Theses Doctoral

Official Historiography, Political Legitimacy, Historical Methodology, and Royal and Imperial Authority in Spain under Phillip II, 1580-99

von Ostenfeld, Kira K.

Between 1580 and 1599, Spain was the subject of a barrage of foreign polemical attacks, a reaction to Spain's European hegemony under Philip II. These attacks used historical arguments to directly challenge Spain's political legitimacy and power, its reputation, and its political standing within Europe by criticizing Spain's dynastic arguments for empire, and denigrated Spanish imperialism and the nature of Spanish rule, threatening constitutional structures by claiming that Philip ruled as a tyrant. In response to these attacks, a coterie of scholars and powerful political advisors, seeking to solidify claims to certain territories and to justify imperial actions, developed innovative historical writing practices that were effective ideological tools for creating support for new political ideas. To convincingly defend Spanish imperialism and restore Spanish reputación, official history needed to concern itself with questions of statecraft, and to do so within the framework of humanist notions of "good" history. Specifically, the new type of historical writing used humanist and antiquarian methodologies, especially an emphasis on source-based documentation of arguments and claims, and combined these with reason of state politics to respond to European challenges to Spanish imperial authority and Spanish actions in Portugal and France by ensuring that only a very specific image of the king was conveyed, and very specific sources were utilized and revealed. In doing so, official historians, most notably Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Esteban de Garibay, and Gregorio López de Madera, and advisors, like Juan de Idiáquez and Cristóbal de Moura, turned to the writing of history not as a means to reform the state, but instead as a potent means to bolster and defend the existing state's identity and advance its purpose. This dissertation uses court correspondence, the treatises on the artes historicae written by the court historians, and the innovative official histories they produced to show how the tensions between ideology and methodology played out in this new form of official history, and how theory and practice came together in the service of power. Through its use of multiple sources of data, this study shows that it was due to the polemical context, not despite it, that a new and more powerful history emerged, which included new practices and cultivated a more critical sensibility. Official history came to play a role in giving conceptual identity and political legitimacy to Spain's imperial ambitions in a new reason of state context. Thus, notions of rule (Spanish Christian reason of state) and provisions of proof became the two pivots upon which Spanish imperial ambitions were justified, and larger debates about how to legitimize formal rights and privileges found a concrete form of expression in official history.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kosto, Adam J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2014