Mestizos, Moriscos, and the 16th-Century Dialogue around Christian Subjecthood in the Spanish Empire

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM
Columbia 9 (Washington Hilton)
Max Deardorff, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
Highlighting common anxieties in epistles, legal petitions, and legislation produced during intense, and nearly simultaneous, moments of conflict resolution in the Northern Andes (1572-1590) and the Spanish territory of Granada (1568-1584), this presentation will consider the evolving trans-Atlantic consensus about what assimilation into Spanish “Old Christian” society entailed, and who might be excluded from it. By the middle of the sixteenth century, the Castilian monarchy’s rapid territorial expansion had thrown many reluctant subjects into new and unfamiliar legal structures. In the Americas, the coming-of-age of a generation of children of mixed indigenous-Spanish unions, mestizos, caused anxiety amongst Spanish colonists who feared that the mestizos’ uncertain cultural allegiances endangered the integrity of the “The Republic of the Spaniards. Legal issues in and between the Spanish and indigenous communities—founded on questions about Christianity’s role in the colonies and exacerbated by mestizos’ ambiguous legal conditionoccupied city plazas and royal scribes for decades. Meanwhile, in Granada many native Muslims who had earlier converted to Christianity under duress, the Moriscos, struggled to find their way in the new social order. When the Crown began to enforce oppressive legislation in the late 1560s, the Morisco community responded by launching the (unsuccessful) Rebellion of the Alpujarras (1568-1570). In the conflict’s aftermath, the Crown expelled the entire community, allowing Moriscos to petition individually to return to their homeland. Those undertaking the process were obligated to prove their allegiance to the Christian community and provide evidence that they would integrate with their “Old Christian” neighbors. By demonstrating the common strands uniting the two social conflicts and their legal resolutions, this presentation aims to reconnect political discussions about genealogy, assimilation, and loyal subjecthood that were never as divided as our contemporary historiographical divisions, inspired by geography, would suggest.
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