The fight for privilege and status in early modern Castile, 1465-1598
AuthorCrawford, Michael J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDuring the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tens of thousands of Castilians initiated lawsuits at the royal appellate courts to gain recognition of the status of hidalgo and enjoyment of legal privileges associated with this status. Appealing to a diversity of laws and customs these litigants claimed that the status of hidalgo provided such privileges as exemption from taxation, freedom from judicial torture, right to public office, and immunity from debtor's prison. Historians frequently characterize pre-modern European society as one in which the ruling classes enjoyed legal privileges on the basis of their social status or estate. Nevertheless in these contests the success or failure of litigants did not depend on the individual's ancestry or the objective application of existing laws governing privilege and status. In Early Modern Castile litigants intensely disputed one another's claims to and about privilege, and their respective definitions of status. Sources from the period reveal that royal and municipal authorities granted and recognized possession of legal privileges based on status. Paradoxically these authorities frequently denied the status of these same individuals and resisted their claims to privilege. In this dissertation I analyze disputes over privilege as a means for understanding how legal inequality actually functioned in Early Modern Castile. The responses of monarchs, royal officials, and municipal councils to claims concerning privilege (at times in the form of judicial rulings) reflected contingent factors typically shaped by their own immediate interests. Consequently both claimants to privilege and the opposing sides in these cases used available rules and procedures as resources to advance their respective causes.
Degree ProgramGraduate College