UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Royal power and the war with Granada Conroy, James George


One of the most important issues faced by the society of the Iberian Peninsula during the fifteenth century was the conflict between the demands of the monarchy and the accumulated rights of the nobility. The Reconquista facilitated the growth of a privileged warrior class, which resulted in a nobility entrenched in their wealth and historic privileges of rule. The Crown frequently challenged this domination, yet with little success, until the reigns of Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon. These monarchs successfully channeled the power of the nobility into forms that increased the power of the monarchy without alienating the wealth and prestige of the nobles. The purpose of this thesis is to show how the process of controlling the nobility was aided largely by the growth in military power of the monarchy, developed and expanded through the war with Granada, from 1480 to 1492. This war demanded a vast increase in the size and a change in the composition of the Castilian army, with a corresponding increase in the financial, social and technological infrastructure needed to support it. The campaigns against Granada were focused primarily around numerous sieges, with gunpowder siege artillery as the primary weapon. The dissertation shows how this artillery was vital to the eventual success of Castile over Granada. In support of the artillery, large infantry armies were raised by the Monarchs to conduct the actual sieges and protect Castilian supply lines. The cavalry, formerly the dominant arm of the Castilian army, was relegated to skirmishing. The introduction of effective firepower placed at the disposal of the monarchs sufficient military force to control the nobility and extend their influence throughout Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Navarre, and to unify politically much of the Peninsula. This reorientation of the emphasis in the Castilian military system had enormous political, social, financial and military ramifications for Castile. The State intruded into much of Castilian society, in the form of bureaucrats and tax collectors. The financial affairs of the monarchs expanded to fit the demands of the war effort, eventually absorbing a large proportion of the revenues of the Church and that of the nobility as well. This growth of state power eventually overrode much of the legal isolation of the different areas of the Peninsula. The massive effort required of the peoples of Spain also promoted a social unification, in that the concept of a vital task successfully concluded was shared by all. The success of the war also fostered a crusade mentality among Spaniards and the strengthening of the influence of the Catholic religion under the direction of the monarchs. In these ways, the military demands of a decade of war against Granada facilitated and forced the growth of a centralized, bureaucratic state on a society dominated by aristocratic pretensions and regional factionalism.

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