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Title: Cordoba and Jerez de la Frontera in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, 1474-1516 : a study of the relationship between the nobles and the towns
Author: Edwards, John Hamilton
ISNI:       0000 0001 3439 7227
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1976
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Córdoba and Jerez de la Frontera are situated in the north-eastern and south-western corners of the triangular delta of the Guadalquivir. They were reconquered and resettled by the Castilian Crown in the thirteenth century. During the period in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries which saw widespread alienation of lands by the Crown to nobles, to form lordships or señoríos, Córdoba and Jerez remained subject directly to the kings of Castile. Each town was governed by a council, consisting of jurados, who represented the individual parishes, and regidores, who from the fourteenth century formed a ruling oligarchy. The problem of proliferation of offices, beyond the legal number of twenty-four on both councils, faced the Catholic Monarchs at the beginning of their reign. Action was taken, particularly in Córdoba, where the situation was more extreme, to control office resignations and appointments, but officers continued to come from a small number of noble families. By their original charters (fueros), these towns also had magistrates, known as alcaldes mayores who represented the king in local affairs, but, from the early fifteenth century, new officials, known as corregidores, were superimposed on the old structure. These were appointed spasmodically to both towns in the period up to 1474. Town councils owned property on behalf of the Crown, consisting of buildings and grazing and arable lands. They also ruled outlying areas on behalf of the Crown which normally channelled its communications with these lesser towns and villages through the council of their chief town. The local councils also collected some royal taxes for their own use, though most were raised by the royal tax collector. Royal finances saw a spectacular improvement under Ferdinand and Isabella, but they continued to be weakened by the alienation of many revenues, in juro, for life or in perpetuity, to individuals, especially the territorial magnates of the kingdoms of Seville and Córdoba. This meant that it was possible for a magnate such as the duke of Medina Sidonia to gain an income comparable to that received by the Crown from the taxation of towns such as Córdoba and Jerez. The economy of western Andalusia was almost entirely agricultural. Most crops were produced for subsistence but grain and wine were exported from Jerez and district and wool from the Córdoba area. This wool was denied to the local cloth industry and exported from Seville by merchants from Burgos who came to Córdoba each year to buy owners' complete wool-crops in advance. The upper echelons of Córdoba society were heavily involved in this trade. The exploitation of tunny, which was the other main export commodity of the region, was in the hands of the upper nobility, particularly the dukes of Medina Sidonia and the counts of Arcos. The balance between the economic resources of the greatest magnates and the royal towns, such as Córdoba and Jerez, was also reflected in military affairs. The forces fielded in the Granada campaigns of 1482-92 show the strength in cavalry of the nobles to have been equal to that of royal towns, though the latter provided many more foot-soldiers. In political terms the problem which confronted Ferdinand and Isabella in their efforts to retain control over Córdoba and Jerez was to keep the local councils free of noble interference. This might be exercised through marriage alliances and links of feudal vassallage. The Catholic Monarchs in some respects pursued firm measures in order to reduce the power of the small number of magnates who had virtually gained complete control of the royal towns - the duke of Medina Sidonia in Seville, the marquis of Cádiz in Jerez and Don Alonso de Aguilar in Córdoba. These nobles retained their offices after Ferdinand and Isabella's visit to the region in 1477-8, but they were not allowed to exercise them. However, the fact that they still had a residual right to interfere in the government of royal towns posed a threat for the future. During the period between 1478 and 1500, corregidores succeeded one another peacefully as royal agents in contiol of Córdoba and Jerez, appointing their own officials and working in conjunction with the regidor. There were still noblemen from the twenty or so leading families of the kingdoms of Seville and Córdoba, but the most powerful figures were absent. However, after 1500 there was a resurgence of upper noble influence in Córdoba and Jerez. In the foriaer town, the marquis of Priego, son of Don Alonso de Aguilar, succeeded his father as alcalde mayor of Córdoba. Shortly before Isabella's death, in November 1504, the marquis appeared for the first time in a council-meeting. This action followed a period of severe grain-shortage which had begun in 1502 and continued until 1508. During this period, Córdoba council became indebted to nobles, including the marquis of Priego, for grain supplies from their señoríos, while these lasted, and for loans for the purchase and transport of foreign grain thereafter. Three episodes occurred in quick succession, between 1506 and 1508, in which the marquis of Priego and the count of Cabra took control of Córdoba as magistrates. The first two were caused by hitches in the re-appointment of corregidores, but in the third, the marquis crossed the border into revolt, imprisoning the king's alcalde. Ferdinand quelled the revolt by means of a military expedition which he conananded himself. The marquis and his henchmen, including rnany members of Córdoba council, were banished. Similarly severe action was taken by Ferdinand at this time to prevent the proposed marriage alliance between two of the leading Andalusian noble families, the Guzmán and the Girón. However, despite apparent royal severity towards the pretensions of leading nobles to return to their previous dominance in the area, illustrated by the Crown's successful exploitation of inheritance crises in the Ponce and Guzmán families in 1492 and 1502 to regain control of Cádiz and Gibraltar, respectively, there are distinct signs that in the early sixteenth century the monarchs were content to allow to the upper nobility a position in local society raore appropriate to their great wealth and traditional influence. Magnates returned to the governorship of royal fortresses, despite the protests of Córdoba council. The marquis and his henchmen were restored to this council in 1510 and even the armed invasion of Córdoba's town of Hornachuelos by the count of neighbouring Palma was tolerated. On the other side, it should be noted that the second attempt at a Guzmán - Girón marriage, in 1513, was thwarted by the Crown. The royal towns of western Andalusia, if Córdoba and Jerez may be taken as typical examples, emerged from the combined reigns of the Catholic Honarchs firmly in the grip of small ruling oligarchies, secure in the possession of effectively hereditary offices as regidores. Some of these office-holders were members of the wealthiest families in the region, others were not, but all had similar economic and political interests. The overall characteristics of society in this region in 1516 was immobility. No new families joined the ranks of the upper nobility in the kingdoms of Seville and Cordoba after 1492 and those already in a strong position found their wealth increased. However, this wealth showed itself in exploitation of the land and investment in government funds (juros) rather than trading activity. The leaders of Andalusian society at the beginning of the modern age were unenterprising and backward-looking, but their permanence had been guaranteed by the work of Ferdinand and Isabella.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nobility ; History ; Politics and government ; Spain ; Córdoba (Spain) ; Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) ; Ferdinand and Isabella, 1479-1516