Decadence or Reconfiguration? The Monarchies of Spain and Portugal between Two Centuries (1640-1724)

Країна: Іспанія

Місто: Madrid

Тези до: 10.04.2015

Дати: 02.12.15 — 04.12.15

Е-мейл Оргкомітету:

Організатори: German Historical Institute in Rome


The historical narration of the seventeenth century as a period of crisis belongs to an obsolete paradigm. The social and economic history on which the interpretation of this century was based, which started with the debates in Past & Present in the decade of the 1950’s, is no longer appropriate and has become outdated. In the 1980’s the limits of this interpretation were already pointed out (starting with the debate on the character of the English Revolution) and afterwards flagrant contradictions emerged which showed the whole early modern period as a large succession of consecutive crises: the religious crisis of the sixteenth century, the crisis of the 1590’s, the one of 1640 and finally the crisis of European consciousness between 1670 and 1715. Apart from reflecting on the meaning of crisis (and the use historians make of it), we consider it more logical to establish a new historical narration. In our studies on the sixteenth century we used the concept “configuration of the Hispanic Monarchy”, and regarding 1640 we conceive, on the basis of the research we are carrying out, a “reconfiguration” of both monarchies which implies transformation and not necessarily crisis.

From our point of view, the so called decadence of the Iberian Empires was much more complex and not only the consequence of economic causes, which is above all clear when we take into account that several territories of these monarchies went through a period of economic growth in this epoch. It was a general collapse which not only affected the social and political configuration on which these empires were founded during the sixteenth century, but also the ideological justification (political and theological) which had given raison d’être to their political practices. The Catholic Monarchy’s loss of interest in the European continent after the Peace of Westphalia, the evolution of the Portuguese monarchy and the attention for the Atlantic world are good indications for that.

Taking these considerations as a starting point we propose to analyse both monarchies from the perspective of the “reconfiguration” of their structures, which took place before the reforms of the eighteenth century.



  1. The concept of decadence

In this section the concept of decadence is studied, that is, the causes which have been adduced in historiography, particularly how it was used in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century in order to justify the backwardness of the Iberian nations compared to the rest of Europe.


  1. The collapse of the court. The reconfiguration of the royal household, the councils and the validos. The function of the Royal Sites

The seventeenth century was the epoch of the classic “court” (the court of the Baroque). In this period the definite etiquettes and ordinances were established, and the courtier behaviour which remained in the social mentality, was formalised. This social and political construction, which was accompanied by an unprecedented artistic display in painting, architecture and literature, started to be criticised in this period. Without a doubt, in this respect, the intensification of the relations between the court and the different royal sites played a fundamental role.


  1. Decadence of the viceroyalties? The institutional transformation of the European and American viceroyalties

The aim is to analyse the evolution of the viceroyalties. The cycle of revolts which started in 1640 led to a social restructuration, to a reconfiguration of the relations with the court of Madrid, and to a new function of Lisbon. The evolution of the social, political and institutional organization of both monarchies will be studied.


  1. The diplomatic relations of the Iberian monarchies. The end of the expansion

In this section the diplomatic relations are studied: the change of the political orientation they went through after the Peace of Westphalia and the new political and theological principles on which these monarchies based their existence. In this sense it is essential to study their relations with Rome, the new justification of their political practice and, at the same time, to explain the spirituality which emerged in this situation.

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