Spain's Centuries of Crisis: 1300-1474

By Teofilo F. Ruiz | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgments

Writing the history of Spain in the late Middle Ages, as I will reiterate in the first chapter, is not an easy task. The diversity of political players and entities, the endless conflicts between noble factions, urban oligarchies, and the Crown, the numerous and violent challenges to royal authority, and severe social and economic crises stood in sharp contrast to vigorous and innovative cultural transformations, linguistic changes, and signal administrative reforms. All of these components paved the way for Spain’s later primacy of place among western European powers in the early modern period.

In attempting to reconstruct the history of the two most important realms in the peninsula – the kingdom of Castile (Castile-León) and the Crown of Aragon – from around 1300 to the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1469 and Isabella’s ascent to the throne in 1474, I have placed that troubled history and the general evolution of political, administrative, and cultural life within the context of the long-term crises that plagued most of the West from the late thirteenth century to the end of the Middle Ages. By emphasizing crises and the demands they placed on Spanish women and men, I have also sought to see administrative, political, religious, and cultural innovations as responses to, as well as shaped by, the general late medieval crises. These developments had also their counterparts in growing antagonism against religious minorities and the end of religious pluralism in the peninsula. They were also paralleled and influenced by vigorous and novel cultural production.

Chapter 1 provides a general view of the Spanish realms in 1300 and seeks to place the events of that year and the next century and a half within the long sweep of Spanish medieval history. A brief foray into the geographical features of the peninsula and the links between topography and political life leads us to chapter 2. In that chapter I describe the different aspects of Spain’s social, economic, political, and structural crises from the late

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