Episode 6- The Horse in Spanish Society and Conquest

Episode 6 with Kathryn Renton

An association between horses and the medieval nobility is built into the Spanish language itself, and horses are frequently cited as a key factor in Spain’s conquest of the Americas.  Yet what exactly was the role of the horse in Spanish warfare and society, and how did that role change over time?  Kathryn Renton examines these questions in this episode of Historias, from the efforts the medieval Castilian kings to encourage horse ownership to the role of the horse not only in the American conquests but also in the European wars of the early-modern period.  One common thread is clear among these wide-ranging topics: more than a military tool, the horse’s true importance lay in its role as a contested social symbol.

The Episode

The Guest

Kathryn PhotoKathryn Renton is a PhD Candidate in the History Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include the intersection of animal and environmental studies in early modern empire. Her dissertation investigates the ideals and practices of horse breeding and horsemanship in Spanish Mediterranean culture and their introduction to the Spanish Americas in the sixteenth century. She was a Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellow in 2015-2016, and her research also received funding from the John Carter Brown Library, the Huntington Library, the Newberry Library, the Renaissance Society for America, the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and the UCLA International Institute and Center for European and Eurasian Studies. She earned her BA in History and Literature from Harvard University. She has published on early modern human-animal relations and serves as an editor for the Equine History Collective (EquineHistory.org), which promotes the horse as a lens for transnational history, and interface for interdisciplinary research among the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Suggested Reading

  • Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Bisson, Thomas N. The crisis of the twelfth century: power, lordship, and the origins of European government. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  •  Crosby, Alfred W. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. (original ed. 1973)
  • Denhardt, Robert Moorman. The Horse of the Americas. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1947.
  • Edwards, Peter, K. A. E Enenkel, and Elspeth Graham. The Horse as Cultural Icon : The Real and Symbolic Horse in the Early Modern World. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2012.
  • Keen, Maurice. Chivalry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.
  • Matthew, Laura, Laura E. Matthew, and Michel R. Oudijk. Indian Conquistadors: Indigenous Allies in the Conquest of Mesoamerica. University of Oklahoma Press, 2007.
  • McAlister, Lyle N. Spain and Portugal in the New World, 1492-1700. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
  • Powers, James F. A Society Organized for War : The Iberian Municipal Militias in the Central Middle Ages, 1000-1284. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
  • Restall, Matthew. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Rivas Rivas, Francisco A. Omnia Equi: Caballos y Jinetes en la España Medieval y Moderna. Colección Ecuestre Almuzara. Córdoba: Almuzara, 2005.
  • Roche, Daniel, and Daniel Reytier. Le cheval et la guerre du XVe au XXe siècle. Paris: Association pour l’académie d’art équestre de Versailles, 2002.
  • Rogers, Clifford J. The Military Revolution Debate : Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.
  • Pescador del Hoyo, Maria del Carmen. El Concejo Y La Milicia de Madrid. Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Madrileños; CSIC, 1989.
  • Thompson, I.A.A. “Neo-Noble Nobility: Concepts of Hidalguia in Early Modern Castile.” European History Quarterly European History Quarterly 15, no. 4 (1985): 379–406.

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