The Sept 2008 Journal of Modern History is out, and there are several reviews of interest to us. J.B. Owens reviews Bartolomé Yun Casalilla’s Marte contra Minerva: El precio del Imperio español, c. 1450-1600; Katie Harris reviews L.P. Harvey’s Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614; and Tamar Herzog reviews Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra’s Puritan Conquistadors: Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700.
The Fall issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies features an article by José Pardo Tomás and Álvar Martínez Vidal, “Stories of Diseases Written by Patients and Lay Mediators in the Spanish Republic of Letters (1680-1720).” For an abstract of the article, link here.
Another new work on Spanish literature of interest to historians: The King and the Whore: King Roderick and La Cava, by Elizabeth Drayson. The King and the Whore traces the legend of how Roderick, the last Visigothic king, lost his kingdom to the Muslim invasion of 711 because he provoked his general, Count Julian, into treason by pursuing an affair with the Count’s daughter. One chapter focuses on Miguel de Luna, forger of the Lead Books of Granada, and other chapters analyze late medieval and early modern songs and drama based on the legend.
In the latest Renaissance Quarterly (link requires Project Muse) there were no reviews of any history titles on early modern Spain, but there were a few reviews of interest to historians. On literature, María M. Carrión reviews Hilaire Kallendorf, Conscience on Stage: The Comedia as Casuistry in Early Modern Spain; Carol Pal reviews María de Guevara, Warnings to the Kings and Advice on Restoring Spain: A Bilingual Edition, ed. Nieves Romero-Díaz; and Charles Burnett reviews María Jesús Zamora Calvo, Ensueños de Razón: El cuento inserto en tratados de magia (Siglos XVI y XVII). On music, Lorenzo Candelaria reviews Owen Rees and Bernadette Nelson, eds., Cristóbal de Morales: Sources, Influences, Reception; and Michael Noone reviews Tess Knighton and Álvaro Torrente, eds., Devotional Music in the Iberian World, 1450-1800: The Villancico and Related Genres.
The Fall Renaissance Quarterly contains an article (link requires Project Muse) by Elizabeth Wright on Cortés’s “Second Letter from Mexico.” She examines a printed version of the letter from the print shop of George Coçe in Zaragoza to study the Letter’s “first life as a news story.” Wright argues that Coçe carefully selected the wood prints he used in his edition, repeating many of them from an edition of Livy’s History of Rome he had printed earlier, to draw parallels between the new Spanish empire of Charles V (recently made Holy Roman Emperor), and the Roman empire. Further, she emphasizes that Coçe selected pictures that “visualize empire in terms of communication processes” between the ruler, his various subjects, other polities, etc. The article looks to be an interesting glimpse at Wright’s larger, on-going project, The Subject of Empire: Displacement and Information Innovations in the Spanish Monarchy, 1520-1620. Elizabeth Wright, “New World News, Ancient Echoes: A Cortés Letter and a Vernacular Livy for a New King and His Wary Subjects (1520-23),” Renaissance Quarterly 61 (2008): 711-49.
In the September issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality, Cristian Berco expands on the ideas of his book, Sexual Hierarchies, Public Status: Men, Sodomy, and Society in Spain’s Golden Age. In a thought-provoking article, Berco argues that contrary to the common idea in queer studies that non-heterosexual sex is necessarily threatening to a patriarchal society, in early modern Spain sodomy could fit quite well with patriarchy. So long as a man was the penetrating actor in a homosexual encounter, his sexual behavior could help him assert his dominance over other men, just as heterosexual sex promoted men’s status over women. As Berco puts it, “most men easily understood a sexual system that allowed for the expression of virility and dominance through sodomizing other males.” (p. 364-65) Cristian Berco, “Producing Patriarchy: Male Sodomy and Gender in Early Modern Spain,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 17 (2008): 351-76. (Link requires Project Muse subscription.)
A little digging in the website at Bishop’s University reveals that Berco has begun a new project on syphilis in early modern Toledo – this should prove to be fascinating.
I’ve come across two more new books that look intriguing and, like The Treasure of the San José, deal with Spain’s relationship with its empire in America.
From last year is The Art of Allegiance: Visual Culture and Imperial Power in Baroque New Spain, by Michael Schreffler. Also like Phillips’s book on the San José, this book focuses on the reign of Carlos II. Schreffler uses secular painting to explore how the official aesthetic of empire dealt with the problem of the absent king in Mexico City, finding that the creole elite were not really inventing a new patriotic, proto-Mexican national identity, but instead were using art to grapple with the problems of royal authority, loyalty, and their place in Spain’s world empire. He finds that trade and economics in general were important to this colonial identity, and The Art of Allegiance looks like another fine attempt to link the history of Spain and America.
More recently, Alejandro de la Fuente has written Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century, placing the growth of Havana in the context of the Spain-bound fleets that gathered there. He tries to tell the story of the city’s economic, social, and political history as part of the formation of an “Atlantic community.”
I’ve just finished reading The Treasure of the San José: Death at Sea in the War of the Spanish Succession by Carla Rahn Phillips. Actually only part of the book is devoted to the loss of the galleon and its treasure, although Phillips uses a lot of eyewitness accounts of the English descent on the ship and the fleet it was escorting from Portobelo to Cartagena in 1708, and the result is as gripping as Patrick O’Brien. The rest of the book is devoted to the careers of the officials responsible for the fleet and the decisions they made that led to failure. Just as in Spain’s Golden Fleece, which prepares the reader to care for, shear, and market the wool of a flock of sheep, reading The Treasure of the San José will enable you to build, equip, man, and sail a galleon – and give you some strategies for justifying your behavior to the authorities in Madrid if you happen to lose a ship and its treasure on the way back to Spain. The book provides a fascinating look at the troubled fortunes of the soldiers and courtiers who tried to serve the Spanish king in an age of great stress for the monarchy, paying through the nose for every position they received.
We often make a sharp break between the reigns of Carlos II and Philip V, and Phillips’s story provides a nice bridge between this dynastic shift. And The Treasure of the San José also adds another book that connects Spain with its colonies in a meaningful way.
Marcy Norton’s new book, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Chocolate and Tobacco in the Atlantic World is now available from Cornell UP.