Christian Citizenship in the Empire of the Spanish Habsburgs

Episode 33 with Max Deardorff

King Philip II of Spain (r. 1556-1598) inherited the first truly global empire. But what kept a set of kingdoms that included Castile, Aragón, vast swaths of North and South America, Portugal, the Low Countries, Italian territories, and the Philippines from falling apart? Prof. Max Deardorff explores the legal underpinnings of this complicated system, including the early modern conception of the “republic,” the relationship between early modern vassals and the Crown, and the question of whether native subjects could ever hope to achieve enfranchisement in colonial cities founded by Spaniards. Deardorff highlights the importance of the Council of Trent, which conditioned a generation of Spanish Catholic reform and played a crucial role in defining early modern citizenship, and points out how royal strategies for integrating Moriscos (Andalusi converts from Islam and their descendants) into Christian society in recently-conquered Granada provided a blueprint for assimilating native subjects in the Americas.

The Episode

The Guest

Dr. Max Deardorff joined the department in Fall 2018 from the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, Germany. He is a historian of colonial Latin America and early modern Iberia, especially interested in religious and ethnic minorities, identity construction, and the legal and normative framework of the early modern world. His book manuscript, Mestizos, Indios Ladinos, and ‘Arabic Christians’: Categories of Difference and Christian Citizenship in the Spanish Empire, examines the relationship between emergent early modern categories of race –expressed through the notion of “blood purity” (limpieza de sangre)—and conceptions of “citizenship” in the sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish Empire, focusing on new imperial subjects seeking enfranchisement in the frontier towns and cities of the far-flung Spanish monarchy. His articles have appeared in a variety of venues, including Colonial Latin American Historical Review, Journal of Family History, Ethnohistory, and Rechtsgeschichte-Legal History. His article “The Ties that Bind: Intermarriage between Moriscos and Old Christians in Early Modern Spain, 1526-1614” in 2018 received the triennial prize for “best early career article” in any period of Iberian history from the Association for Spanish & Portuguese Historical Studies (ASPHS). Dr. Deardorff is a former Fulbright Scholar, and has also received funding from the Nanovic and Kellogg Institutes. His Ph.D. is from the University of Notre Dame (2015).


Suggested Reading

  • Cobo Betancourt, Juan Fernando. Mestizos heraldos de Dios: la ordenación de sacerdotes descendientes de españoles e indígenas en el Nuevo Reino de Granada y la racialización de la diferencia, 1573-1590 (Bogotá: ICANH, 2012).
  • Dadson, Trevor. Tolerance and Coexistence in Early Modern Spain: Old Christians and Moriscos in the Campo de Calatrava (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Tamesis, 2014).
  • Deardorff, Max. “Republics, Their Customs, and the Law of the King: Convivencia and Self-Determination in the Crown of Castile and its American Territories, 1400–1700,” Rechtsgeschichte – Legal History 26 (2018): 162-199.
  • —–. “The Ties That Bind: Intermarriage between Moriscos and Old Christians in Early Modern Spain, 1526–1614,” Journal of Family History 42, no. 3 (2017): 250-270.
  • Dueñas, Alcira. Indians and Mestizos in the “”Lettered City”” (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2010).
  • Feros, Antonio. Speaking of Spain: The Evolution of Race and Nation in the Hispanic World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017).
  • García-Arenal, Mercedes. “Moriscos e indios. Para un estudio comparado de métodos de conquista y evangelización,” Chronica Nova 20 (1992): 153-176
  • Graubart, Karen. “Competing Spanish and Indigenous Jurisdictions in Early Colonial Lima,” chapter in Ken Mills, Senior Editor for Colonial Spanish America, Oxford Research Encyclopedia in Latin American and Caribbean History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • ——. “Learning from the Qadi: The Jurisdiction of Local Rule in the Early Colonial Andes,” Hispanic American Historical Review 92, no. 2 (2015): 195-228.
  • Harris, A. Katie. From Muslim to Christian Granada: Inventing a City’s Past in Early Modern Spain (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)
  • Herzog, Tamar. Defining Nations: Immigrants and Citizens in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).
  • Rappaport, Joanne. The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).
  • Ruan, Felipe E. “Andean Activism and the Reformulation of Mestizo Agency and Identity in Early Colonial Peru,” Colonial Latin American Review 21, no. 2 (2012): 209-237.
  • Schwaller, Robert. Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016).
  • Velasco Murillo, Dana. Urban Indians in Silver City:  Zacatecas, Mexico, 1546-1810 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).

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