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New Books: Spring 2011

Edward O. Wilson and José M. Gómez Durán, Kingdom of Ants: José Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).

John A. Marino, Becoming Neapolitan: Citizen Culture in Baroque Naples (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).

Mary Soderstrom, Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 2011).

Ryan Prendergast, Reading, Writing, and Errant Subjects in Inquisitorial Spain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011).

Women’s Literacy in Early Modern Spain and the New World, ed. Anne J. Cruz and Rosalie Hernández (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011).

María Soledad Arredondo, Literatura y propaganda en tiempo de Quevedo: Guerras y plumas contra Francia, Cataluña y Portugal (Madrid, Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2011).

Alberto Pérez-Amador Adam, De legitimatione imperii Indiae Occidentalis. La vindicación de la Empresa Americana en el discurso jurídico y teológico de las letras de los Siglos de Oro en España y los virreinatos americanos (Madrid, Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2011).


Bulletin of Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies: 35, 1 – Spring 2011

I mentioned previously that this new, peer-reviewed version of the Bulletin was now out. Since then I decided that, despite my policy of trying not to replicate information that can be found on the ASPHA website or Espora, I need to include the Bulletin on EM Spanish History Notes so that this blog can be as comprehensive a survey of current scholarship as possible. So here it is: The Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, 35, 1 (2011):

Carla R. Phillips, “The Allied Occupation of Madrid in 1710: A Turning Point in the War of the Spanish Succession.”

Mercedes Llorente, “Portraits of Children at the Spanish Court in the Seventeenth Century: The Infanta Margarita and the Young King Carlos II.”

Luna Nájera, “Myth and Prophecy in Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda’s Crusading ‘Exhortación.'”

Maria Christina Osswald, Ambientes jesuítas no Brasil à data da Supressão.”

Carlos Gómez-Centurión Jiménez, Virtuosos e impertinentes: los pájaros de cámara en la corte española del siglo XVIII.”

Jodi Campbell reviews William D. Phillips, Jr. and Carla Rahn Phillips, A Concise History of Spain (Cambridge, 2010).

Katie Harris reviews Stephanie Fink De Backer, Widowhood in Early Modern Spain: Protectors, Proprietors, and Patrons (Brill, 2010).

Jessica Fowler reviews Lisa Vollendorf, The Lives of Women: A New History of Inquisitorial Spain (Vanderbilt, 2005).

Teddy Sim Y.H. reviews Anthony Disney, A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire: From the Beginnings to 1807 (Cambridge, 2009).

Enrique Sanabria reviews Stephen Jacobson, Catalonia’s Advocates: Lawyers, Society, and Politics in Barcelona, 1750-1900 (UNC Press, 2009).

Reviews in the April 2011 AHR

The new American Historical Review, April 2011, has these reviews for us:

Stephen Jacobson reviews Marie Kelleher, The Measure of Woman: Law and Female Identity in the Crown of Aragon (Penn, 2010).

Carolyn P. Boyd reviews Stephen Jacobson, Catalonia’s Advocates: Lawyers, Society, and Politics in Barcelona, 1759-1900 (UNC Press, 2009).

Review links require subscription.

The Cecil Papers on ProQuest

This from François Soyer:

The Hatfield House Archives in the United KIngdom have digitises their privately held collection of almost 30,000 documents gathered by William Cecil (1520-1598), Lord Burghley and his son Robert Cecil (1563-1612), First Earl of Salisbury. These include a very large number of documents relevant to the tumultuous Anglo-Spanish relations during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.

They are offering a free trial of The Cecil Papers!

If you would like a free trial of The Cecil Papers or pricing information, please contact<>

Fink De Backer, Widowhood in Early Modern Spain: A Review

Stephanie Fink De Backer, Widowhood in Early Modern Spain: Protectors, Proprietors, and Patrons. The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

To write this book, Fink De Backer has scoured the archives of Toledo for traces of the activities of widows, and through these efforts, she persuasively argues her case that widows rejected the model of a convent-like recogimiento, pushed by moralists, and were full, public participants in the legal, economic, and social lives of their neighborhoods. Along the way, she provides a series of fascinating windows into the lives of a variety of widows, ranging from Blanca de la Cerda, countess of Cifuente, to Catalina Rodríguez, an impoverished widow brought before the inquisition for casting lots and muttering spells for neighborhood women in exchange for bread. While Fink de Backer makes it clear that the assertiveness of widows did not really bother their neighbors, contrary to the restrictive, misogynistic stereotype of sixteenth-century Spain, she leaves herself open to the charge that many of her findings about widows aren’t really about widows at all, but really could be said of all contemporary women.

Fink De Backer begins by pointing out that widows made up perhaps 19% of the entire population of Toledo in 1561, thanks to the low life expectancy of the period and the fact that Castilian law allowed widows full control over their dowries and half of all the gains made by couples during the marriage, allowing them to live independently and not have to seek remarriage or flee back to their families, as in Klapische-Zuber’s Italy, unless they wanted to. Following the work of Grace Coolidge, Fink De Backer also finds that widows frequently served as guardians for their children, and their children’s property, giving them another important, independent role. To describe the way that Toledan society accepted this autonomy, Fink De Backer further argues that widows were neither oppressed by patriarchy nor did they fight against it; there was room for widows to exercise power within the patriarchal structure of Castilian society. Following the work of Helen Nader, she uses the term “matriarch” to describe this autonomous niche that women had in early modern Spain.

Widowhood in Early Modern Spain opens with a section on prescriptive literature and the expectations for repression and enclosure that one finds there, expectations that Fink De Backer then contradicts in the rest of the book. But Fink De Backer points out that even some of the Christian moralists and playwrights who worried about the sexual freedom of young widows acknowledged that widows had a legitimate role in tending to their financial and familial affairs, publicly. In the archives, Fink De Backer finds little concern over the sexuality of widows, who raised illegitimate children or fight off accusations of bigamy with the support of neighbors, so long as they were morally upstanding in other ways.

And herein lies the strength of the book: the activities of real widows that Fink De Backer was able to find in the inquisition records and especially notary records of Toledo. The second half of Widowhood in Early Modern Spain chronicles the activities of widows while they managed their households, engaged in the market, sold and bought property and defended their ownership in court, raised their children and educated them for adult careers, acted as consumers, negotiated their children’s marriages, continued their husband’s crafts, gave or received charity, drew up their wills, created and supported charitable institutions, founded chapels, and made provisions for the remembrance of themselves and their families after their deaths. Fink De Backer hit on the nice idea of following the widowhood of the Countess of Cifuentes throughout the book, and then comparing her experiences with those of her less elite fellow widows, which helps give the book a narrative thread that holds the thematic chapters together.

But Widowhood in Early Modern Spain’s strength – the diversity of experience of widows that Fink De Backer reveals – is also a weakness. Certainly widows acted as charitable benefactors, arrangers of marriages, overseers of property, etc., but cannot the same be said of all early modern Spanish women? Fink De Backer admits as much at one point, stating that “Women of all socio-economic levels held wide-ranging responsibilities as daughters, wives, and mothers, learning and utilizing skills and attitudes that prepared them well for lives as widows… widowhood merely made more manifest the latent potential for authority many Castilian women might enjoy.” (p. 298) Indeed, widowhood made the activity of women visible in the archival records, where otherwise their husbands would have been the official donors, managers, sellers, and so on, obscuring the extent to which their wives were asserting themselves privately within the family.  But this weakness in Fink De Backer’s argument doesn’t have to be such a bad thing, if the reader thinks of Widowhood in Early Modern Spain not only as a study of a discrete social position – although widowhood certainly was that – but also as a way to consider the broad range of activity that women in early modern Castile were able to engage in without much resistance from their patriarchal society. We have Fink De Backer’s dogged and imaginative archival work to thank for this insightful view into women’s lives in a time and place that until now we have known chiefly through the lenses of misogynic satire and bullying Christian moralism.

Searching the AGI on PARES

This from Roger Martínez:

An Update on Digitalization at the Achivo General de Indias (Sevilla) — Modifying Your Search Technique May Yield Access to More Digitalized Documents

Dear Colleagues,


I just returned from a short March 2011 research trip to the Achivo General de Indias (Sevilla) after a hiatus of several years and was pleased to learn about some new ways of finding hidden digitized manuscripts using PARES ( Perhaps, this information will help you collect substantial documentation at home, while saving research trips to find more obscure resources.

The Problem – PARES does not always report that collections are digitalized—but they are!

As you know, PARES is the online search catalogue for locating many of the items held in the collections of the national archives of Spain. While PARES is not a comprehensive tool, it is an ideal resource to begin one’s search for manuscripts.  One specific limitation, at this moment, of PARES is that often it will locate a document and report a “signatura” for that document, but PARES will show that a digital copy is not available. That is, only the original document is available for physical viewing at the AGI-Sevilla or by ordering a reproduction. However, often PARES reports incomplete information on access to digital documents. Thus, you may need to modify your search methods to find hidden pathways to electronic copies of your documents.

For example, go to the PARES website ( and click on the “BÚSQUEDA AVANZADA” link. Let us say that you are interested in the Mendoza family in colonial Peru or Bolivia during the later part of the 16th century. To locate some documents, you decide to perform a search for the terms “Mendoza” and “Charcas” (knowing that you might find documentation pertaining to the Audiencia de Charcas). In the “Fecha” or date fields you note the range of “1570” to “1600”. Lastly, we decide to limit our search to the AGI-Sevilla by selecting “Archivo General de Indias” from the “FILTRO POR ARCHIVO” field. Subsequently, you click “Buscar” and behold we find many documents under the “Audiencia de Charcas” listing.

The first item on the list of located items is, “Constancia de haberse despachado una cédula para que el presidente y oficiales de Sevilla dejen llevar al licenciado Montealegre, a quien se ha proveído por oidor de la Audiencia de los Charcas, a don Cristóbal de Mendoza, su yerno, llevando éste consigo a su mujer, dando informaciones” and it is noted under the signatura “CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)”. Clicking the link for this document will subsequently bring up the unique descriptive record for the document, BUT IT REPORTS THAT THE DOCUMENT IS NOT AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL ITEM. THAT IS, THERE IS NO CAMERA ICON TO CLICK ON TO SEE THE DIGITAL DOCUMENT.

The Solution – As the AGI-Sevilla staff demonstrated to me, finding all digitalized documents sometimes requires you to perform a second search on PARES.

One might believe that many of the documents you are searching for and locating using PARES are not digitalized — but they are digitalized. In order to access the electronic copies, you need to perform a secondary search on PARES for the volume of the collection that you wish to review.

Returning to our example from above relating to the Mendoza family in colonial Peru and Bolivia, look closely at the unique descriptive record for the document relating to Cristóbal de Mendoza.  The “Código de Referencia:” reports “ES.41091.AGI/ 16403.7.723// CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)”  At this point you may believe that the document is not digitalized because there is no icon of a camera (the nomenclature that PARES uses to let you know there is an electronic document available).  Yet, there is a digital document, but you need to search for it differently.

Determining if the document is in digital format requires a review of the “Signatura Histórico”.  In the case of our example, we see that this reference number is “CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)”  Here are your keys to this digital kingdom!  Now, you should perform a new search on PARES, but only for the book (libro), bundle (legajo), or number (numero) that you are seeking to locate. Returning to the PARES’ “BÚSQUEDA AVANZADA” link, we now can do a search for only the libro, or “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. Again, be sure to limit your search to the AGI-Sevilla by selecting “Archivo General de Indias” from the “FILTRO POR ARCHIVO” field. Subsequently, in the “FILTRO POR SIGNATURA” field you should type in “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. (Be sure that you DO NOT put any spaces in between letters, commas, and numbers.) Lastly, click on “Buscar”. Again, a sub-link to “Audiencia de Charcas” will appear and you should select it.

Behold! The next screen will report that you have digital access to the ENTIRE LIBRO, the title “Registro de oficio y partes para la Audiencia de Charcas” and signatura “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. Click on the camera icon and you can now view the entire book, and more importantly, browse your way to “F.143v” or folio 143 verso to see your document. I think it is safe to use this over used word at this time – “Amazing!”

Opportunities – As a rule of thumb, it appears that almost ALL “Libros” are digitalized, while other resources are still only available on paper and vellum.

During my time at the AGI-Sevilla, I learned that most, if not all “LIBROS” in collections are digitalized. I cannot verify that all libros are digital, but among those that can be viewed online include:

Audiencia de Charcas – all libros, such as “CHARCAS,415,L.1”

Audiencia de Mexico – all libros, such as “MEXICO,1088,L.1”

Audiencia de Lima – all libros, such as “LIMA,567,L.7”

Audiencia de Panama – all libros, such as “PANAMA,233,L.1”

Casa de Contratacion – all libros, such as “CONTRATACION,5536,L.3”

Indiferente – all libros, such as “INDIFERENTE,422,L.16”

Additionally, it appears that some other resources such as “numeros” in “Indiferente” are available in digital form, so it is worthwhile to use this same search technique for other signaturas.

I hope you found this update useful and my best to each of you for a productive and healthy year,

Roger Martinez

New Book: Life and Times of Mother Andrea

The Life and Times of Mother Andrea (La vida y costumbres de Madre Andrea), ed. Enriqueta Zafra, intro. Anne J. Cruz (Tamesis, 2011).