H-Net has the advertisement from the University of Texas-El Paso, looking for a specialist in the history of Spain any time during the 14th to the 18th centuries.
The last paper from the 2010 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference that I will present is Daniel I. Wasserman Soler, “The Shifting Fortunes fo the Vernacular and the Spanish Index of Prohibited Books.” Wasserman refutes the idea that the inquisitors in charge of the Index in Spain were capricious and inconsistent in the vernacular books they placed on the Index. Instead, he argues that inquisitors were consistently concerned about provocative (or unorthodox) religious ideas put into the vernacular, but their response varied according to the seriousness of the case: prohibition, emendation, or requiring licenses to read the suspect material. In other words, the varying judgments passed on vernacular vernacular religious printed matter was evidence not of ham-fistedness, but of nuance and subtlety.
Everyone knows about Las Casas’ Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies. Few realize that it was originally published with a confessor’s manual by Las Casas, one that envisioned a way to have a Spanish empire in the Americas without coercion. Nicholas Bomba, at the 2010 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Montreal, gave a paper entitled, “Policing the Conscience: The Confessional Manual of Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Battle for the Spanish Soul,” in which he argued that the document was not really intended to be used by confessors, but instead was a brief aimed at the Spanish king pointing at the communal guilt that Spain, and its sovereign, shared over the iniquities of the Spanish empire. Motolinía, for one, didn’t like the coercive role that the fictional priest played in Las Casas’ manual, forcing the dying penitent to free his slaves and make reparations to the Indians of his encomienda or forgo the sacraments. Other critics pointed out that the oppression of the native Americans should be dealt with as individual, not collective sins, deflecting the blame from the king. In short, there was an interesting argument about whether, in order to create a just empire, the institutions of empire needed to be reformed, or whether punishing abusive individuals was the correct approach.
Another fascinating paper in Montreal at the 2020 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference was Daniel Hershenzon, “Pleading Captivity in Early-Modern Spain: Bureaucratic and Popular Articulations of North African Captivity, 1580-1650.” Hershenzon, a University of Michigan PhD candidate, is writing his dissertation on the connections between Spain and the Maghreb, and here he was describing the problem of determining who was truly a captive, returned from the jails of Algiers or Oran, and who was not. Captives came back destitute and in debt to the friends and institutions who provided their ransom. Soldiers petitioned for their back pay from the crown, and civilians petitioned the crown for begging licenses. False captives, hoping to obtain unearned boons from the state, loomed large in the imaginations of both royal bureaucrats and Spanish literature, for example in Cervantes’ works. How could you prove you really had been a captive and thus were deserving of aid? Letters you had written home could help, so would continuing to wear the rags and display the manacles of captivity. A little knowledge of Arabic or Turkish went a long way, too, but all of these things could be faked. In his paper, Hershenzon pointed out how the concerns, and proofs demanded, by the state came to closely resemble the concerns and proofs featured in popular literature.
At the recent Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Montreal, Sara T. Nalle gave an interesting, richly detailed paper entitled, “Apex and Collapse of the Dowry Market in a Provincial Castilian City: Cuena, 1500-1669.” These findings were taken from her larger project on ethnic identity and the family (see here), and she finds that the 16th and 17th centuries saw Cuena finishing the development, that began centuries earlier, of transition from a horizontal family model to a vertical one, focused on masculinity and lineage. In the mid-16th century, when economic good times prevailed in Cuenca, dowries steadily increased in price while the arras remained stable, even for the lowest craftsmen in the textile industry, wool-carders; marriage to even these humble workers was a good investment for girls’ families, and the dowry commanded about 3-years worth of income. During the 17th century, however, economic disaster hit, dowries continued to increase as economically viable husbands became scarce, and Cuenca saw a steep rise in the reliance of charity to fund dowries. The arras disappeared completely, and the medieval marriage of model was finally replaced by the early modern one.
There was more that I don’t have time and space to get into, but suffice to say that Nalle’s foray back into old-school social history is continuing to provide fascinating material.
There were a lot of really good papers and sessions on early modern Spanish history and literature at the recent Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Montreal, but one that especially stood out was Sherry Velasco, “Same-Sex Unions in Early Modern Spain.” It was a precis of her forthcoming book with Vanderbilt, Lesbians in Early Modern Spain. Velasco examines lesbians in literature, but also in the archives of the inquisition and other courts. In her paper, she emphasized the importance of rumor, gossip, and spying – especially aural spying – in the testimony against women accused of being homosexual. There was some great stuff about how people understood sex, and how it could be possible between two women, and also on the social dynamics of some of these lesbian couples. She concluded by stating that lesbians were not hidden, not tolerated, but not insignificant in early modern Spain.
The October 2010 Perspectives on History: Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, features 2 items on the late David Weber: “David Weber, Vice President of the Professional Division, Dies at 69,”
And a brief announcement that The Borderlands and Frontier Studies Committee of the Conference on Latin American History joins the AHA to present a memorial session at the next annual meeting in Boston, entitled, “David J. Weber and the Borderlands: Past, Present, and Future.” It will be held Friday, January 7, 2011 from 5:00 to 7:00 in the Hynes Convention Center, Room 207 (this announcement not on the AHA website). Speaking will be Amy Turner Bushnell, Peter S. Onuf, Cynthia Radding, Benjamin H. Johnson, and William B. Taylor.
The Frick Collection is featuring an exhibition entitled, “The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya,” curated by Lisa A. Banner, Jonathan Brown, and Susan Galassi. It runs until Jan. 9, 2011.
Here is a review of the exhibition in the October 14, 2010 New York Times.
Thanks for the tip to Lisa A. Banner, who adds, “If you want to take your students, the Frick’s excellent education department can be contacted through their website, at www.frick.org“
PBS is now featuring a 90-minute documentary, “When Worlds Collide,” which is an exploration of the impact of the Spanish conquest of the new world and the origins of Latino society.
Thanks to Danny Wasserman for the tip.