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A humanist history of the "Comunidades" of Castile : Juan Maldonado's De motu hispaniae Smith, Paul Stephen


The present study is intended to contribute to our knowledge of the intellectual history of early modern Castile by examining a work which has heretofore been ignored by historians of 'Golden Age' historiography - De motu Hispaniae, an account of the Comunidades of Castile (1520-1521) written by the Spanish humanist cleric Juan Maldonado (c. 1485-1554). In the Introduction we specify the methodology to be employed - a close reading of De motu Hispaniae - and survey current scholarship on Maldonado and on the intellectual history of Castile in our period. The argument proper begins in Chapter One, where we set the stage for our textual analysis by examining what little information we possess on Maldonado's life up to and including the year in which De motu Hispaniae was completed, 1524. Special attention is given to the two aspects of Maldonado's biography which are most relevant to our inquiry - humanism and patronage. With respect to the former, we show that the two figures crucial in his education at the University of Salamanca were the humanists Christophe de Longueil and Lucio Flaminio Siculo, who inspired him to pursue a career as a teacher of the studia humanitatis and introduced him to the classical writers whose influence is most evident in De motu Hispaniae - Cicero and Sallust. We also examine the relationship between Maldonado and two of his patrons, Pedro de Cartagena and Diego Osorio, both of whom figure prominently in De motu Hispaniae. Maldonado's close ties to the latter are especially important, for in De motu Hispaniae he contrasts Osorio's loyalty during the Comunidades with the disloyalty displayed by his half-brother, the Comunero Bishop of Zamora, Antonio de Acuña., In Chapter Two we show that the comparison is modelled on Sal-lust's Bellum Catilinae, and we suggest that it may have been prompted, at least in part, by Maldonado's desire to defend his friend and patron against (false) charges that he betrayed his king during the rebellion. The bulk of Chapter Two is given over to the presentation of textual evidence from De motu Hispaniae which indicates that, in general, Maldonado subscribed to the canons and conventions which governed the practice of classical Roman historians and their Renaissance epigones. We also argue that Maldonado's 'philosophy of history' and his ideas on such historiographical basics as causation and periodization place him squarely in the humanist tradition, and distinguish him from the 'contemporary historians' of the Middle Ages, whose historiography reflected their religious training. Unlike these latter, Maldonado saw the historian's craft in remarkably secular terms, and De motu Hispaniae is devoid of the providential ism characteristic of much Castilian historiography. The best explanation for this, we suggest, is that for Maldonado, who had witnessed the political 'decline' of the early sixteenth century, the Hand of God was not easily discerned behind the destiny of Castile. Recognizing that the history of the Comunidades could not be written in pro-videntialist terms, Maldonado turned instead to a work which offered a secular interpretation of 'civil war' – Sallust's Bellum Catilinae. In Chapter Three we argue that Maldonado, a humanist is the literal sense of the word, was convinced of the value of rhetoric in public life, and committed to a 'Ciceronian' union of philosophy and eloquence. Not surprisingly, various forms of rhetorical discourse are also evident in De motu Hispaniae. After examining three aspects of this discourse oratio recta and two more or less complementary rhetorical formulae, one drawn from Sallust and the other from Cicero - we conclude that despite repeated professions of suprapartisanship, Maldonado's rhetoric reveals the depth of his ideological commitments. Our general conclusion is that Helen Nader is incorrect to assert that humanist historiography was a dead letter in sixteenth-century Castile. Our analysis of De motu Hispaniae shows otherwise, and also reveals that the two 'traditions' which Nader discerns behind the diversity of late medieval historiography contribute very little to our understanding of historical ideas during the 'Golden Age'. We suggest that an adequate understanding of this complex phenomenon might begin with a rehabilitation, with some revisions, of the currently discredited notion of an 'open Spain'.

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