicum sustinuit gladium. Ex qua peste tua dextera Christe famulum tuum eruisti Pelagium, qui
in principis sublimatus potentia victorialiter dimicans hostes perculit et Christianorum
Asturumque gentem victor sublimando defendit" (Antonio C. Floriano, Diplothatica espafiola del
periodo astur. Estudio de lasfuentes documentales del reino de Asturias (718-910) [Oviedo, 1949],
I, 120). If one looks at the Chronicle of Alfonso III one finds that the "Ovetense" redaction
presents Pelayo as elected by "maxima pars" of the Goths, "qui ex semine regio remanserunt,"and
that Pelayo was the son of a Duke Fafila. The "Rotense" version (which is considered by many
scholars earlier), in contrast, omitting mention of the Goths, reads "qui per omnes Astores man-
datum dirigens in unum concilium colecti sunt et sibi Pelagium principem elegerunt." I cite the new
critical edition by Jan Prelog, Die Chronik Alfons' III: Untersuchung und kritische Edition der
vier Redaktionen (Frankfurt am Main, 1980), 18, 21. The editor attributes the original version of
this work to ca. 880. Of the later versions, one due to Bishop Pelagius of Oviedo, the other inserted
on the Chronicle of Najera (both twelfth century) the first follows the "Ovetense"(76), the second
(116) is closer to the "Rotense."The Najera version states: "vaccaveratenim per 1111annos regnum
Gothorum." On this idea of a complete break see P. David, Etudes historiques sur la Galice et le
Portugal (Lisbon, 1947), 324-328. The contemporary Chronicle of Albelda [881], ed. Manuel
G6mez Moreno, "Las primeras cronicas de la Reconquista," Boletin de la Academia de la Historia
100 (1932), 601, distinguishes the "ordo gotorum obetensium regum" from the earlier "ordo gentis
gotorum," and states "Asturorum regnum divina providentia exoritur." On these chronicles see
M. C. Diaz y Diaz, "La historiografia hispana desde la invasion arabe hasta el aflo 1000,"La Stori-
ografia Altomedievale (Spoleto, 1970), I, 325-337.
14. See A. Barbero and M. Vigil, Sobre los origenes sociales de la Reconquista (Barcelona, 1974).
15. See Rodericus Ximenius de Rada, Opera, especially his De rebus Hispaniae [Madrid, 1793]
(Valencia, 1968), especially 11.18 (41), 111.21(67) and IV.8 (81f.; the passage quoted).

wrote about 1240), the emphasis on the Gothic nature of the revived kingdom
of Castile virtually disappeared, even in Castilian historians, for two centuries,
a period when the Spanish kingdoms were much less concerned with pursuing
the historical mission of fighting the Muslims which they were supposed to have
derived from Pelayo than they were with fighting each other. For instance Pedro
Lopez de Ayala, the greatest historian of fourteenth-century Castile, was virtu-
ally uninterested in the Gothic heritage." The Gothic view of Spanish history
never had much attraction for the historians of the other main Spanish
kingdom, the Crown of Aragon."7It was only in the fifteenth century that the
"Gothic thesis" was systematically revived in Castile. This revival was the work
of a group of influential thinkers who were converts from Judaism. I allude to
the leading poet Juan de Mena and to several members of the Santa Maria fam-
ily, descended from the former chief Rabbi of Burgos, Solomon Halevi (who
himself shared these views). It was these men who created a new Messianic vi-
sion of history, a powerful salvific myth which maintained that the Castilian
royal house descended from the Goths and that "all the kings of Spain descend
from the House of Castile." Castilian supremacy, first inside Spain and then in
the rest of the world, was presented as "part of the divine scheme of things."1
These views finally smothered an older view-found in Ayala and later
"caballero" historians-which took a less uncritically providentialist view of
history and envisaged a wider scene than the royal court on which the convert
scholars concentrated.1 In passing one may note that the same Messianic
fervor which possessed these converts from Judaism also appears in some of
the Jewish exiles from Spain. While most of the exiles of 1492, perhaps surpris-
ingly, agreed with their converted brethren in seeing the achievements of the
Catholic Monarchs as willed by God, in others we find anticipations of the
"end of Spain" in the near future and rather exact astrological predictions of
such things as the death of Fernando the Catholic.20

16. Helen Nader, The Mendoza Family in the Spanish Renaissance: 1350 to 1550 (New Brun-
swick, NJ, 1979), 56-76, has a valuable discussion of Ayala, though perhaps she tends to overac-
centuate his "Renaissance" interests (compare Robert B. Tate, Ensayos sobre la historiografia
peninsular del siglo XV [Madrid, 1970], 33-54). I do not see that the quotation from Ayala in
Nader, 74, "ridicules" the Goths but he certainly attaches little importance to them.
17. Maravall, El Concepto, 38, argues from the use of Rada by Catalan writers in the thirteenth
century to acceptance of his point of view; a clear non sequitur. Maravall tends to overestimate
the importance of the late fifteenth-century chronicle of Pere Tomich (390).
18. Tate, Ensayos, especially 66-72.
19. Nader, especially 25-35. On the distortion of history involved in the presentation of the con-
quest of Granada by court historians, see my Spanish Kingdoms, II, 372-375.
20. See Malachi Beit-Ayreh and Moshe Idel, "Rabbi Abraham Zacuto's Tract on Astrology and
the Messiah," Kiryat Sefer 54 (1979), 174-194 (in Hebrew). I owe the unpublished English version
of this work I possess to the kindness of Martelle Gavarin, who has also lent me her translations
of some very important articles by the late H. H. Ben-Sasson, which are to appear in English in
a volume of his essays to be published by Harvard University Press. In one of these articles, "The
Generation of the Spanish Exiles on its Fate," Ben-Sasson notes that in general the exiles saw the
successes of the Catholic Monarchs, especially against Granada, as the work of God, not of Satan.
Abravanel is exceptional in his hope that Spain would soon be overthrown by Islam.
The importance of this revived neo-Isidorianism is that it inspired the actions
of Fernando and Isabel, the first Monarchs to be given the title "Catholic."
Under them, to quote Stephen Gilman, "the epic past was self-consciously
reestablished, accompanied by the wild enthusiasm of the reunited nation. Per-
haps that was the only time in world history that an idealized past was
programmatically restored and not just dreamed of."'2'I myself have no doubt
that the "Gothic model" -available not only through historians inspired by Isi-
dore but also through the Visigothic law code and the texts of the Councils of
Toledo -played a far more considerable role than has hitherto been realized in
directing the aims of the Catholic Monarchs, certainly far more than the desire,
anachronistically attributed to them by modern historians, of establishing a
modern state.22

The ideological model adopted by the Catholic Monarchs remained dominant

throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its influence as apparent in
its opponents as in its advocates. To take first some of the advocates: In 1634
the man who was perhaps the last statesman of Hapsburg Spain, the Count-
Duke of Olivares, was to tell the Council of State: "thereare many things which
we neglect, not least the writing of history." As has been noted recently, "the
history [Olivares wanted] must be accurate, or in other words officially accept-
,able." It must present the House of Asturia as "the temporal pillar" of religion
against "all the power of the heretics." Or, as Olivares expressed it more suc-
cinctly in 1625, "God is Spanish and fights for our nation." Since God is
Spanish, Spain's enemies must be God's. By 1635 even war with France was,
for Olivares, war against heretics. But then, for many Spaniards even of the
twentieth century, "to believe in God is a form of believing in Spain," or at least
in Castile, because, as a seventeenth-century Spanish author writing on An-
tichrist pointed out, while Castilians will never be found in Antichrist's armies,
one cannot be so sure of Catalans.23
In 1628 the Conde de la Roca, in a speech to the Council of State (a kind
of first draft of his life of Olivares), cited, as examples historians should follow,
the history of Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada, that of Fernando IX (who was to be
canonized in 1671), and that of James I of Aragon; the list continues through
the chroniclers of the Catholic Monarchs. An up-to-date example of "correct"
history praised by Roca was the just published account of the recovery of Bahia
in Brazil by Thoma'sTamayo de Vargas,the royal chronicler, written under care-
fully controlled conditions: "beneath the eyes of our sovereign the king who or-
dained the expedition, those of the Count of Olivares who organized it, and

21. Stephen Gilman, "The Problem of the Spanish Renaissance," Folio 10 (1977), 49.
22. See The Spanish Kingdoms, II, 463, 486f.
23. Jonathan Brown and J. H. Elliott, A Palace for a King. The Buen Retiro and the Court of
Philip IV (New Haven, 1980), 162, 190. Caro Baroja, 85, 258. See also the excellent article by J. H.
Elliott, "The Statecraft of Olivares,"in The Diversity of History, Essays in Honour of Sir Herbert
Butterfield (Ithaca, NY, 1970), 119-147 (for the 1635 reference see 128).

those of the solidiers who took part in it."24What the models used by Tamayo
de Vargas were will appear if one looks at a memorial this author himself ad-
dressed to the king about 1620. Here one finds him asking for a subvention for
the publication of a series of medieval chronicles (all of Castile) and some
sixteenth-century works, the aim being to improve the morale of the youth of
the nobility, which was disgracefully given to novel-reading-the cause, it was
suggested (it was an age before television could serve as universal scapegoat)
of "tantos estragos en las costumbres" (one might translate this as: "the general
breakdown of public morality").25
A far more impressive advocate of the "Gothic model" of Spanish history
was that remarkable writer -at one time the supporter, later the bitterest critic
of Olivares-Don Francisco de Quevedo, who felt it his duty to defend the
Spanish tradition (which he saw as going back to "my Seneca") against attacks
by foreigners. In an early work, La Espafia defendida (of 1609) he asks: "Who
does not call us barbarians, madmen, ignorant and proud, when all our vices
come from abroad?" The Inquisition itself was necessary, Quevedo (unhistori-
cally) maintained, because of heresies invented in Germany and France. After
citing classical authors in praise of Spain, Quevedo turned to the Middle Ages
and remarked: "From the poor remnants of an abandoned Goth, such was the
energy [of these survivors] that they gave a people to God, freedom to their
land, and glory to their names." "The right hand of God conquered through
the Cid, and the same (right hand) took Vasco da Gama, Pacheco and Albu-
querque as its instrument in the East Indies, to trouble the peace of idols."
Quevedo saw no break in continuity between Pelayo and the Hapsburg
monarchy of his day. In the myth of "eternal Spain" Quevedo so brilliantly
propagated the Goths played the same crucial role as they had done for Isidore
of Seville or the convert historians of the fifteenth century. Quevedo, who, in
another work, traced the origin of the Spanish empire to "a Goth who guarded
a cave in a mountain," saw Columbus as "transporting the Goths to the un-
known edge of the globe."26
Although Quevedo chose to ignore the real reason for the creation of the
Spanish Inquisition -the prominence of more or less converted Jews and Mus-
lims in Spain-his attacks on Hebrew and Arabic influence on the Castilian
language and on sports such as bullfights-which, unlike modern "tradition-
alists," he detested -testify to his awareness of the main questions which might

24. Speech of the Conde de la Roca on 1 September 1628, in the British Library, MS. Additional
18,289, fol. 129. The work cited is Tamayo de Vargas,Restauracidn de la ciudad de Salvador i Baia
de todos-sanctos en la provincia del Brasil (Madrid, 1628). See Brown and Elliott, 162.
25. The memorial is simply headed "Don Tomas Tamayo de Vargas chronista del Rei nuestro
Senor." I quote from the copy in the British Library (1322.7.3).
26. See R. Selden Rose, "The Espafia defendida by Don Francisco de Quevedo," Boletin de la
Real Academia de la Historia 68 (1916), 515-543, 629-639; 69 (1916), 140-182, reprinted in
Quevedo, Obras completes. Prosa, ed. Felicidad Buendia (Madrid, 1961), 488-526 (especially 490,
523). See R. Lida, "Quevedo y su Espafia antigua," Romance Philology 17 (1963), 253-271, at 267
(citing the Advertencia a Espafia de que asi'como se ha hecho sefiora de muchos, asi'serd de tantos
enemigos invidiada y perseguida).
be raised as to the permanence of Spanish civilization. But we find him turning
with increasing desperation to one king after another in the hope that they
could restore a pure (castizo) Spain, that of the past, which had defeated
Caesar, expelled the Moors, and carried the Reconquest to the Indies. In 1643,
at a time when his personal letters reveal that he despaired of the future,
Quevedo could address Philip IV in an official panegyric: "You are the lord of
the same Cantabrians who made the ruler of the world [Julius Caesar] know
what fear is!"27It is hardly surprising that an exceptional triumph of Spanish
arms in 1638 was, as the English ambassador wrote at the time, "likely to prove
a miracle ... either of the church or of history, whereof they have many and,
with time, have gotten all the credit of truth."28
The opponents of the official ideology had greater difficulty in finding ex-
pression than did its advocates. One of the most ingenious attempts to reverse
the Gothic myth is the Morisco Miguel de Luna's Verdaderahistoria del Rey
Don Rodrigo. The first part of this work, written in 1589, was intended as a
reply to the third volume of Ambrosio de Morales's Corodnicageneral de Es-
pania, which exalted "the sovereign glory of the Goths" in terms which de-
scended straight from Isidore of Seville via Jimenez de Rada. In Luna's work,
in contrast, the Goths, from heroes, have become totally decadent, their last
king Rodrigo a corrupt tyrant, while Arabic rulers, in contrast, are models of
virtue. Despite this unorthodox approach, the Verdaderahistoria was published
in three Spanish cities before 1609 and was soon translated into English,
French, and Italian. In its own way the work's success is another witness to the
power of the Gothic myth.29
This excursus into past historiography has, I hope, suggested that the ideas ex-
pressed by Sainchez-Albornoz and his allies, their stress on continuity and on
a divine direction within Spanish history, have deep roots. Like their ninth-,
thirteenth-, and seventeenth-centurypredecessors,these twentieth-centuryhistori-
ans seek to "legitimize" their present by linking it to a glorious (Visigothic)
past. In this sense they are heirs to a long tradition. It is a tradition which has
been responsible for many of the greatest of Spanish achievements, but also for
many of the catastrophes of Spanish history. The determination found in Spain
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (unlike Italy, France, and England)
"not just not to forget but actively to continue [the medieval] past" is crucial
here.30 The epic conquests and Christianization of the New World, that

27. Lida, 262, citing the Panegirico to Philip IV. For another example of "Gothicism" in the
seventeenth century see Saavedra Fajardo, Corona gdtica, castellana y austriaca, 1st ed. (Madrid,
1646). A minor curiosity is the work of Julian de Castillo, Historia de los Reyes Godos que vinieron
de la Scitia de Europa, contra el Imperio Romano, y a Espafia, y la succesion dellos hasta el
Catholico y potentisimo don Philippe segundo Rey de Espafia, a quien va dirigida (Burgos, 1582).
28. Sir Arthur Hopton on the French defeat at Fuenterabia (London, PRO 94/40, fol. 216).
29. See the paper by Francisco Marquez Villaneuva, "La voluntad de leyenda de Miguel de
Luna" in Nueva revista de filologi'a hispdnica 30 (1981), 359-395.
30. Gilman, "The Problem," 37.

"projection of the Spanish Middle Ages in space and time,"'31the religious plays
of Calderon, the gallant though crippling struggle to champion Catholicism in
Northern Europe against hopeless odds, all these sprang from the idea that
Castile was Spain and that Spain incarnated an endless crusade. The other side
of the picture hardly needs laboring. The Gothic myth which descends from
Isidore of Seville through the propagandists of the Catholic monarchs neces-
sarily relegated those peoples not of "Gothic," "Old Christian" descent-
Muslims and Jews -to a subordinate and eventually to an irrelevant role. In a
Spain motivated by a "quest for unity" the existence of non-Christians had to
be first concealed (by forced conversions) and then expunged (by forced expul-
sions). Until the nineteenth century those descendants of non-Christians who
remained in Spain (though officially Christian for many generations) were not
accepted as full members of the "Hispanic community." Meanwhile Spain,
which had rested on the support of three religions, was thrown out of balance
by the removal or denial of two out of these three.
While many of the myths which have dominated Spanish history and
historians until recently are in the process of being rapidly discarded, some
prove tenacious. The sixteenth century saw the apogee of Spanish power, the
greatest age of Spanish literature. It is understandably hard for Spaniards to
abandon the idea that the reigns of the Catholic Monarchs and their three im-
mediate successors represent a "happy golden age, remembered nostalgically as
incomparable by one and all." (This phrase of Ramon Menendez Pidal's echoes
one of the sixteenth-century historian, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, "a
golden time indeed and a time of justice," and of a whole chain of seventeenth-
century commentators.)32This clinging to the particular age which was respon-
sible for the promulgation as official truth of the myth - still held as self-
evident by another modern historian -of "a community of men holding exactly
the same faith,"33is behind the attempts still made to defend the Catholic
Monarchs' most questionable measures, the creation of the Spanish Inquisi-
tion, the forced conversion or expulsion of Muslims and Jews. It seems that it
is the desire to defend the legacy of Fernando and Isabel which is ultimately
responsible for the violent, at times hysterical, reaction to the ideas of Americo
In distinction to earlier Spanish scholars, Arabists and Hebraists, who had
been allowed to point to the achievements of individual Spanish Muslim or
Jewish thinkers, or to stress the general cultural influence of the Islamic world
on Christian Spain, Castro claimed that it was not just a question of influence.
As far as Spain was concerned, to see Islam and Judaism as influences was

31. Sdnchez-Albornoz, Espafia, un enigma, II, 501.

32. Ramon Menendez Pidal, Spain in the Fifteenth Century, ed. J. R. L. Highfield (London,
1972), 402. Fernandez de Oviedo is quoted on 399.
33. Luis Sudrez Fernandez, in Historia de Espafia, ed. R. Menendez Pidal (Madrid, 1969), XVII.
1, 358. For another example of a recent defense of the Catholic Monarchs' policies see M. A.
Ladero, Los Mudejares de Castilla en tiempos de Isabel I (Valladolid, 1969), 76-82; see my Spanish
Kingdoms, II, 480-483.
hardly more adequate than to see them as irritants. For Castro Spaniards were
"the consequence of the intermingling of three castes of believers,"Christians,
Moors, and Jews.34Not just influence but combination, fusion. That Castro,
like all historians, had defects and limitations -he was by formation a literary,
not an economic or institutional, historian and he was not himself an Arabist
or Hebraist-is clear. He sometimes forced these further than the evidence al-
lowed. It takes one religion, one myth, to drive out another, and, like Sanchez-
Albornoz, Castro was inspired by a myth, although in Castro's case this was
not one which can be traced back along a long line of historical synthesizers
and royal propagandists, but was derived from the study of the literary tradi-
tion of the later Middle Ages. Castro's myth can be summed up in the word
he often uses, convivencia, a word difficult to translate; literally "living to-
gether," convivencia for Castro meant more than the physical coexistence of
communities and peoples of different religions; it meant rather the combative
but often also productive tension between these groups. Scholars today are en-
gaged in correcting Castro's mistakes, and in bringing in other disciplines such
as social anthropology, but it would be absurd to deny that Castro wrought a
Copernican revolution in Spanish historiography, a revolution which may be
refined but cannot be reversed. Myth for myth, the myth that Spain was created
by the convivencia, the productive tension, of three religions, is undeniably
truer to the facts than the idea that the Islamic conquest of 711 represented no
more than "a step backwards- unparalleled in the West- in the progress of an
historical community - towards its national unity,"35or than the concept that
the eight centuries between 711 and 1492 consisted simply of a long crusading
attempt to return beyond 711 to a world of pure orthodoxy and uncontami-
nated Hispanism, under a new dynasty of "Gothic" rulers. The interaction, vio-
lent or peaceful, of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, on which Castro insists, is
not the only important feature of Spanish medieval history, nor does the abrupt
termination of that relationship in itself explain Spain after 1500, but these
things constitute one of the main keys to Spanish history. They can no longer
be forgotten or explained away.
A recent work by the American historian and Arabist, Thomas Glick, is
worth citing here.36Glick's approach is sociological and seeks to be free from
ideological bias. Using the research of Richard Bulliet on conversion,37Glick
shows that conversion to Islam, in Spain as elsewhere, was much slower than
had been thought; he argues that the whole Iberian peninsula -the officially Is-
lamic south as much as the officially Christian north -was very slow to assume
"coherent form," to "define itself," in a process of "cultural crystallization."
Hence there was a great deal of flexibility, allowing for a free interpenetration

34. This is a quotation from Castro's last version of his work on the subject, The Spaniards:
An Introduction to their History (Berkeley, 1971), 48.
35. Sdnchez-Albornoz, Esparnd,II, 366.
36. Thomas F. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages (Princeton, 1979).
37. Richard Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative His-
tory (Cambridge, MA, 1979).

of ideas and techniques across far from rigid frontiers. In reaction to Sanchez-
Albornoz's view that Islamic Spain could not have influenced the Christian
north, on the ground that warfare, not peace, between the two was the norm,
Glick points out that conflict, "antibiosis," implies acculturation just as much
as does symbiosis. The idea that Islamic Spain was not really Islamic but purely
"Spanish," never very convincing, is no longer tenable in the light of this and
other recent research (notably by the French Arabist, Dominique Urvoy), which
shows that by the tenth century, at least, Islamic Spain had become as com-
pletely Islamic as any other country, and indeed (with the enthusiasm of the
recent convert) somewhat more so than most.38
Glick's criticism of Castro's emphasis on convivencia is perhaps not totally
convincing. Despite many outbreaks of intolerance and the extent to which fu-
sion was always incomplete, Christians, Jews, and Muslims did coexist for cen-
turies in Spain - unlike the rest of Western Europe - and the Islamic model, ac-
cording to which Jews and Christians were subject but tolerated communities
ruled by their own authorities, was largely (though imperfectly) adopted in
Christian Spain down to 1492. No doubt Glick is correct in criticizing both
Castro and Sainchez-Albornoz for emphasizing (for different reasons) the
"uniqueness" of Spain, and in pointing to parallel situations in the East, in
countries under Muslim rule, and, as a social scientist, he objects to Castro's
emphasis on the conscious reasons men give for the goals they pursue or the
ideals they embrace, as opposed to "the unconscious level of cultural change,"
which has not found expression in recorded form. I myself find Castro's em-
phasis on the way a group conceives of itself valuable and it seems to me to
fit in with the current stress on the "histoire des mentalities"by Georges Duby
and others. Castro, as a literary historian, stresses literary documents to the vir-
tual exclusion of the non-literary, and one would want to broaden this ap-
proach, but, as a friend observed to me, what would we know about the Greeks
if all Greek literature was lost?
In the end Glick appears to follow Castro when he states, "the motive force
for cultural change in Christian Spain was the Islamic presence," and when he
points to the "inevitability of adaptation" and to the importance of insecurity
as a crucial feature in the Christian north. Glick faults Castro for "failing to
see the social structure underlying cultural exchanges, the stage on which these
exchanges took place," in particular the demographic structure, and the limited
nature of contacts between Christians and Muslims before 1100, but he con-
cludes: "the quantity of the impact of Islamic [I would add Hebraic] upon

38. Dominique Urvoy, Le monde des uleimasandalous du V/XIe au VII/XIII e sicle (Geneva,
1978). See the work of C. Geertz, Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and In-
donesia (Chicago, 1968). On this and other points raised in the Castro-Sdnchez-Albornoz con-
troversy it is worth consulting Vicente Cantarino, Entre monies y musulmanes. El conflict que
fue Espafla (Madrid, 1978); on the supposedly non-Islamic character of Islamic Spain see 61-76.
Cantarino's general thesis stresses the effect of conflict (intellectual and as well physical) with Islam
in molding Spain; it is well criticized by J. F. Powers in Speculum 56 (1981), 368-370.
Christian culture matters less than the quality."39In the later Middle Ages-
with which Glick does not deal - quantity as well as quality is certainly present
and one could give very many instances of cross-cultural impact.
I have already referredto the Messianic revival of the Gothic myth of Spanish
history by historians who were converts or descendants of converts from
Judaism, a revival which was to have crucial consequences for Spanish history
down to the present (as well as very unpleasant personal consequences for some
of these authors, who were to have reason to regret having conjured up from
the past the monster of Gothic orthodoxy which was to devour some of them
and many of their fellow converts).40Another instance of cross-cultural impact
concerns the history of medicine and science. The standard histories fail to ex-
plain why universities played such a minor role in developing science in Spain,
as compared to France, England, or Italy. The strength of the Judaeo-Islamic
learned tradition outside the comparatively insignificant Spanish medieval
universities has to be taken into consideration. In Spain the poverty of the
Latin scholastic tradition-especially notable in science-was balanced by the
contribution of Jewish scholars familiar with Arabic. In late medieval Spain,
as Garcia-Ballester has reminded us, scientific activity flourished not in univer-
sities but in royal courts, under the patronage of an enlightened ecclesiastic, or
in Jewish communities.4' The whole debate on Spanish science-did or did not
Spain contribute anything significant to science, and, if not, why not? -which
raged at the end of the nineteenth century, largely ignored these facts, as well
as the effects of the persecution and expulsion of the Jews and the forced con-
version of the Spanish Muslims, blows which the tradition of Arabic medicine
and science in Spain could not survive.
Let us now turn from one of the main effects of the acceptance for so long of
a governing myth to another. The disastrous impoverishment of Spanish life
which resulted from the implementation by the Catholic Monarchs of the myth
that Spain is essentially and only Christian is well enough known. The ap-
palling intellectual confusion owing to the acceptance of this myth by later
historians-apparent in such statements as "there is nothing more opposed to
the authentically Hebrew than the essentially Spanish" (I quote from Sanchez-
Albornoz)42 will receive only one illustration here, the strange case of Dr.
Cristobal Perez de Herrera. During the greater part of his life Perez de Herrera
(ca. 1556 to 1620) representedthe same spirit of criticism and desire for change,
the turning to a new, more bourgeois type of mercantile society, not founded
on myths of honor and "purity of blood," which we also find in contemporary
satirists such as Mateo Aleman. In 1600, at the beginning of a new reign, Her-
rera advocated the integration of the subject Moriscos into Christian society.

39. Glick, 292ff., 299.

- 40. See my Spanish Kingdoms, II, 463 n. 2.
41. L. Garcia-Ballester, Historia social de la medicina en la Espafia de los siglos XIII al XVI
(Madrid, 1976), I. On Spanish universities see also Cantarino, 278-292.
42. Sdnchez-Albornoz, Espafia II, 176.

Ten years later, in 1610, he advocated their expulsion. The issue had been
decided and Perez de Herrera-himself of Jewish convert descent-took care
to representhimself as a member of the "Old Christian" nobility of "the Moun-
tains of Santander," a region supposedly pure of any Muslim or Jewish con-
tamination. In the engraving decorating his main medical work (published in
1614) he is surrounded- improbably, in view of his dominantly peaceful
career- with blazonry and captured standards.43
There are other consequences, perhaps less obvious to non-Spaniards but
scarcely less disastrous, which follow from the acceptance of the standard myth
in its full-blown form, where Spain is narrowed down not only to the Christian
tradition but to that tradition as represented by Castile. By identifying
"Iberian" or "Spanish" man with Castile, non-Castilian Spaniards (and the
Portuguese) are inevitably relegated- almost as effectively as Jews and
Muslims -to an inferior status. So, in a recent work by an American historian
of the Castilianist school, the century from 1369 to 1479 is described as "The
Struggle for Peninsular Union."44 From a Catalan, Aragonese, Valencian, or
Portuguese point of view this century saw rather a struggle by Castile to impose
its hegemony on the rest of the Iberian peninsula, and attempts, some suc-
cessful, some not, to resist this.

It would have been surprising if many recent historians of Spain had not been
influenced by the apparent success, over four decades, of a ruler who repre-
sented in no uncertain manner, the centralizing tradition which has always
glorified the role of Castile, and which has sought -especially since the coming
of the Bourbon dynasty in the eighteenth century, and much more systemati-
cally under the nineteenth century "Liberals"- to suppress non-Castilian lan-
guages and institutions. It is scarcely necessary to recall, however, that this
latest attempt at centralization has proved even more of a failure than its
predecessors and has indeed led to an unmistakably clear reaction in favor of
local autonomies. In the 1980s no one living in Spain or merely reading news-
paper reports about that country can fail to be reminded of the remark of
Ortega y Gasset that Spain is not a country but a series of watertight compart-
ments. That the greatest problem of post-Franco Spain consists in the linguistic
and regional separatist movements, fueled by economic discontent, both of for-
merly rich regions such as the Basque country and of historically poor regions
such as Andalusia, is very largely owing to the reaction against the centralizing
policies of General Franco.
One cannot lay all the blame, however, on his shoulders. The contemporary
troubles have historical roots and the failure to deal with them in time is at least
in part owing to the refusal to recognize this too total concentration on Castile
and its saving, "unifying" mission, with concomitant blindness to other aspects

43. Michel Cavillac, "Noblesse et ambiguities au temps de Cervantes: le cas du Docteur

Crist6bal Perez de Herrera (1556?-1620)," Melanges de la Casa de Velazquez 11 (1975), 177-212.
44. O'Callaghan, 521-653.
of Spanish reality. I shall limit myself here to two examples of the way the non-
Castilian past, if ignored, can rise up to avenge itself on the present. I pass over,
necessarily, the great range of variation found in the climatic and geographical
features of different Spanish regions. This, like historical developments, has
often been ignored by centralist observers but it is less likely to escape attention
today than are the variations of regional history, which (pace Braudelians)
often seem as important as those of geography.
The first example of the influence of past history on present problems which
I wish to stress concerns Andalusia; the second the Catalan-speaking lands of
eastern Spain. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Christian rulers were rap-
idly conquering Islamic Spain. The way these conquests were carried out
differed greatly, depending on whether the region conquered fell to Castile or
to the Crown of Aragon (a federation since 1137 between Catalonia and
Aragon), and these differences were to affect later Spanish history very con-
siderably. In Aragon itself and along the Mediterranean coast, in much of the
Muslim kingdoms of Valencia and Murcia, the Muslim population largely re-
mained and continued to farm much of the land. It was not dispossessed until
the seventeenth century. Meanwhile many Christian settlers moved in and prop-
erty was, on the whole, fairly evenly divided, as it was in the Balearics, also con-
quered by the Crown of Aragon. In Andalusia, in contrast, most of the land -
in large measure because of the weakness of the Castilian Crown, but also be-
cause of Muslim revolts and their expulsion -was given away in large estates
to the Castilian nobility, the Military Orders (a preserve of the nobility), and
the Church, and was - in part deliberately- very sparsely settled.45The impor-
tance of the nobility, especially in the Tagus valley and Andalusia, already far
greater in the later Middle Ages than it was in Aragon, Catalonia, or Valencia,
was not ended by the formal abolition of the seignorial regime in the early nine-
teenth century.46The nobility continued to be important because it possessed
vast estates. Like their predecessors, nineteenth-century nobles (now joined by
jumped-up bourgeois landowners) preferred in general to be absentee propri-
etors, to live in cities such as Seville or Cordoba, or, increasingly, in Madrid.
The situation was aggravated rather than relieved by the sale of Church lands
in the mid-nineteenth century. Around Seville "Church lands were farmed by
6,000 families, after the sales they fell into the hands of 400 families."47The
system of large estates, with an impoverished, dependent, and largely illiterate
peasantry, continued to dominate the region down to 1936 and beyond. It ex-

45. Spanish Kingdoms, 1, 22-25.

46. M.-C. Gerbet, La noblesse dans le Royaume de Castille. Etude sur ses structures sociales en
Estremadure(1454-1516) (Paris, 1979). Charles Jago, "The Crisis of the Aristocracy in Seventeenth-
Century Castile,"Past and Present 84 (1979), 60-90. Henry Kamen, Spain in the Later Seventeenth
Century, 226, remarks that by this time Spain was "probably the only West European country to
be completely and unquestionably under the control of its titled aristocracy." For the middle of
the nineteenth century see F. Cdnovas Sanchez, in Hispania 141 (1979), 51-99.
47. Raymond Carr, Modern Spain 1875-1980 (Oxford, 1980), 5 (citing A. Lazo, La desamor-
tizacidn de las tierras de la Iglesia en la provincia de Sevilla, 1835-45 [1970]).

plains much of the chronic agricultural discontent, the anticlericalism, and the
popularity of the Anarchist movement, which characterize Andalusia (as dis-
tinct from most of northern Spain) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
As Paul Preston has remarked, the Spanish Civil War was basically an
"agrarianand Andalusian (conflict), in which the rest of Spain was involved."48
Under General Franco the latifundia of Andalusia continued to prosper.49
I hope that I have succeeded in suggesting some reasons why the sudden
emergence today of an Andalusian demand for autonomy is not an artificial
phenomenon without historical roots.50 In fact it should only have surprised
politicians reared in the Franco era on the still prevalent mythology that in
Spain only Castile and Castilian history matter and who needed the rude shock
of entire Andalusian villages going on hunger-strike to persuade them
My second example of the interrelation of past and present concerns the nature
of Mediterranean society, equally misunderstood and undervalued by Castilian
historiography. One often finds in historians of the Castilian school the state-
ment that Spain is "different"(generally understood to mean better) from the
rest of Western Europe, among other reasons because it never contained a na-
tive bourgeoisie. If limited to Castile this statement contains some truth;51 even
in the first half of the nineteenth century the bourgeoisie hardly counted in
much of Castile as compared to the nobility and the Church. But this view suc-
ceeds in ignoring the central position the middle class had already attained in
the later Middle Ages in the Crown of Aragon, especially Catalonia, Valencia,
and the Balearics, a position maintained ever since. The "hot air of hidalgui'a,"
of which Guicciardini complained in 1512,52 continued to blow strongly
throughout the tableland of Central Spain down to the nineteenth century. It
did not affect Barcelona or Valencia, cities whose urban aristocracy or patric-
iate resembled more closely those of contemporary Italian or German cities,
such as Venice or Hamburg, than it did the sheep-farming, consciously noble
caballeros of Avila or Salamanca.
Enriched by overseas trade and stiffened by corporate pride, the urban patri-
cians of the Crown of Aragon were responsible for the development of Cortes
(parliaments) which came to possess far more power, and which proved more
successful in limiting the powers of the Crown, than did the corresponding
Cortes in Castile.53These differences between Castile and the Crown of Aragon

48. Paul Preston, "The Breakdown of the Second Republic," a talk given at the Twelfth Annual
Conference of the Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies (Toronto, April 1981).
49. Carr, 159 (citing J. Martinez Alier, La establidad del latifundismo en Espafia [1968]).
50. Even Carr (178) is surprised by Andalusian demands, "only flimsily based on history and
cultural identity."
51. For qualifications see Kamen, Spain in the Later Seventeenth Century, 260-275; Henri
Lapeyre, Une Famille de Marchands, les Ruiz (Paris, 1955), 119-121, and Caro Baroja, Las
formas complejas, 377-386.
52. Guicciardini, cited in my Spanish Kingdoms, II, 621.
53. See notes 4 and 6 above.
continued to exist after the time of the Catholic Monarchs. They are noted by
virtually all foreign travellers visiting Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries and also by theorists discussing the country.
Let us take one example from an Italian ambassador to Spain and another
from an author commenting on Spain from outside. In 1537 the ambassador
of Lucca, present at the Cortes of Monzon in Aragon, noted Charles V's anger
with the recalcitrant nobles of the country and remarked: "When [the em-
peror's] war [with France] is over he will provide in such a way that [the nobles]
cannot be as independent as they have been."54
My "theoretical" example comes from a French memoir, written at the end
of Philip II's reign, containing hints of how to attack Spain. "All Spain is
divided," we read, "into two, that is the Crown of Aragon and Castile. In the
Crown of Aragon the people is more corrupt (corrompu) . . . because there the
king does not exercise his authority as he pleases but has to observe laws which
they call Fueros." Castile, while much more heavily taxed, was considered much
less likely to rebel.55The revolt of Aragon in the 1590s and that of Catalonia
in the 1640s show that these observers were not inventing the situation they de-
These differences within Spain account for the increasing tendency of the
Hapsburgs to rely on the more manageable Castile for the financial and mili-
tary support their policies required. The Crown of Aragon survived, virtually
laid on the shelf. Catalan, Aragonese, Valencian, and Majorcan privileges were
left intact while the direction of the supranational collection of states ruled by
the Hapsburgs passed to Castile, which limited itself to exercising the same
paternalistic control over the Crown of Aragon as it did over Naples, the Low
Countries, and Portugal (after 1580). Paternalism could be profoundly ir-
ritating when applied with a heavy hand to Basques or Catalans. But it was
only in 1714 that the new Bourbon dynasty endeavored to destroy the regional
privileges and traditions of the Crown of Aragon - the other European lands
once under Castile having escaped from its grasp in the War of Spanish Succes-
sion or before this.57
But 1714 was too late to try to destroy the non-Castilian traditions of Spain,
and especially of Catalonia. The suppressed institutions were remembered. The
survival of local languages guaranteed this. Up to 1714 the administration of

54. Lettere inedite di Monsignor Giovanni Guidiccioni da Lucca, ed. Telesforo Bini (Lucca,
1855), 158.
55. Memoires de lestat d'Espagne et des moyens d'y faire la guerre, in MS. Paris, Bibliotheque
Nationale, Dupuy 22, especially fols. 122-127v.
56. See the Marques de Pidal, Historia de las Alteraciones de Aragdn en el reinado de Felipe
II, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1862-1863), a learned work with a misleadingly minimizing title, and J. H.
Elliot, The Revolt of the Catalans (Cambridge, 1963).
57. For a different view of the Bourbons see Kamen, Spain, 7-10. But see also Miguel Artola,
Los Ort'genesde la Espafia Contempordnea, 2nd ed. (Madrid, 1975), I, who points (359) not only
to the drastic measures which immediately followed the War of Succession but to "la obra tenaz
y constant de un siglo entero." Carr (6) similarly speaks of nineteenth-century Liberals "com-
pleting the centralizing mission of the absolute monarchy."

Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearics was carried on in Catalan. After this
date, popular texts were still read and sermons preached in the native language.
In the early nineteenth century the decline of the Bourbon state was followed,
in Catalonia, by a literary renaissance which explicitly returned to its medieval
roots. At the same time the "Liberals" (a word which derives in our political
vocabulary from Spain), who dominated so much of nineteenth-century
Spanish history, attempted to impose a unified legal and administrative system
on the country and to break up the historic regions in favor of artificial
provinces modelled on the departements recently created in France. In 1876 the
Liberals (I quote Raymond Carr) "destroyedthe last remnants of Basque medi-
eval liberties with the slogan 'Centralisation is liberty!' "58 It is hardly necessary
to point out that this destruction was not permanent, though it was certainly
again attempted by General Franco, who, in his passion for centralization, if
in no other respect, can rightly be described as "the last Liberal in Spanish
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the hegemony of Castile in the
peninsula, and its political control of the rest of Spain, has only been reim-
posed, at times of crisis, by force since attempts to revive earlier Messianic
ideas and to persuade Catalans to speak (as they were ordered to do in Barce-
lona in 1940) "the language of empire" (that is, Castilian, the language of the
"empire"Franco then hoped to extend across North Africa) have proved ludi-
crously unsuccessful.60 The "hollow unity, unity for the sake of unity," Un-
amuno denounced, has proved hollow indeed. The regained individuality of
Catalonia has been no less real than that of Portugal when it rebelled against
Castile in 1640. In recent years the Basque and Galician languages have also
served as springboards forfrenewedclaims of autonomy. That it is now proving
so difficult to translate these various claims into viable political institutions is
largely owing to the intellectual incapacity displayed by men trained in Madrid
in understanding any type of society, literature, or history other than those of
I shall end by one more example of the distortion of Spanish history brought
about by the promulgation and acceptance of the myth of "one, eternal Spain."
This is the view so often held today of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain
as a land of intense personal religion, the more intense because of the absence
of any disturbing intellectual protest, in short a land of mystics, "Espafia mis-
tica." At first sight there seems much to be said in favor of this view. Were not
these centuries marked by a succession of great mystics, St. John of the Cross,
St. Teresa of Avila, Luis de Leon, St. John of Avila? Of course they were (or

58. Carr, 5f.

59. A remark I owe to Professor William Callahan of the Department of History, Toronto.
One example of parallel tactics is Franco's prohibition (from 1939 to the mid-1950s) of the use
of Catalan in the theater. This can be compared to a Liberal prohibition (in 1867) of the use of
Catalan on the stage except for minor comic characters (see Carr, 62).
60. Carr, 148.

ratherthey are for us, looking back). But if one looks at the actual lives of these
great saints and mystics one finds that in their lifetime they received far more
hostility than acclaim. Virtually all of them were persecuted by the dominant
institution of the day, the Spanish Inquisition, with the same energy as was
devoted by the Castilian Cortes to preventing the introduction of other "novel-
ties" (novedades), in the form of foreign ideas and technical inventions, into
the country. Only the secret Jews received greater attention from the Inquisition
than did the mystics.6' Spain paid a high price for the purity with which it
preserveditself from foreign techniques; the failure of the Spanish Armada was
largely owing to this. It also paid a high, though less obvious, price for the re-
jection of the ideas of its mystics who might have breathed new spiritual life
into the topheavy apparatus of Spanish state religion. The mystics in fact had
very little influence on Spanish society. St. John of the Cross completely failed
in his main aims. The educational reforms of St. John of Avila broke down
soon after his death.62 The sixteenth-century noble unwilling to allow his
daughters to learn to read lest they become mystics, or at least nuns, was not
perhaps exceptional. He had seen too many mystical nuns persecuted by the In-
quisition. As a contemporary remarked of him: "He was so Catholic that even
the name (of nun) offended him!"63
If sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain was not a land of mystics it was
also not one of unquestioning obedience to a royal theocracy. Protest, which
could seldom take a public form (except in the violent but transient riots over
shortages of food) was expressed in picaresque satire. Even the patriotic
Quevedo at times enjoyed mocking the glories of Spain, from the Cid down.64
In 1634, when he was at the height of his power, Philip IV's great minister Oli-
vares was represented in Madrid as a doctor telling his patient (Spain) that the
knife was the only remedy, and Spain was described as a mule which Olivares
held by the ears.65One can compare a similar double-edged joke circulating in
Spain today which describes Lieutenant-Colonel Tejero, the agent of the abor-
tive coup of February 1981, as the best veterinarian in Spain. "When he had
three hundred fat cattle shut up for 18 hours he didn't manage to kill one of
The most visible successors of the optimistic Erasmian reformers of the early
sixteenth century were nihilistic pessimists, the authors of Lazarillo de Tormes

61. See, for instance, Enrique Llamas Martinez, Santa Teresade Jesus y la Inquisicidn espafiola
(Madrid, 1972).
62. F. Mirquez Villanueva, "Los Inventos de San Juan de Avila," Homenaje al Profesor Car-
riaze (Seville, 1973), III, 173-184, at 181. If L. L6pe-Baralt's Harvard thesis of 1974 (cited in my
Spanish Kingdoms, II, 624) is correct in tracing the influence of Sufi mysticism on St. John of the
Cross, the Inquisition's hostility to him might be more explicable.
63. Caro Baroja, Las formas complejas, 89.
64. See Lida, in Filologia 8 (1962), 297f., and also the valuable collection of articles (published
under a slightly anachronistic title) by J. A. Maravall, La oposicidn polhtica bajo los Austrias
(Barcelona, 1972).
65. Brown and Elliott, A Palace, 97 (see also p. 203 and passim for other examples of mordant

and Guzman de Alfarache. The glorification of the antihero expressed in the

Lazarillo and (in a vastly more subtle and complex way) in Don Quijote, con-
veyed to contemporaries outside Spain-even to Philip II's arch enemies, the
English -the idea that there was more than one Spain. (It is of less importance
that the Lazarillo was often taken - as it still often is - as a "realistic"portrait
of Spain when, as Stephen Gilman remarks, it is "an anti-portrait, a rejection
so complete that it cuts far beneath the level of satire."66The point is that it
contradicts so clearly the official presentation by Spanish writers of Castile in
its greatest age.) As Americo Castro pointed out, Spain has its own humanism,
less refined than that of Italy, less concerned with knowledge than with being,
more concerned with "how to be a man" than with "how to know man."67
Spaniards have always been able to cut their tyrants down to size. So, in La
Celestina, as Gilman has shown, a few years after the conquest of Granada-an
event acclaimed by contemporaries as the greatest triumph of modern
history - this great victory could be placed on a par with the - evidently equally
important (or trivial) - fact that "Cristobal got drunk." And the text with
which Christ praised martyrdom "for righteousness' sake," could be applied by
Fernando de Rojas to a witch exposed for the mockery of the passers-by, evi-
dently at the behest of the Inquisition.68One may add that this text (Matthew
5.10) is also used in the Lazarillo, with the same play on the double meaning
of "righteousness," in order to turn the official standards of "justice" upside
down. By "justice" (justicia) do we mean righteousness or police brutality?
By this savage and saving mockery generations of satirists-many of them
descendants of forced converts from Judaism, always conscious of the fun-
damental dilemma of their position - redeemed the day-to-day insecurity under
which they had to live. The medieval and Renaissance traditions of the "wise
fool" came to their rescue. It is prominent in Don Quijote.69This tradition sur-
vives down to the present. There is a story, which seems to me worth preserving,
that in one of the darkest moments of Spanish history, in the Madrid of 1940,
General Franco summoned before him the wit and man-about-town, the Conde
de Foxat, and accused him (probably correctly) of spreading satirical jokes

66. S. Gilman, "The Death of Lazarillo de Tormes,"Publications of the Modern Language As-
sociation of America 81 (1966), 151.The Erasmian spirit continues to appear in some late sixteenth-
century religious writers such as the Franciscan Juan de Pineda, whose Didlogesfamiliares (1589)
continue to cite Erasmus and severely criticize his fellow friars and even the agents of the Inquisi-
tion (see Caro Baroja, 179-181).
67. Castro, cited by Gilman, "The Problem," 39f.
68. S. Gilman, The Spain of Fernande de Rojas (Princeton, 1972), 93, 141, and his "A Genera-
tion of Conversos," Romance Philology 33 (1979), 87-101.
69. I draw on the studies of Francisco Mdrquez Villanueva, "La locura emblemdtica en la seguna
parte del Quijote," Cervantes and the Renaissance (Papers of the Pomona College Cervantes Sym-
posiu, 1978), ed. Michael D. McGaha, 87-112), and "Un aspect de la litterature du 'fou' en Es-
pagne," XIXe Colloque international dBtudes humanistes: L'Humanisme dans les lettres espa-
gnoles (Paris, 1979), 233-250.
about the new and saving orthodox state the General was then engaged in
implanting-on the consciously adopted model of the Spain of the Catholic
Monarchs-on a country in ruins. "Foxai,"Franco is said to have remarked-
quoting the official slogan of the regime-"You must remember that Spain is
one, great and free!" The reply was worthy of the convert court buffoon and
burlesque chronicler of the Emperor Charles V, Francesillo de Zun'iga.70"That
is not my joke, Generalissimo," is what Foxaiis said to have replied.

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies


70. See the new (the first reliable) edition of Francesillo de Znffiga, Crdnica burlesca del emper-
ador Carlos V, ed. Diane Pamp de Avalla-Arce (Barcelona, 1981).