A History of Wealth and Poverty: Why a Few Nations are Rich and Many Poor, by John P. Powelson.

Appendixes for Chapter 15

Appendix 15.1: Historical References to Power of Iberian Monarchs and the State

  1. "[A]ll Spanish kings considered themselves lawful heirs and descendants of the old Visigothic monarchs. Consequently, every piece of land they could take from the infidel was theirs legitimately." [337]
  2. Under Ferdinand and Isabella, "feudal castles were destroyed, private wars were declared illegal, the adelantados, or frontier governors, were displaced, and the great officers of the crown were reduced to precise and limited functions and deprived of all influence in government and the formulation of policy." [338]
  3. "The reduction of the three estates — nobility, clergy, and towns — . . . in Castile . . . was no problem, for its cortes were utterly dependent on the crown, which controlled their composition and even the right of representation, and summoned or ignored them at its will." [339]
  4. Under Afonso V, king of Portugal, 1438-81: "Gradually, the people gave up their right to control the government or even try to advise on its acts. Gradually, the king forgot the benefits of periodical dialogue with his people. Between the two, contacts ceased to be direct and tended to rely on a developing bureaucracy alone." [340]
  5. King Manuel of Portugal pleaded with the pope for the establishment of the Inquisition in 1515. "His real purpose was to secure one more weapon to achieve centralization and royal control." [341]
  6. In the sixteenth century, "the Spanish system of justice oppressed its subjects pretty equally: the hand of the dynast, bureaucrat, and tax gatherer fell upon all without much distinction in that ruined and exhausted kingdom, which the riches of the Indies only succeeded in impoverishing." [342]
  7. From the fifteenth century on, "Portuguese activity and commerce were stringently regulated by the crown, functioning under the monopolies of the Casa da Guine and the subsequent Casa da India established for the eastern trade." [343]
  8. "The reigns of Charles V [i.e. Charles I of Spain] and Philip II are the development of this absolutism. . . . The Councils of government continued to exist, in a purely advisory capacity and knowing only what he [Philip] wanted them to know. . . . When literally everything had to be approved by the king, nothing could happen at all quickly." [344]
  9. "Madrid's policy [during the dual kingdoms, 1580-1640] indeed tended to centralize administration, gradually reducing the autonomy of the various political units that made up Spain — Portugal as well as Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, etc." [345]
  10. "Thwarted in their attempt to share the legislative power with the crown, the Castilian people lost all effective mediation in the control of taxation, and they could do nothing but watch the painful process of exploitation in the interests of a policy which was hardly their own." [346]
  11. The aristocracy in the sixteenth century "had surrendered its feudal role to the demands of absolute monarchy and was now content to serve the crown in the subordinate fields of war, diplomacy, and viceregal administration." [347]
  12. The wool industry in the sixteenth century "was strangled by over-regulation, which tended to remove decision and initiative from the producer" [348] (italics mine). In two ways, therefore, market efficiency was impaired.
  13. "The backbone of commercial empires like those of Venice, Genoa, and later Holland had always been the existence of a strong middle class of enterprising bourgeois. . . . Such a middle class . . . was lacking in Portugal. Instead of private initiatives supported or encouraged by the state, the essence of the Portuguese expansion was a state enterprise, to which private interests or initiatives were applied." [349]
  14. "In 1563 Cadiz complained that rising impositions were ruining its commerce. In 1571 the cortes blamed the disturbing rise in prices not on American treasure but . . . 'it is due to these taxes and the high cost of all the necessities of life.' " [350]
  15. "[I]t was only in the service of the state that capital could be used." [351]
  16. "The Richelieu and Olivares regimes [in France and Spain respectively, early seventeenth century] were both reserving to the crown vast discretionary powers which they justified by an emergency of their own defining. It was under these discretionary powers that Paris and Madrid brushed aside the constitutional objections of parliaments and corporate bodies, raising money by every device at their disposal and bringing the most intense pressures to bear on harassed populations." [352]
  17. Spanish agriculture steadily declined in the seventeenth century. "The principal factor was probably the enormous weight of taxation on peasant agriculture in Castile." [353]

Appendix 15.2: Historical References to the Quantity of Land Relative to Labor in Iberia

  1. "Poor peasants from Catalonia were brought over [to Mallorca in the fourteenth century] to work the empty fields for the new overlords, at first on fairly favorable terms." [354]
  2. "[T]hroughout southern and central Spain there were vast tracts of untilled land. The main reason why it was not given over to farming was that its use was monopolised by the owners of livestock, especially that of the flocks of migrant merino sheep in which Spain abounded." [355]
  3. "To the sixteenth-century observer, the most striking feature of the Spanish landscape was its emptiness. . . . Much of Spain was indeed deserted, and if its land was ill-cultivated it was partly because it was under-populated." [356]
  4. "[T]he dominant feature of the agrarian regime in Spain was the existence of vast latifundia, held in rigid entail and mortmain and worked by a rural proletariat." [357]
  5. "To fill the vacuum created by this immense migration [of Moriscos from Granada in 1584-85], the empty lands were confiscated by the crown and offered on favourable terms . . . to colonists recruited in Galicia, Asturias, and the regions of León and Burgos. . . . [T]he Alpujarras and neighbouring coastal districts were much less peopled than they had been and thus continued to provide a problem of internal security." [358]
  6. "Towards 1575-80 Castile began to experience a reversal of the demographic trend, and by 1600 depopulation was notorious. The primary cause was rural migration, which peasants attributed to 'lack of land'; some of them went to the Indies; others . . . sought their El Dorado in neighbouring towns or in Madrid." [359]

Appendix 15.3: Historical References to the Weakness of Vertical Alliances, Pluralism and Leverage in Iberia

  1. In Asturias in the tenth century, "rulers were able to maintain control over both their border fortresses and their warrior nobility, and so avoided the feudalism that took hold in northern France." [360] Without the ruler-noble division, and without contract feudalism, peasants missed the opportunity for vertical alliances and leverage.
  2. Whereas in northwestern Europe the investiture controversy was settled by compromise, in Iberia it was won by the monarchy. [361] As a result the church, with its separate courts and protection, was knocked out as a contender for leverage-making alliances, in a result quite different from northwestern Europe.
  3. Land taken from the Moors was doled out among their conquerors, and on several occasions after the conquest remaining Moriscos were expelled. Each time vast new land became available, but each time there was no mechanism for negotiating mutually profitable arrangements between tenants and lords. [362]
  4. "While Ferdinand and Isabella distrusted the higher aristocracy and sought to curb them, they favoured and promoted the lower nobility, . . . who came to occupy an important role in the administration, the army and local government." [363] But the upper nobility made a comeback during the period of weak monarchy, 1504-17, and the lower nobles were rejected by Charles I, who came to power in 1517. In 1520, many joined the comuneros (smaller merchants and manufacturers) in revolt. Upon their defeat, the lesser nobility ceased to be an important class; the merchants were ignored, and the upper nobility closed ranks with the crown. Thus a possible split among the nobility, which might have been exploited for leverage by lower classes, was sealed, and the way was paved for close relations between upper nobility and monarchy.
  5. Possibilities of peasant leverage were also stifled in Valencia after the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1609, with the consolidation of upper groups. Village organizations such as those cited in Chapter 4, from Hilton and others, for northwestern Europe could not arise: "The peasants had no representation in regional institutions: the lay and ecclesiastical nobility controlled two of the three estates of the cortes of Valencia, and they also dominated the Diputación." [364]
  6. "[T]he united monarchy [of Spain and Portugal, 1580-1640] followed a dual policy toward the aristocracy: while reducing it to political obedience on the one hand, the crown fully ratified its social and economic predominance on the other." [365] Hence there was no possibility for leverage by peasants or merchants.

Appendix 15.4: Historical References to Guilds and Corporations in Iberia

  1. "The classic medieval guild system never developed fully in Castile, where it was restricted by royal law." [366]
  2. "From about 1480 Ferdinand encouraged the extension of gilds which were then stifled with a surfeit of regulations." [367]
  3. "Throughout the Middle Ages, Castilian towns had resisted the formation of guilds, their lower level of production requiring less organization, but the Catholic kings favored guilds in order to regulate the urban population more precisely. The Castilian towns of the sixteenth century thus developed an archaic guild system at the very time that such a pattern was tending to die out . . . in the most economically progressive regions of Europe." [368]
  4. "[A] corporative [guild] system did not arise in Portugal before the late Middle Ages . . . because of strong interference and control by the king and rigidly organized municipalities." [369]
  5. "As in Castile, the corporations [that is, guilds] did not arise in Portugal before the later 1440's. . . . The breakdown of their political power, along with the centralizing spirit of the century, made them ready for stricter royal control and for other class tutelage. In 1487 the king ordered each craft to accept two representatives or deputies (vedores) as judges in economic and professional matters." [370]
  6. "There was an extraordinary development of craft gilds in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and their over-regulated and antiquated methods dominated manufacturing process." [371]
  7. "Urban government was organized under the general principle of hierarchy [in the eighteenth century], and urban guilds were also brought under stricter supervision." [372]
  8. "Great concern was shown by merchants and artisans for guild rights. Gremios [guilds] continued to expand but their rigidity was more of a restraint on production than ever, and edicts of the 1770s and 1780s reduced their authority." [373]

Appendix 15.5: Historical References to Peasant Organizations and Peasant Rebellions in Iberia

Many references to peasant uprisings are found, but few or none reflect the kinds of organization found in northwestern Europe and Japan. Encountering citations such as the following, one receives the impression that peasant rebellions in Iberia were not accompanied by as much negotiation, bargaining, and compromise as occurred in their counterparts in northwestern Europe and Japan. To be scientifically sure of this, it would be necessary to compare peasant rebellions in detail in the three areas, with this particular focus in mind. I do not know of any historian who has done that.

  1. "In Catalonia, . . . one also finds increased legislation by the Corts . . . to limit peasant movement and decrease personal freedom. . . . But [this legislation] provoked in response a high level of peasant organization and, in particular, the assembling of mass peasant armies. Only a series of violent bloody confrontations ultimately assured peasant victory. Armed warfare ended finally in 1486 with the Sentence of Guadalupe by which peasantry were granted in full their personal freedom." [374]
  2. "In 1462, the Council of the Generalitat raised an army to put down rebellious remences [redemption peasants] [that] quickly expanded into civil war against the crown, lasting ten long and bloody years. The conflict ranged the urban oligarchy and most of the aristocracy and clergy on one side against the crown, most of the peasants, and part of the Catalan aristocracy, on the other." [375]
  3. "The only major social revolt in Castile during the fifteenth century was the rebellion of the peasant irmandades (brotherhoods) of Galicia. . . . Formation of irmandades of Galician peasants and townspeople of the third estate had been authorized by Enrique IV in 1465 to check the overweening power of the Galician aristocracy. The irmandades were reasonably well organized by districts, and in some areas into groups of one hundred. . . . The irmandade revolt was put down." [376]
  4. "The Aragonese variant of the Hispanic social revolts of the period — several small peasant uprisings between 1507 and 1517 — were simply suppressed." [377]
  5. "Hatred of the 'exactions' of a foreign soldiery erupted in general revolt in the north Catalan countryside in May 1640, as peasants attacked Spanish troops throughout the district. . . . Poor peasants rose against their overlords, the laborers and unemployed in the towns took over the streets, and bandit gangs reasserted themselves in many parts of the countryside." The Catalans called upon the French for assistance and submitted to a French government, which turned out to be as oppressive as the Spanish. The Spanish returned in 1651, pledging "a general amnesty and preservation of the laws of Catalonia." [378]
  6. "A semiclandestine peasants' league was founded in the Jativa region [of Valencia], and in 1693 its members refused to pay seigneurial dues. . . This rebellion was put down rather easily." [379]
  7. In 1702, "the Habsburg candidacy [in the War of the Spanish Succession] took full advantage of social tensions [in Aragon] and encouraged a peasant revolt against the seigneurial control of the aristocracy. . . . [In Aragon and Valencia] the cause of the Habsburg pretender was embraced particularly by peasants and village clergy." [380] But the peasants gained no leverage from this, since the Bourbon candidate triumphed at the Peace of Utrecht in 1713.
  8. "On more than one occasion, in Andalucia in the 1650's and in Valencia later in the century, peasant unrest exploded into violence, but the alliance between the crown and aristocracy was too close and the forces of law and order were too solid to leave any opening for social revolution." [381]


Copyright © 1994 by the University of Michigan. First published in the USA by the University of Michigan Press, 1994.

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