News, War, and a Contested Succession: Official and Extra-Official Sources of Information in New Spain, 1701–14

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM
Madison Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Frances L. Ramos, University of South Florida
During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), high-ranking bureaucrats loyal to Spain’s first Bourbon monarch dispatched pamphlets commonly referred to as “relaciones de sucesos” throughout the Spanish Empire; these typically celebrated Franco-Spanish military victories, described rites of passage of members of the royal family, or decried the iconoclasm of the Austrian Alliance’s Protestant soldiers and applauded Philip V’s defense of the Catholic faith. These, however, did not prove the only way news circulated. After arriving in New Spain (the empire’s most lucrative viceroyalty), information from these broadsides became disseminated in a variety of ways, helping to bridge the distance between the Old World and the New and make the war seem more proximate.

By examining official and extra-official ways that news and pro-Bourbon propaganda circulated within the viceroyalty, this paper explores how bureaucrats, priests, soldiers, and merchants imagined themselves as part of an empire. The historiography of the early modern Spanish World stresses the importance of the patria chica, or “little homeland,” arguing that people did not identify primarily as “Spaniards” or as part of an empire, but as members of a local community. Analyzing a large body of extant documentation, it is clear that people shared “relaciones de sucesos,” and that priests cited the same accounts in their sermons in cities, towns, and villages throughout the viceroyalty, creating a shared narrative of belonging to an empire and instilling an investment in the outcome of the war. Furthermore, news arrived constantly through mail ships, but it also arrived through French sailors who were allowed to trade as military allies of the Crown. Unofficial satires and couplets also circulated in New Spain, and while these were generally pro-Bourbon, numerous Inquisitorial edicts warning against expressing loyalty to the Archduke Charles suggest that pro-Austrian materials may have circulated as well.

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