David Martín Marcos, José María Iñurritegui, and Pedro Cardim, eds. Repensar a identidade: O mundo ibérico nas margens da crise da consciência europeia. Lisboa: CHAM, 2015.ISBN: 978-989-8492-28-9

Alexander Ponsen1

The past two decades have witnessed a flourishing of research on the period of Iberian union from 1580 to 1640 and relations between the Spanish Monarchy, Portugal, and their overseas territories.2 Historians have devoted relatively less attention to the subsequent period, however, as the two polities emerged from that union in an altogether transformed political environment in Europe and beyond. By the second half of the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic, France and England had all become major competitors on the continent and overseas. The crisis compelled the Spanish and Portuguese to implement a series of major institutional reforms in an attempt to preserve their political and economic power. It also provoked a period of intense internal reflection as Spaniards and Portuguese re-articulated notions of individual and collective identity across the Iberian Peninsula and the overseas colonial world.

In Repensar a identidade: O mundo ibérico nas margens da crise da consciência europeia, the editors have assembled a collection of essays that approach the broad theme of identity from a variety of distinct angles and contexts. Wary of the potential pitfalls inherent in the nebulous concept of “identity,” the editors carefully define their approach at the outset.3 They explain in the introduction that the volume’s component essays examine how various Iberian actors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries attributed meaning to themselves and their activities, and differentiated themselves from others, either on an individual or broader collective basis. In addition to addressing questions of national or religious identification, often privileged in such studies, the authors also seek to highlight other interrelated aspects of belonging including corporative, jurisdictional, ethnic and linguistic attributes, and not only those of Portuguese and Castilians, but also of Aragonese, Catalans, and Basques, as well as of Iberian settler groups overseas. The editors rightly regard identity not as an essential or fixed reality, but as a contested, historically situated mode of differentiation. They regard it as shaped in large part by the agency of actors themselves, but also through dynamic relationships between self-identification and categorizations imposed by others.

Five central, and occasionally overlapping, themes guide multiple authors’ analyses. First is the theme of vizinhança/vecindad and naturalidade/naturaleza,legal categories that defined an individual’s belonging on the level of the municipality and kingdom. A second major theme relates to the use of genealogy or historiography in reshaping individual or collective aspects of identity. A third distinct theme is the projection and substantiation of national character and virtue through political theory. Fourth, several studies examine the importance of the comparative status of the various Iberian kingdoms. Finally, a fifth major theme is the reconfiguration of relations between the king and his vassals in the peninsula and overseas.

In Chapter 1, Ângela Barreto Xavier examines the presence of foreigners in Portugal, particularly diplomats and merchants, from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries. In particular, she traces the development of the categories of vizinhança and naturalidade, which defined the rights and privileges reserved for those individuals officially recognized as members of the municipality or kingdom. João Figueirôa-Rêgo, in Chapter 2, explains how seventeenth century Portuguese noblemen commissioned genealogists to substantiate their claims to purity of blood and social standing, and to gain royal honors, favors, and privileges. Such practice was also mobilized, he notes, to prove loyalty to the Braganza dynasty in the wake of Portugal’s separation from the Spanish Monarchy in 1640.

In Chapter 3, Jon Arrieta Alberdi analyzes a 1643 text by Portuguese jurist João Salgado de Araújo. Araújo’s allegorical work took the form of a letter by a Basque nobleman to a counterpart in Navarra, which criticized an Aragonese for his support to the Castilians in their suppression of the ongoing Catalan Revolt. Araújo’s intent was to publicize what he saw as the legitimate grievances of several Iberian kingdoms under the Habsburg yoke and to ensure the permanent separation of Portugal from the Spanish Monarchy. In the following chapter, Pedro Cardim examines a 1645 text by Braz da França, a Portuguese resident in Italy, purporting to relay the contents of a letter by the Duke of Alba to Philip IV about how to recover Portugal. Cardim describes how the term “nation” was used frequently in the text, a relatively new phenomenon, and how the text possessed echoes of the idea, common in arbitrismo of the day, that with all the acquisitions of new territories and subject peoples the monarchy’s body politic had grown too large to remain healthy. In Chapter 5, Antonio Terrasa Lozano examines a 1666 text by Don Bernardino de Rebolledo y Villamizar, a soldier, diplomat, man of letters, and member of Spain’s Council of War, in which he urged an end to the two-and-a-half-decade-long war to recover Portugal. Together, the analyses of Arrieta Alberdi, Cardim and Terrasa Lozano display some of the range of themes and discursive forms mobilized in debates over the governance of the two monarchies and their future in the wake of Portuguese Restoration.

Pablo Fernández Albaladejo, in Chapter 6, examines the efforts of various authors to rewrite the history of the origins of the Spanish people in the context of the crisis of the monarchy after the separation of Portugal, the Catalan Revolt, and amidst the rise of Spain’s northern European competitors. In their revisionist histories, writers like José Pellicer de Ossau y Tovar and Francisco de Seijas y Lobera reached back into antiquity to extend the origins of the Spanish beyond “historical time,” or to argue that ancient Hispanic peoples had migrated to America and that before the arrival of Columbus the kings that had previously ruled that land were of ancient Hispanic origin. These arguments projected new visions of a national imaginary and aimed to reinforce Spain’s claim to legitimate sovereignty in the New World. In the following chapter, Héloïse Hermant analyzes the propaganda war between Juan José de Austria and the favorites of the regent Mariana during the minority years of Charles II. Members of each faction identified themselves as “true Spaniards, lovers of the patria,” and vilified their opponents as traitors and heretics. Juan José de Austria, Hermant explains, hoped to see Spain “rise from its ashes” by reorganizing the relation between the king and political community, or patria terrestre, and creating a more integrated public space. In Chapter 8, Maria Fernanda Bicalho explores the development of new discourses about the links uniting the king of Portugal with his vassals overseas, especially in Brazil. Bicalho also analyzes the redefinition of collective, communitarian identities among different elite groups in Brazil, above all the landed, slaveholding class, and affluent Portuguese peninsular-born merchants.

Although focused on John Locke’s arguments legitimating British dominion overseas, and only touching on Iberian notions of identity obliquely, Eva Botella Ordinas’ contribution in Chapter 9 is significant in explaining how advocates of England’s nascent empire justified and distinguished its claims to overseas dominion in contradistinction to those of Spain. She describes how, in the context of confrontations between England and the Spanish Monarchy for sovereignty in America, Locke’s writings helped redefine the concept of property and modified the law of nations all while forging a British imperial identity based jointly on commerce and improvement of the land and nature. In Chapter 10, José María Iñurritegui examines the 1694 treatise, Verdad Política, by Catalan jurist Miguel Francisco de Salvador. If Iberian writers are virtually absent from discussions of Europe’s leading political theorists of the day, Iñurritegui shows Salvador to have been a formidable thinker as proven in his sophisticated analysis of the concept of balance of power, based primarily on the notion of “the interest of states.”

In Chapter 11 David Martín Marcos shifts the focus from political theory to analyze the writings and actions of a Portuguese diplomat, João de Almeida Portugal, the Second Count of Assumar, at the court of Archduke Charles in the early eighteenth century. Martín Marcos describes how the Spanish came to see Assumar as an independent ally, in part through the general confidence he managed to transmit and in part through his capacity as diplomat in offering a Portuguese military alliance. As Martín Marcos explains, Assumar proved a prime example of Portuguese self-representation forged during the context of a major European conflict—the War of Spanish Succession. In the following chapter, Saúl Martínez Bermejo explores the life and work of Rafael Bluteau, who, although born in England and having spent many of his formative years in France and Italy, developed a great love and respect for Portugal and eventually became one of the most influential promoters of Portuguese science and language. Martinez Bermejo makes explicit the fluidity of Bluteau’s identity, and describes him as an “intra-European go-between” who valued precisely his own ability to master the cultural and linguistic norms of the several countries where he lived.4

In the book’s penultimate chapter, Tamar Herzog questions the traditional view that notions of vecindad and naturaleza—which she has analyzed extensively in her previous work on Castile and Spanish America—were not present in Portugal and its overseas territories.5 In so doing, Herzog combines reference to the earlier scholarship of Bartolomé Clavero in arguing for a shared juridical culture between Castile and Portugal rooted in an ancestral “Hispanic custom” (consuetudo hispaniae)—that developed before their separation and intensified when both kingdoms incorporated ius commune—with her own research on eighteenth century Portuguese overseas administration to suggest that the two Iberian powers used remarkably similar criteria of identification and belonging.6 Herzog casts well-founded doubt on the predominant interpretation and offers a series of questions to guide future research on the subject. Xavier’s contribution in Chapter 1 lends strong support to this new approach.

In the final chapter, José María Portillo Valdés and Julen Viejo Yharrassarry explore the moral philosophy of Spanish authors of the late eighteenth century who theorized the notion of “self-love” in an attempt to reconcile modern philosophy with Catholic theology and affirm the unique virtue of Spanish identity in the context of Spain’s apparent decline. Fernando de Ceballos, for instance, was critical of “commerce” as a guiding principle of social organization, seeing it as antithetical to “charity.” Providing an interesting complement to Botella Ordinas’ essay in this volume, Portillo Valdés and Viejo Yharrassarry explain how, from the Spanish perspective, Great Britain was transformed into a representation of these criticized fundamentals, accused of “irreligion” and a destructive form of “self-interest” inferior to that higher, more virtuous notion of self-love promoted by Spanish writers like Juan Bautista Muñoz.

While the editors have organized the essays in this volume chronologically, a logical choice, they could well have arranged them by theme instead to more clearly display the relationships between each essay and the extent to which they contribute to common historiographies. In addition, as the editors note, the emphasis on elites leaves less room for discussion of how the lower strata of Iberian society grappled with their own questions of self-identification. These minor points aside, the book represents a major contribution to the scholarship on Iberian identities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The authors have successfully demonstrated that this often-overlooked period straddling the Baroque and Enlightenment was a profoundly transformative one as individuals and collectives across the Iberian world rearticulated of notions of identity after the separation of Portugal from the Spanish Monarchy. This volume will no doubt serve as a benchmark for future research on the topic.




1University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA. E-mail: ponsen@sas.upenn.edu
2 For a small sampling of this recent historiography, see Fernando Bouza, “Portugal en la política internacional de Felipe II,” in A União Ibérica e o Mundo Atlântico, edited by Maria de Graça Ventura, 29-46 (1997); Pedro Cardim, “Los portugueses frente a la Monarquía Hispánica,” in La Monarquía de las Naciones, edited by Antonio Álvarez-Ossorio Alvariño and Bernardo José García García, 355-383 (2004), and Portugal unido y separado: Felipe II, la unión de territorios y el debate sobre la condición política del Reino de Portugal (2014); Pedro Cardim, Tamar Herzog, José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez and Gaetano Sabatini, eds. Polycentric Monarchies: How did Early Modern Spain and Portugal Achieve and Maintain a Global Hegemony? (2012); Xavier Gil Pujol, “Spain and Portugal,” in European Political Thought, 1450-1700: Religion, Law and Philosophy, edited by H. A. Lloyd, G. Burgess and S. Hodson, 416-457 (2007); Serge Gruzinski, Les quatre parties du monde: Histoire d’une mondialisation (2004); Santiago Martínez Hernández, ed., Governo, Política e Representações do Poder no Portugal Habsburgo e nos seus Territórios Ultramarinos, 1581-1640 (2011); José Antonio Martínez Torres, “‘There is but one world’: Globalisation and Connections in the overseas territories of the Spanish Habsburgs, 1581-1640,” Culture and History Digital Journal 3, 1 (2014): 1-15; Jean-Frédéric Schaub, Le Portugal au temps du comte-duc d’Olivares (1621-1640);and Portugal na Monarquia Hispânica, 1580-1640 (2001); Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Holding the World in Balance: The Connected Histories of the Iberian Overseas Empires, 1500-1640,” American Historical Review 112, 5 (2007): 1359-1385; Rafael Valladares, Castilla y Portugal en Asia (1580-1680): Declive imperial y adaptación (2001), and La conquista de Lisboa: Violencia militar y comunidad política en Portugal, 1578-1583 (2008).
3 For a penetrating critique of the category, “identity,” which the editors of this volume cite, see Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond Identity,” Theory and Society 29 (2000): 1-47.
4 On “go-betweens” see, Alida Metcalf, Go-Betweens and the Colonization of Brazil: 1500-1600 (2006).
5 Tamar Herzog, Defining Nations: Immigrants and Citizens in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America (2003).
6 For Clavero’s work see, “Lex Regni Vicinioris: Indicio de España en Portugal,” Boletim da Faculdade de Direito de Coimbra, 58, 1 (1983): 239-298.

Copyright 2016, ISSN 1645-6432
e-JPH, Vol. 14, number 2, December 2016




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