(Alphabetical by author’s last name)
“The Maritime Insurance Business in Spain in the Sixteenth Century” by Hilario Casado Alonso (Valladolid University) – In this work we analyze the marine insurance business through its different components: its legal model, the insured, the insurers, the insurance brokers, the ships, the routes, their price and the accidents. For this we start from a large database, composed of about 20,000 insurance policies, which allows us to provide a panoramic not only of this business but also of navigation worldwide in the sixteenth century, as the policies were contracted on trips and ports that went from Russia to Greece, passing through all the European ports To them it is necessary to add the contracted insurance for Newfoundland, Hispanic America, Brazil, Africa and India and all type of merchandise. The first conclusion is that we are facing an economic activity of enormous scope, since the insured came from all parts of the world. Those who went to Spain – preferably to the Consulate of Burgos – to contract their policies. There were many capitals ready to cover the risks, while they enjoyed great guarantees to collect in case of shipwreck. This situation will survive until the 1580s, where the business went into crisis.
“Bringing the Public Sphere into Play: The Spanish Case:” by James S. Amelang (Universidad Autónoma, Madrid) – Some of the more interesting recent historical reflections regarding late medieval and early modern Spain have focused on not just the content of political opinion, but also on the modes, extent, and intensity of its communication. Iberia seems at last to have joined the European club of public spheres, or at least a strong case is being made for its membership. This talk weighs some of the arguments for and against this revision. And in so doing it turns to the work of a certain medievalist for help in putting together some observations from the stance of amicus curiae.
“Desecrators or True Citizens? Categorizing Ethno-Religious Interaction in the Medieval Crown of Aragon” by Thomas W. Barton (University of San Diego) – Medievalists in general and historians of pre-modern Iberia in particular generally struggle to categorize ethno-religious interactions and often disagree over these classifications. What might look like an act of intolerance to one scholar could be interpreted by another as an expression of economic competition or jurisdictional conflict without any ethno-religious dimension whatsoever. Our assessments are complicated not only by our varying interests, areas of expertise, and methodologies but also by the fragmentary nature of our sources, which only rarely yield precious information about the motivations behind these enigmatic interactions. This paper will explore a single case of ethno-religious intolerance, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery by non-Jews, that took place within the fourteenth-century Crown of Aragon. Analysis of extensive trial records concerning the incident will illustrate that, not unlike modern scholars, historical actors themselves (perpetrators, victims, and witnesses) could emerge with dramatically different interpretations of an episode, thereby adding support to David Nirenberg’s proposition that medieval people engaged in “processes of barter and negotiation” to associate definite ethno-religious meanings to discourses and interactions.
“‘Tramet me tots los comptes que tens ordenadament’ – Enslaved Women as Commercial Agents in the Late Medieval Mediterranean World” by Debra Blumenthal (UC Santa Barbara) – Historians of medieval Mediterranean commerce now generally acknowledge how “women’s participation in long-distance ventures was commonplace and constituted a meaningful segment of the trade network” (Van Doosselaere, 2009). Likewise, historians of slavery, examining the Roman and Islamic law regulating the employment of (male) slaves as commercial agents, have highlighted the practice’s social and economic expediency (Broekaert, 2011; Lydon, 2005). Yet we haven’t contemplated the possibility that enslaved women participated in medieval Mediterranean commerce. This essay will expose the trading activities of an enslaved woman owned by a Genoese merchant living in the fifteenth-century port of Valencia who, subsequent to her master’s return to his native Genoa, would remain in Valencia, performing a role roughly equivalent to her master’s commercial agent. Buried among the records of a fifteenth-century dispute over a debt are an extraordinary series of letters written by this Genoese merchant to his slave woman. The five letters span a period of approximately two years (May, 1455 – February, 1457) and chronicle the tortuous relationship between this Genoese merchant, Alberto del Pont, and his slave woman, Catalina. Alberto left Valencia in 1454, in order to return to his native Genoa, leaving behind (in Valencia) Catalina, as well as their eighteen-month-old daughter Ysabel, a.k.a. Beleta. Though Alberto subsequently got married in Genoa, he maintained his relationship with Catalina, both through letters and occasional visits. Elsewhere, I have discussed these letters (and the two court cases tied to them) for the light they shed on the emotional dynamics of sexual relationships between masters and their slave women. In particular, I have argued that Alberto’s efforts to regain physical custody of their daughter Beleta calls our attention to the fact that, in the late medieval Mediterranean context, masters did not view the enslaved women they had sexual relations with exclusively as “slave breeders” or producers of more slaves. Rather, certain male elites valued enslaved women’s potential for serving as surrogate mothers, women who might produce much-desired heirs, children to inherit their property and ensure their legacy. While, on the one hand, these texts functioned as “love letters,” as efforts by Alberto to maintain an affective relationship with his slave-concubine (and his daughter) long-distance. On the other hand, it bears emphasis that amid his professions of love for his slave woman, Alberto directed Catalina to collect debts that were owed him, to sell merchandise on his behalf, and, to re-invest the proceeds from these sales into the purchase of other commodities. The letters not only contain detailed instructions concerning a variety of commercial transactions but feature discussions regarding the reputation and character of potential business partners. Consequently, they arguably fall squarely within the genre of commercial correspondence or merchants’ letters. While Catalina’s activities were hardly typical for slave women (rather, her example serves but to further demonstrate the diversity of the “slave experience”) this paper argues that, given the common practice of bachelor itinerant merchants acquiring slave women to provide domestic service as well as a sexual outlet in ports scattered across the Mediterranean, Catalina’s likely was not an isolated case.
“Ruling Between and Across the Lines: Liminal Identities and Political Legitimacy in Eleventh-Century Al-Andalus” by Travis Bruce (McGill University) – The eleventh century saw the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordova and the rise of the ephemeral taifa states. Throughout the ensuing decades-long civil war, the different kingdoms vied for power, territory, and especially legitimacy. Among these, the taifa of Denia was a dominant actor, initially under the rule of Mujāhid al-‘Āmirī, and then his son ‘Alī. The transition of power between father and son was, however, neither smooth nor evident. ‘Alī had spent sixteen years as a diplomatic hostage in Pisa, returning only shortly before his father’s death. Ibn al-Khatīb wrote that ‘Alī dressed and spoke as the Pisans, professed even their Christian religion, when he arrived, and yet he was able to displace his brother as the legitimate successor to their father. Using ‘Alī b. Mujāhid as a case study, this paper proposes to approach legitimacy from the perspective of identity. Despite his foreignness, ‘Alī was able to craft an identity that fit the expectations of legitimate Islamic rule. He continued to promote the maritime jihād that lay at the taifa’s foundation. He also continued the religious and intellectual patronage of his father, attracting to Denia renowned Muslim scribes and scholars who then defended him against the attacks of rival courts. He handily used the trapping of legitimate Islamic power, such as coinage that bore the ruling titles he had chosen for himself, to communicate his claims to authority. His corresponded with Muslim rulers from al-Andalus and across the Mediterranean as a peer. Nevertheless, ‘Alī did not abandon his foreign identity altogether. He maintained familiar relations with the counts of Barcelona who negotiated with him as an equal, and he attracted Christians to his court. One Islamic scholar complained, in fact, of the foreign accents that echoed through the halls of Denia. The ambidexterity of ‘Alī’s ruling identity thus complicates our understanding of legitimacy and authority in the medieval Western Mediterranean.
“Beyond Nostalgia: Berber ‘Puritans’ and the End of Andalusi Convivencia?” by Brian Catlos (University of Colorado Boulder) – Almost without exception, the established English-language scholarly and popular narratives of the history of Islamic Spain present the period of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba and the era of the taifa kings that followed it as a “Golden Age” of tolerance, ethno-religious diversity and cultural dynamism that was brought to an abrupt end by the incursion first of the Almoravids, and then of the Almohads. Each of these two regimes, whose foreign, Berber character are inevitably emphasized, and who are generally described as “intolerant,” “puritanical,” and “fundamentalist,” and are blamed for undermining the culture of Islamic Spain. This view, rooted in anti-Berber prejudices going back to the Middle Ages, has been eagerly taken up by modern scholars, but presents a distortion of Andalusi history. Andalusi religious scholars were no less responsible for the “puritanical” turn in the history of Islamic Spain than the Berber conquerors, with whom they worked in close collaboration, and although the focus of court-sponsored learned culture shifted, Andalusi intellectual and literary culture continued to thrive in the periods of Almoravid and Almohad rule.
“Between the Darkness and the Light: al-Idrisi’s Iberia” by Christine Chism (UCLA)
Viewed from Roger II’s Sicily, al-Idrīsī’s Ibera is a littoral zone between the Mediterranean and the unknown reaches of the Atlantic – in Arabic the Sea of Darkness (baḥr muẓlim). While one coast leads to the sovereign world center of Roger II’s Sicily, the other coast launches fantastic expeditions, like the Mugharrirun, into an unknown sea — when they return, they strike not Iberia but the northwest coast of Africa. Al-Idrīsī’s’s geography decidedly transforms the regionally organized and confessionally divided worlds familiar from medieval travel accounts. Organized by Ptolemaic climates rather than regions, Al-Idrı¯sı¯ synthesizes Islamic geographical works, from both the Ptolemaic and the Balkhi schools of geography, with Christian sources, such as Paulus Orosius, along with the accounts of messengers and travelers. This paper explores the description of Iberia in Al-Idrīsī’s Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi-ikhtirāq al-āfāq which takes a landscape very familiar to al-Idrīsī, and frames it as a littoral for not only the Dar al-Islam, and Latin Christendom, but also Africa and the known world itself. | The story of the Mugharrirun: It was from the city of Lisbon that the mugharrirun set out to sail the Sea of Darkness in order to discover what was in it and where it ended, as we have mentioned before. A street in Lisbon, near the hot springs, is still known as “The Street of the Intrepid Explorers” [or “The Deluded” depending on how you translate mugharrarin]; it is named after them. Eighty men, all ordinary people, got together and built a large ship and stocked it with enough food and water for several months. Then they set sail with the first gentle easterly and sailed for about eleven day’s, until they came to a sea with heavy waves, evil-smelling, ridden with reefs and with very little light. They were sure they were about to perish, so they changed course to the south and sailed for twelve days, until they came to Sheep Island, There were so many sheep it was impossible to count them, and they ranged freely, with no one to watch them. They landed and found a spring of flowing water and a wild fig tree beside it. They caught some of the sheep and slaughtered them, but the flesh was so bitter they could not eat it. They took some sheepskins and sailed on to the south for another twelve days until they sighted an island. They could see it was inhabited and under cultivation. They headed toward it in order to explore and when they were not far offshore, they suddenly found themselves surrounded by boats, which forced their ship to land beside a city on the shore. They saw the men who lived there; they were light-complexioned, with very little facial hair. The hair on their heads was lank. They were tall, and their womenfolk were very beautiful. They were confined to a house for three days. On the fourth day a man who spoke Arabic entered and asked them who they were and where they were going and what was the name of their country. They told him everything and he said not to worry, and that he was the king’s interpreter. The next day they were taken into the king’s presence and he asked the same questions they had been asked by the interpreter. They told him what they had told the interpreter the day before, of how they had embarked upon the ocean in order to find out about it and see the wonders it contained, and how they had come to this place. When the king heard this, he laughed and told the interpreter to tell them the following: “My father ordered some of his slaves to sail this sea and they sailed across it for a month until there was no more light; they came back having found nothing of any use at all.” Then the king ordered the interpreter to treat them well so they would have a good impression of the kingdom, and he did so. They were then taken back to their place of confinement until the west wind began to blow. A boat was prepared for them, their eyes were bound, and they were at sea for some time. They said: “We were at sea about three days and nights. Then we came to the mainland and they put us ashore. They tied us up and left us there. When dawn broke and the sun rose, we found we were in great pain because we had been so tightly bound. Then we heard noises and the sound of people and we all cried out. Some people approached and, seeing our difficulty, released us. They asked us what had happened and we told them the whole story. They were Berbers. One of them asked us: ‘Do you know how far you are from your country?’ ‘No,’ we answered. ‘Two months journey!’ he replied. Our leader said, ‘Wa asafi!’ (Woe is me!) and to this day the place is known as Asfi.
“Mediterranean Trade in the Pyrenees: Italian Merchants in Puigcerdà 1300-1350” by Elizabeth Comuzzi (UCLA)
The considerable scholarly interest in the medieval Mediterranean over the course of the last few decades has meant that the dense commercial networks of the Mediterranean Sea have been well studied by historians. Precisely how far into hinterland regions Mediterranean trade networks and Mediterranean influence extended during the later Middle Ages, however, remains significantly less clear. My paper, tentatively titled “Mediterranean Trade in the Pyrenees: Italian Merchants in Puigcerdà 1300-1350”, will address this question by examining the economic activities of merchants from Florence and Arezzo who were trading within Puigcerdà, a town deep in the Catalan Pyrenees, during the early fourteenth century. This paper will be based on my examination of the records of these merchants within the surviving notarial documents from Puigcerdà and will trace shifts over time in the nature and frequency of trade between Tuscany and Cerdanya (the valley of which Puigcerdà is the capital). I will show that even those relatively remote regions of the Iberian Peninsula, such as the inner valleys of the Pyrenees, were tied to Mediterranean commercial networks and to broader Mediterranean commercial developments. I will also compare the prevalence and role of Italian merchants within Cerdanya with what is known of the activities of Italian mercantile activities in the coastal regions of Catalonia based on previously published studies of Italian merchants in the coastal regions of Roussillon and Empuries. In doing so I will show that hinterland regions experienced significantly less foreign commerce and therefore a substantially lower Mediterranean influence than coastal regions did. This will shed new light on the range of Mediterranean economic networks within the later Middle Ages.
“Men of Trent: Early Jesuits on the Sacrifice of the Mass” by Sam Conedera, S.J. (Independent Scholar)
Although the Society of Jesus is known for its break with traditional features of religious life, most notably the chanting of the Divine Office in choir, the concern of its earliest members for the orthodox doctrine and celebration of the Holy Mass has been largely overlooked. Three of the order’s founders—Peter Faber, Diego Laínez, and Alfonso Salmerón—were destined for the Council of Trent, although only the latter two actually attended. Through their writings, interventions, and apostolic activities, these men contributed to the reform of the Mass that culminated in the conciliar decrees, the Missal of Pius V, and the emphasis on the Eucharist that characterized the Catholic Reformation.
“Imperial Sovereignty in the Mediterranean: the Papacy, Portuguese kings, and Morrocan Sheriffs” by Céline Dauverd (University of Colorado, Boulder)
My research assesses the political dimension of the office of the papacy, and in particular its temporal jurisdiction over the multi-confessional Mediterranean. This paper examines the diplomatic involvement of the papacy in the Portuguese conquest of Morocco in the early 1500s. Based on correspondence from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Rome) and the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (Lisbon), I view the conquest of North Africa as a necessary component of the preservation of Rome as a sovereign city-state. I analyze the sovereignty of the papacy through the lens of “religious imperium,” that is, international relations based on a religious principle, albeit one that necessitated alliances with non-correligionists if needed. In my research, I have found that the XVI-century popes could declare orders to burn cities upon their fall onto Muslim sheriff hands, absolve “Moors” in their carrying of arms to defend Christianity, or issue crusade bulls to maintain military forts in North African port-cities. These manifestations of spiritual inconsistencies highlight the notion that the popes achieved ecumenism through religious imperialism. I suggest that for the papacy, however, war against Muslims was not inspired by religious motivations. Contrarily, the papacy normalized ethnic plurality in order to reinforce religious orthodoxy. Hence, during the North African conquest, the Holy See acted a political entity, not a spiritual one. Differing from the model of “papal monarchy” formulated by scholars, I present the temporal sway of the papacy attained through authority, memory, temporality, and diplomacy as a Mediterranean-wide phenomenon.
“Children of Adam: Iberians, the Tropics, and Encounters With Gentiles in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Atlantic” by Andrew W. Devereux (University of California, San Diego)
This paper examines Iberians’ encounters with inhabitants of the tropical zones of the earth from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, with a view to understanding how and why Portuguese and Spanish writers arrived at a hierarchical classification of peoples inhabiting various parts of the tropics. These peoples (with the exception of Ethiopian Christians, certain Muslim populations of West Africa, and the Hindu and Muslim inhabitants of India) were understood to be “gentilic,” not affiliated with any of the known major faith traditions. And yet Europeans distinguished between Canary islanders, tropical Africans, and tropical Americans. In the case of the inhabitants of the tropical Americas, their lack of prior exposure to any of the Abrahamic faiths protected them, de jure if not de facto, and served to undergird Spain’s purported evangelical mission in the Americas. On the other hand, African gentiles inhabiting regions south of the Sahara that had not been exposed to the Abrahamic faiths were ultimately accorded a different legal standing, with the most tragic result of this distinction being the trans-Atlantic trade in African peoples. What accounts for this discrepancy in the treatment of different groups of gentiles? This is the question that this paper attempts to answer.
“Moros y Cristianos: Rulers and Rituals in Medieval Iberia” by Hussein Fancy (University of Michigan)
In A King Travels, Teofilo Ruiz argues that medieval festivals — carnival, royal entries, tournaments, and processions — both revealed the inner workings of power and aided in constituting the authority of medieval Castilian rulers. This essay takes up the question of rulers and rituals within the broader study of medieval kingship by examining the specific case of the thirteenth-century Crown of Aragon. In particular, it suggests that a possible precedent for the early modern festivals of moros y cristianos casts new light on the relationship of rulers to rituals and Christians to Muslims.
“The Study of the Middle Ages in Eighteenth-Century Catalonia” by Paul Freedman (Yale University)
With the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, the historic liberties of Catalonia were abolished. Its distinctive laws and administration ended with the triumph of Bourbon absolutism. The eighteenth century is also when the use of Catalan, at least as a learned and administrative language, was at its nadir, however beginning in the 1740s, the study of history in Catalonia was transformed from the collection of legends and reliance on later chronicles to a careful collation and criticism of archival sources. The main centers for this activity were the Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona, the University of Cervera (the only higher educational establishment permitted by the royal administration), and the collegiate chapter of Bellpuig de les Avellanes. The talk will focus groups associated often with more than one of these institutions. These historians and antiquarians were involved in the copying of archival documents and the elaboration of norms for verifying documents. Almost all of what they wrote was in Spanish, but they had a self-conscious idea of preserving and diffusing the history of Catalonia in the Middle Ages, an era they regarded as more prosperous than the subordinated present.
“Medieval Encounters between Iberia, the Mediterranean and Asia: Myths and Realities” by Francisco García-Serrano (Saint Louis University)
The knowledge about Asia and its diverse cultures in medieval Europe was mostly inaccurate and had not improved since Antiquity. The information about the East was generally based on earlier accounts where fantasies and legends played a significant role. Nevertheless, it was in the Eastern Mediterranean basin and in the Italian peninsula that the knowledge and the interaction with Asia, including India and China, spread more consistently. After the first crusades, celebrated Italian individuals like Marco Polo journeyed to China and became acquainted with peoples, customs and goods unfamiliar in Europe. Likewise, we know of the fascinating adventure of John of Montecorvino, an Italian Franciscan who led a papal mission to China in 1289 accompanied by the Dominican Nicholas of Pistoia and the merchant Peter of Lucalongo, best describes the symbiosis between friars and merchants during the late medieval period. After reaching India, Nicholas fell ill and died, but Montecorvino and Lucalongo continued their journey, reaching China in 1293. There, Lucalongo purchased land from the Mongols and donated it to Montecorvino to build a mission and a church with space for two hundred people. The Franciscan converted thousands of Mongols to Christianity and was appointed first archbishop of China. But not only Italians ventured into Asia; even though the Iberian Peninsula was at the westernmost point of the Mediterranean, it is well-known that it was the Iberian nations–lured by Asian fantasies and realities of luxuries, spices and riches–, the ones pioneered the age of expansion at the end of the Middle Ages. This was due in part because Iberia was also the birthplace of medieval travelers who ended up reaching distant Asian territories, denoting the incipient global nature of Iberia and the Mediterranean. For example, as early as the twelfth century Benjamín de Tudela, a Jewish explorer, reached Mesopotamia. Others were sent as ambassadors, as Jaime de Alarico, who was commissioned to meet the Great Khan in 1267 by James I of Aragon and Pope Clement IV during the eighth crusade. Later, the Franciscan Pascual de Vitoria reached the Mongolian empire in 1338, where he suffered martyrdom. In the early fifteenth century Enrique III of Castile ordered diplomatic missions led by Payo Gómez de Sotomayor and Hernán Sánchez de Palazuelos, and by Ruy González de Clavijo together with the Dominican Páez de Santa María which made contact with peoples and leaders from the far East. These travellers, ambassadors, merchants and friars, left dazzling accounts of their journeys that allow us to discern the knowledge that the people of the Iberian kingdoms acquired about Asia, especially India and China, before the age of exploration. Quite often, in their adventures, the merchants, the ambassadors and the friars relied on one another in remote lands to find new souls to convert, new goods to trade and negotiation to make with Asian leaders. To be sure, Asia was not their only destination, other merchants ventured into the closer Islamic lands of North Africa and the friars also missionized in those lands to convert so-called infidels. These travelers, mostly from the Mediterranean both introduced Western culture to remote lands and made Europeans aware of previously unknown civilizations.
“History Writing in Early Modern Spain: Feats, Records, Memory” by Xavier Gil (University of Barcelona)
Humanist values inspired major theoretical and methodological work on the ars historica during the 16th century: Juan Luis Vives, Jean Bodin, François Badouin, Sebastián Fox Morcillo, La Popelinière, Giovanni A. Viperani and others. Whether or not these works were really influential on the actual practice is a thorny issue. In any case, a number of Spanish historians, chroniclers and writers, while more or less aware of such reflections, faced some more practical issues: ways and places to keep records, the value of tradition, the authority of eyewitness acounts (mostly on behalf of New World marvels), the moral lessons to be obtained from the past and how to convey them according to rhetorical rules, the topos of arms vs. letters. More particularly, they were aware of the need to ensure a steady production of history books in order to let foreign nations know about Spanish heroic feats, past and present. This paper will address some of these issues, drawing on a number of authors (Hernando del Pulgar, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Jerónimo Zurita, Juan de Mariana, Baltasar Gracián and others) who expressed a variety of opinions about them.
“Language Expertise and Mediterranean Experience: The Case of Don Jorge Henin, Flemish Alfaqueque and Hombre de Estado for Hire” by Claire Gilbert (Saint Louis University)
The turn of the seventeenth century witnessed heightened political tension in the Western Mediterranean, based on growing inter-imperial rivalries between Mediterranean and Northern European powers and a conjuncture of dynastic changes. The political, religious, and commercial conflicts generated by these rivalries helped propel Mediterranean connectivities in to a global framework in which individual expertise and experience became a key for global imperial administration. This paper uses the case of don Jorge Henin–a Flemish Alfaqueque (captive redeemer) in Istanbul and Marrakesh and aspiring translator and statesman (hombre de estado) in Madrid, London, and Brussels–to explore the developing culture of Expertise and Experience among state employees in burgeoning early modern empires. Henin’s manuscripts, which range from his relaciones de servicio in Morocco, Spain, England and the Spanish Netherlands, to an historical geography of Morocco, to proposals for founding a Spanish Atlantic trading company on the Dutch model–in line with early expressions of arbitrismo’s economic reformism–show how early modern Mediterranean empires (in this case the Sa’adis and the Habsburgs) incorporated individual expertise gained outside the conventional cursus honorum of the royal councilor, and how individuals from the periphery sought to convert this expertise into a currency for professional advancement in imperial centers. Henin’s case is one more argument against a reductive narrative of a seventeenth-century “northern invasion” of the Mediterranean, and shows effectively that the historiographical constructs of Mediterranean, European, and Atlantic World history must be understood as overlapping and mutually-constitutive theaters rather than separate and sequential spheres.
“The Declinación of the Hidden One: Encubertismo During the Reigns of the Later Spanish Habsburgs” by Bryan Givens (Pepperdine University)
The late sixteenth and early seventeenth century saw a rare moment of openness in the Protestant world to the idea of a providential ruler in the Last World Emperor tradition. However, this same time period saw a gradual fading of belief that the preeminent Catholic dynasty in Europe – the Spanish Habsburgs – would fulfill that role, a role that had been important in bolstering the claims and authority of the Spanish monarchy since the time of Ferdinand the Catholic. This essay will describe the story of the decline in faith that the Spanish kings would be revealed as the messianic Hidden One, and assess the causes and implications of that development.
“Medieval Antecedents of Mediterranean Geography” by Judith Herrin (Kings College London)
This paper explores some views of the Mediterranean world before the great voyages of discovery that opened western Europe to the wider world. Within this restricted, essentially medieval culture, the work of an unknown writer, identified simply as the Anonymous Ravennatis is unexpectedly interesting. Since it also provided Guido of Pisa with material used to construct his mappamundi in the twelfth century; influenced later editions of the Peutingeriana itinerary, discovered by the librarian of the d’Este collection at Ferrara in the fifteenth century, and may have assisted in the novel art of drawing portolan charts, a closer examination is appropriate. The Anonymous transmitted Gothic and Greek geographical traditions and names of cities, which indicate that Ravenna retained its cultural significance long after the high point of the sixth century reconquest by Emperor Justinian’s forces.
“Landscapes of Salvation, Landscapes of Power: Jews, Christians, and Urban Space in Fourteenth-Century Seville” by Maya Soifer Irish (Rice University)
Every house and estate purchased by a prosperous resident of Seville in the fourteenth century would bring in rents that could potentially be used to make an “investment in eternity” (Teofilo Ruiz). My talk will examine how Jews and Christians alike sought to capitalize on their success in this world to ensure that it would benefit them in the afterlife. While wealthy Christians endowed churches, chapels, and altars, Jewish elites sponsored the construction of synagogues that were intended to memorialize their pious contributions to the Jewish community. Focusing on testaments, property transactions, and other documentation (published and archival), I will argue that the efforts to create and control “spaces of charity and salvation” (Anne Lester) contributed to tensions between Jews and Christians in Seville.
“‘To thy own self be true’: Self- Censorship, Pedro de Valencia, and His History (“Never-Written”) of Chile” by Richard L. Kagan (Johns Hopkins University)
This presentation centers on the decision of the distinguished Spanish humanist, Pedro de Valencia ( 1555-1620), to abandon a history of the conquest of Chile that he, in his capacity as King Philip III’s Cronista General de las Indias, had been especially commissioned to write. The abundant documentation surrounding Valencia’s reasons for abandoning this history affords unique insights into the reasoning that influenced what is best interpreted as a deliberate act of scholarly self-censorship, a topic that few historians have addressed. It also offers an unique perspective on the contested nature of the war in Chile along with the political cleavages of the Spanish court at the start of the seventeenth century.
“Reading Backwards: Cervantes’ “The Captive’s Tale” and Mateo Alemán’s “Ozmín and Daraja” in the Medieval Mediterranean” by Sharon Kinoshita (University of California Santa Cruz)
This paper is part of my ongoing project of exploring the potential of “Mediterranean Literature” as a category of analysis. Elsewhere, I have focused on Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (c. 1350) as a virtual casebook of characters, situations, and storylines that easily map onto the work currently being done by historians of the medieval Mediterranean. This paper, which derives from my recent course in “Literary Cultures of the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean,” examines two well-known “embedded” narratives in Castilian from the turn of the seventeenth century in relationship to the Boccaccio’s tale of Gerbino (Decameron Fourth Day, Story Four). The choice of “The Captive’s Tale” and “Ozmín and Daraja” was determined by the availability of texts in English translation suitable for use in a “Mediterranean” classroom. The problematics generated by this juxtaposition include the function of historical settings (pre-1492 Castile for “Ozmín,” the late twelfth-century reign of William II of Sicily for Boccaccio) in eliciting “Mediterranean” situations and the generic shift from the frame tale to embedded tales. My main focus, however, will be the structural parallels between Decameron 4.4. and the “Captive’s Tale”—the efforts of a pair of lovers, a Christian man and a Muslim woman, to overcomes the different barriers separating them—and how differences of both plot and detail reflect the shift in larger political and socio-cultural conditions between the “medieval” and the “early modern” Mediterranean.
“Subjective Geographies in Spanish Encounters with North Africa, 1492-1558” by Yuen-Gen Liang (Academia Sinica)
In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Spanish forces swept into North Africa and conquered a series of coastal towns from Morocco to Libya. Historians have seen this as a kind mirror image of Muslim conquests in the Iberian Peninsula, and the subsequent occupation seemed to take place in the familiar context of Christian-Muslim relations in the western Mediterranean. As such, Spaniards are presumed to almost have a pre-knowledge of a land that was an overnight sail from Andalusian ports; of topography that resembled Iberian landscapes; and of a climate, flora, and fauna that nestle comfortingly within a Braudelian belt of olive trees. How well do these measures indicate Spanish sensory perceptions in North Africa? This paper takes a close look at the evidence of what Spaniards saw, touched, heard, and felt in their contact with the Maghrib, focusing in particular on experiences of geography. Soldiers, officials, clerics, captives, redeemers, and writers who traveled to North Africa left behind administrative correspondence, maps, travelers accounts, captives’ tales, chronicles, and literature. Literary sources include formulaic and fantastical renderings of Africa. Provisioning ledgers document the imperial and trade networks that connected Spanish, North African, Italian, and Maltese lands. Candid remarks betray sensory responses to the sights, masses, textures, and tastes of the material world as well as expressions of bewilderment, unease, and peril. Overall, these experiences provide a rich description of Spanish engagement with western Mediterranean geography. They also point out that human subjectivities conditioned experiences of physical geography and that human activities directly altered the way that objectively measured spaces were experienced.
“The Cortes of Madrigal of 1438 and the Castilian Taxation” by Denis Menjot (University of Lyon)
Kings summoned the Cortes most often to obtain consent for extraordinary taxation, but the representatives took advantage of these meetings to present petitions to the king because they know that if he approved them, they became the law of the land. From the fourteenth century, only the representatives of the towns attended with regularity to the Cortes when the Crown sought their support. But only towns situated in royal, territory were entitled to representation and the number of these settled in the fifteenth century at the rather low figure of seventeen. These towns were represented by members of the minor urban aristocracy, hidalgos and caballeros de villa.
The Cortes gathered in the small town of Madrigal had a particular importance because they took place in a particular context, that of the late 1430s, when Castile went through a period of economic difficulties and serious political unrest and the strengthening of monarchical authority, with the privado of King John II, Alvaro de Luna, dissatisfied members of the high nobility, the “Grandes”, who revolted. The Cortes which brought together the representatives of the towns, presented their demands to the king and explained the reasons for their discontent : the abusive levies, the excessive tax pressure and the arbitrary taxation practiced by the high nobility. They explain to the sovereign how the tax arbitrariness manifests: it is mainly the nobility which requires exorbitant circulation rights and does not hesitate to proceed to methods that flout the law. These considerations lead representatives to sketch a particularly negative portrait of this nobility, careless of monarchical legality and to call the king, in the tradition of his predecessors, to restore the legal order and to repress the daring of the high nobility. Doing that, the Cortes give a good idea of the state of the kingdom, the role they want to play and the place they want to occupy on the political scene. The purpose of this paper will be to examine the complaints of the Cortes and the tax and social reforms they propose to remedy the evils they denounce.
“A Foray into the Political History of Sugar and Citruses: Iberian Scholars of Fortune, Roman Bibliopolitics and Late Renaissance Conflicts” by Fabien Montcher (Saint Louis University)
“Ambassadors Philosophes,” “Painter Diplomats,” “Double Agents as Book Hunters.” These are some of the many categories of individuals who secured political communication during Late Renaissance conflicts (1580-1650). Following the trajectories of exiled scholars with connections to stateless powers (Scholars-of-Fortune), this paper explores crisis diplomacy that fostered transfers of political models between Europe and the Iberian World in mid-seventeenth century. The informal and public diplomacy that resulted from these exchanges was enacted through the exchange of books and manuscripts as well as debates about the political design of learned spaces, which I refer to as “bibliopolitics.” When focusing on Iberian revolts in the context of the Thirty Years’ War, “bibliopolitics” is useful to understand the practices and the materials that Scholars-of-Fortune relied on when contributing to the redefinition of Europe’s balance of powers. Their role as cultural organizers and political theorists, inspired by “critical reason,” would eventually pave the way for absolutist reforms affecting future generations of organic scholars and state diplomats.
“You Half-Crazed Visigoths!”: Insults and Group Identity in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain by Sarah J. Pearce (New York University)
Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ screwball sci-fi novel A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, wakes up one morning to find his house in the English countryside about to be demolished by a construction crew; in his horror, he shouts: “Stop, you half-crazed Visigoths!” Little did Arthur Dent know that neither his shouting nor his house mattered because planet Earth was about to be destroyed by an alien race; equally little did he know that shouting “you Visigoths!” at an enemy was a well-established European tradition that, beginning in the late Middle Ages, allowed individuals and groups to define themselves and their enemies by likening those who opposed them to the Visigoths who ruled the Iberian Peninsula through the beginning of the 8th century. This paper will explore the use of the terms “Goth” and “Visigoth” in the late medieval and early modern periods (with a possible foray into the modern and contemporary periods) to demonstrate the different ways in which that particular term was used in both Jewish and Christian communities as an insult to alienate certain groups from and/or include others in the nascent sense of a connected Europe.
“Mediterranean Horse Cultures: Greek, Roman and Arabic Equine Texts in late medieval and early modern Andalusia” by Kathryn Renton (University of California Los Angeles)
Among the princely courts of Europe, the Spanish horse had a reputation for excellence, and the best of those were found in Andalusia. In reality, the practices of animal husbandry in Spain represented a confluence of horse cultures that integrated Mediterranean, North African, and Iberian regions despite long-standing political and religious distinctions. The reputation of the Andalusian horse drew on an established history of military horse breeding under the Cordoba Caliphate, which in turn derived from an infusion of North African, Arabian and Turkish bloodlines. Greek/Byzantine Hippiatrica manuscripts translated to Latin and then Romance vernaculars through Sicily and Aragon documented equine veterinary knowledge, alongside local Roman and Arabic traditions of equine medicine and care specific to al-Andalus. This paper describes the body of equine knowledge constituting a Mediterranean horse culture. Specifically, the Libro de agricultura (Kitab al-falahah) of Ibn al-Awwam of Seville (12th century), and the Libro de Albeiteria by Manuel Diaz, mayordomo of Alfonso V of Aragon (1453), embody recommendations for breeding and care of horses from both traditions. This comparison sheds light on the outsize reputation of horses from Andalusia, demonstrating cultural connectivity in the late medieval and early modern Mediterranean.
“Sonic Dimensions of the Christian Entry into Granada, 1492” by Jarbel Rodriguez (San Francisco State University)
In January 1492, when Christian forces marched into the newly conquered city of Granada, the ceremonies of possession were marked by numerous sonic components. Sounds new and foreign to the residents of the city punctuated the multi-day celebration, which lasted from at least the 2nd to the 6th of January. Cannon fire from the Alhambra (from three pieces of artillery the vanguard of the Christian forces brought into the city) signaled the arrival of the royal party and the formal takeover of the city. From that point on, and for the next five days, as the Christians took physical control of the city, they also began to enforce their dominion over the sonic environment as they engaged in long periods of singing and praying punctuated by Te Deums, played loud and penetrating music, shot round after round of fireworks and cannonades “of such sound and fury that they reverberated throughout the entire city,” and even appeared to have managed the ringing of bells to mark their conquest. And throughout all, numerous chroniclers remarked as to the passive silence of the Muslim community. This paper will examine the royal entry into Granada from the point of view of the soundscape and explore its implications. The Christian appropriation of the soundscape of Granada went hand in hand with the physical conquest of the city and served to signal Christian control as much as any soldier or bureaucrat, yet it did more than that. This initial appropriation evolved into a slow silencing of Islamic sound markers. These sound markers had served as daily companions to the residents, marking their routines, identity, group coherence and sense of place, slowly but surely disappeared and helped to transform the city from a Muslim space to a Christian one.
“Blood in the Streets: The Conflict Over Black Confraternities in Early Modern Andalucía” by Erin Kathleen Rowe (Johns Hopkins University)
By the early seventeenth century, Seville had a substantial population of enslaved and free people of color. The clergy had begun organizing lay confraternities exclusively for its black population since the sixteenth century, the most important of which was Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. On Thursday during Holy Week in 1609, the brothers of Los Ángeles went on procession on their usual route, where they unexpectedly encountered a white brotherhood, Nuestra Señora de la Antigua. A violent and chaotic confrontation ensued over which brotherhood should take precedence in the procession. While the members of Los Ángeles had been promised spiritual equality through the waters of baptism, this status was continually contested by white residents, who bitterly resented the presence of black Christians in religious processions. Close examination of the resulting lawsuit reveals the ways in which the Los Ángeles brothers leveraged Catholic discourses to protect themselves against white predation, as well as their ultimate inability to do so. The battle over the streets of Seville between white and black residents, therefore, enables us to untangle the complex dynamics of race, religion, and social status during the height of peninsular involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.
“The World in Spain: La Reconquista and the Pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella” by Adeline Rucquoi (French National Center for Scientific Research)
Two factors specific to Spain attracted diverse people from all over the world to the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages. The “recovery” of the territory, or Reconquista, baptized as a “crusade” at the end of the 12th century, brought knights, prelates and adventurers to Spain from all over Europe, eager to earn honor and wealth in this world and paradise in the next. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, established in the twelfth century at the same level as those of Jerusalem and Rome, brought pilgrims to the sanctuary in Galicia by land and sea: rich and poor, men and women, young and old. Devotion to Spain’s protector saint spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. I will show that more than any other western region, Spain was “internationalized” throughout the Middle Ages because of these two factors characteristic of its history.
“Intertwining Granada and North Africa: Mobility and Family Ties in the Late Medieval Western Islamic Mediterranean” by Roser Salicrú i Lluch (Institució Milà i Fontanals – CSIC, Barcelona)
The transcription of the interrogatories of Granadan and North African Muslim captives brought to Valencia in the first half of the 15th century, shed light on the intense contacts between Muslims of the northern and southern shores of the Strait of Gibraltar in the Late Middle Ages. Captured by Christians when crossing the Strait in Islamic ships or directly seized in coastal raids in the Islamic lands, they were interrogated one by one about the circumstances of their capture and their personal background. Being common people, their answers reveal to what extent, beyond the better known ruling and intellectual circles, Granada and North Africa were also intertwined by family ties and intentional mobility and migration.
“Cultural Capitals: Patronage and Politics in the Crown of Aragon and the Western Mediterranean” by Núria Silleras-Fernandez (University of Colorado Boulder)
The Crown of Aragon was formed by a geographically-dispersed, institutionally-independent,
and culturally- and linguistically-distinct principality ruled by the same king. This created
certain challenges for a pre-Modern monarchy, certain opportunities for female royalty, and gave
rise to a framework of cultural dissemination that crossed ethnic or national lines. In this paper, I will address three cultural capitals of the Crown of Aragon: Naples, Valencia, and Zaragoza. Specifically, I will study how those cities were entangled with other Iberian cultural and political centers in the fifteenth century, after the Trastámara dynasty came to power in the Iberian Peninsula through war, inheritance, and marital alliances. I will discuss the interdependence of politics and culture, and how the political structure of the medieval and early modern Crown of Aragon impacted gender and culture. On the one hand, I will examine how it allowed royal women to play an important role in formal politics and patronage, and, on the other, how it shaped cultural production, facilitating a series of contacts and exchanges that do not fit modern notions of the nation-state, and that can only be understood in a Mediterranean framework. I will focus on the reigns of Alfons V the Magnanimous (r. 1416–1458) and his wife Maria de Castilla (r. 1416–1458) and on Joan II of Aragon (r.1458–1479), and finish by briefly mentioning the political and cultural turn put forward by Fernando II of Aragon (r. 1479–1516) and Isabel I of Castile (r. 1474–1504).
“From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic: the Role of the Town-Ports of Northern Iberia in the First Internationalization of the European Economy in the Middle Ages” by Jesús A. Solórzano Telechea (University of Cantabria)
I will analyze the role of the port-towns of Atlantic Spain in the hierarchy of medieval urban networks, both Mediterranean and Atlantic. The port structure of European trade in the Middle Ages was organized in a hierarchical way. The structure of international trade was made up of the ports of the great maritime and economic powers, which were the origin and destination of the great Mediterranean and Atlantic routes: the ports of Genoa and Venice on one side and London and Bruges on the other. Secondly, there was an intermediate level of port-towns that operated both at regional level and international maritime traffic, as they were vital in the medieval navigation system, very dependent on cabotage and stopovers as a form of supply and trade exchange. This is the case of half a hundred port-towns on the Cantabrian coast in the Middle Ages, which role was vital in the urban connectivity of the international maritime traffic between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
“Anti-Aljamiado: Inverted Alphabets and Subverted Languages in the Antialcoranes” by Ryan Szpiech (University of Michigan)
This paper considers the Antialcoranes genre, which consists of polemical texts written mostly in Castilian in the first half of the sixteenth century to evangelize and convert Moriscos. While scholars have paid attention to the content and sources of these texts—which include Juan Andres’s Confusión de la secta mahomética y del Alcorán, the sermons of Martín García, the Lumbre de fe of Juan Martín de Figuerola, and the eponymous Antialcorano of Bernando Pérez de Chinchón, among others—less attention has been given to the strategies of language and alphabet use. Most of the Antialcoranes contain abundant passages in Arabic—some in transliteration, some in transcription—and all offer translation of Islamic sources into Castilian. This paper will compare the strategies of language use between these works, and will argue that they constitute an inversion of Aljamiado. Rather than presenting Castilian in an Arabic guise as a means of supporting Islamic identity among Moriscos, these texts present Arabic text in Castilian guise as a means of undermining it. The inversion of alphabets is deployed to achieve the subversion of linguistic authenticity and, ultimately, the conversion of language users.
“Visualizing Muslims in Christian Europe, 16th-18th c.” by Lucette Valensi (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales)
“Fernando’s Castilian: From Latin to Romance in the Thirteenth-Century Royal Chancery” by Antonio Zaldivar (California State University San Marcos)
Historians and philologists who specialize on medieval Castile have long noted the early appearance of vernacular writing in the Castilian royal chancery. While unique and innovative, the language practices of the Castilian kings have received insufficient historical attention. Most of it has focused on the reign of Alfonso X (r. 1252-84), whose patronage of and overwhelming preference for writing in his native romance has earned him the epithet “the Father of Castilian.” Alfonso’s reputation is not unmerited and he clearly contributed to raising the prestige of writing in Castilian. But the transition from Latin to the Romance began earlier, during the long reign of his father, Fernando III (r. 1217-52). In my contribution to this project, I examine patterns of language choice in surviving royal documents from the Iberian Peninsula produced during the first half of the thirteenth century, most notably those of Fernando III. Unlike Alfonso, who emitted documents almost solely in Castilian, his father transitioned between writing in Latin and Castilian throughout most of his reign. I believe a close reading of these code-switching (shifting from writing in one language to another and back) practices will provide a much-needed and comprehensive survey of how and why the Castilian royal chancery transitioned from writing in Latin to the vernacular. My findings and observations will in turn contribute to a deeper understanding of the broader shift from Latin to the Romance taking place in the Iberian Peninsula and throughout western Europe during the thirteenth century.