Thinking Local, Acting Nationally: Municipal Engagement during Spain's First Constitutional Period, 1812–14

Friday, January 4, 2013: 10:50 AM
Evergreen Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Charles N. Saenz, University of California, San Diego
Retreat of Napoleon’s army from Southwestern Spain in the late summer of 1812 led to implementation of constitutional rule throughout much of the Spanish Monarchy. For nearly twenty months, the Andalusian countryside functioned under a political system defined by the Constitution of 1812. Large cities and small towns alike struggled to make sense of this new political order. Written exchanges between local governments and institutions of the central government demonstrate that liberal democratic ideas and constitutionalist practices experienced a positive reception outside of major urban areas and the extent to which municipal governments sought to understand and negotiate the terms of the their new relationship with the Spanish state. An account of Spain’s transition from absolutism to liberal democracy situating local experiences at the heart of this narrative provides a frame for examining the entrenchment of liberal democratic and constitutionalist sentiments amongst a diverse cross section of Spanish society and offers an alternative means to theorize the history of Spain’s politically turbulent nineteenth century.