The period of the Habsburgs, that which begins in 1516, the year of the proclamation of Carlos I as king, and goes up to 1700, the date of the death of Carlos II, is undoubtedly the most splendor in the history of Spain, and of he deals with Alfredo Alvar Ezquerra in his essay Austrias. Empire, power and society (The Sphere of Books). The subtitle specifies the intentions: How Spain became the great global power. «It is the first time that an interpretation of the Spain of the Habsburgs has been made, focusing more on the social agents than on the historical evolution. It is not a history of the Spain of the Habsburgs, but of the exercise of power and its acceptance in the Spain of the Habsburgs, "says Alvar to La Lectura. These are some axes of its governance.
His stage was the basis of what would come, but this research professor at the CSIC History Institute clarifies that it is difficult to distinguish the work of Isabel from that of Fernando because "they were so intelligent that since the Segovia Christmas pacts of 1474-1475 supported each other, as they sought a common goal: to strengthen the Monarchy so that this power would redound to the good of its subjects. The experience in Castile and Aragon of a weak Monarchy had had disastrous consequences that were known to them; it was necessary to tame the rebellious aristocracy. That plan was when the conquest of Granada ended, the decision to expel the Jews who did not want to convert was adopted, Columbus appeared with his lands seen or Nebrija giving the Castilian language a grammar, all in 1492. ».
The Empire lasted so long because “it was the most powerful and healthy economically, institutionally, and technically. He knew how to take advantage of the opportunities of the times. The armies were respected and envied, their diplomatic service was incredible, their university legal training was excellent. The cultural diffusion through the printing press or the pulpits, or the royal visits, or the authority made visible in the royal delegates, were exemplary”.
At that time when characters like Lázaro de Tormes or Guzmán de Alfarache mixed with high school graduates and doctors, «the corruption of Lerma and his associates was certainly a fact. As there were judges who stood up to him. Too bad that politically some wanted to remove them... to wear them. Rodrigo de Calderón had his throat cut, Pedro Franqueza was tried for more than 400 crimes and Lerma dressed in red so as not to die in the rope. And he adds: "Don Quixote's (or Cervantes?) advice to Sancho is not the result of air, but of a cultural trunk of belonging."
Alvar Ezquerra, an expert on the Golden Age, highlights this not-so-discussed exercise: «The diplomats of that time were individuals from all the territories of the Empire who served the interests of the king (of Spain). And therefore they safeguarded both the interests of the king (of Spain) and his territories (of the Empire), because the kings were the sovereigns. The diplomats were the same Castilian, Aragonese, Burgundian... The king appointed them. There were permanent embassies and special missions. The capacity for international political pact was overwhelming. A world of unique information. The reciprocity was also enormous. The diplomats maintained direct contact with the king and, where appropriate, with the Council of State, hence their correspondence is extremely rich.
Why did the Peninsula live in peace from the 20s of the 16th century until the 1640s? «In Spain, in the crowns of Castilla and Aragón, except for the uprisings of the Communities and the Germanías, or the alterations of the 1590s, nothing happens until 1640. Was there so much repression or so much conformity because a horizon was appreciated? ».
Alvar emphasizes a certain social flexibility as one of the causes that propelled changes and was the seed for a new society. In the book he documents "how ordinary people, thanks to their studies and other services to the king, were able to die in richer beds than in the cradles in which they were born and with more open existential horizons than those of their parents." A "quantitative society" began to be imposed, that of money, the one that arose from commerce and manufacturing, over the "qualitative" one, the one that settled on the previous one, that of the privileged (nobility and clergy) and not privileged.
Another of the characteristics of the Hispanic Empire was to be a composite or aggregate Monarchy. The king of Spain was also the king of Naples, Sardinia and Sicily; lord of Milan and the Netherlands; king of the Indies; Lord of the squares of North Africa and, since the Union of Crowns, King of Portugal and its domains. «Each and every one of those territories», writes Alvar Ezquerra, «maintained their differences with respect to the others. Even his indifferences. But they never faced each other. If there were uprisings it was against the bad government. And he insists that if unity was maintained for so long it was because Spain was a «functional Empire: each territory performed a function for its own benefit and for the benefit of others. American silver financed armies and other expenses. Those armies, which were trained in Naples, defended everyone from outside attacks.
The first Inquisitorial Tribunal of Castile was established in Seville in 1478 and arose to prevent converted Jews from turning back and Jews and Crypto-Jews from tempting neo-converts to do the same. The Inquisition was born “to persecute the heresy of apostasy. Then he joined the persecution of the Lutheran heresy and then another; he was adapting to the times ». Although its operation was repealed by the Cortes of Cádiz in 1812, it lasted until 1834. «When necessary, the Inquisition acted politically, camouflaging civil issues as religious ones».
There is not usually a cause that determines the collapse of an Empire, but after the incorporation of Portugal (1581), the Spanish Monarchy was the common enemy that had to be sunk, and one of the triggers of the great crisis of 1640. It was confirmed in the Peace of Utrecht of 1714.
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