The History Fix

What's Present is Epilogue

33 notes

“I have met nearly every man who has played a role—large or small—in France or abroad: from Washington to Napoleon, from Louis XVIII to [Tsar] Alexander, from Pius VII to Gregory XVI, from Fox, Burke, Pitt, Sheridan, Londonderry, Capo-d’Istria, to Malesherbes, Mirabeau, etc.; from Nelson, Bolivar, Mehmet [Ali] Pasha of Egypt, to Suffen, Bougainville, La Perouse, Moreau, etc. 
 I was part of a triumvirate without precedent: three poets from rival nations with competing interests  who found themselves, almost at the same time, ministers of foreign affairs: me in France, Mr. Canning in England, and Mr. Martinez de la Rosa in Spain.  
I’ve lived through the empty years of my youth, the heady days of the republican era, the splendor of Bonaparte, and the triumph of the Legitimists.  
I explored the seas of the ancient and new worlds, and tread the soil of the four corners of the earth.  I camped under an Iroquois hut and in an Arab tent, in the wigwams of the Hurons, and amidst the remnants of Athens, Jerusalem, Memphis, Carthage, Granada.  I’ve been among the Greeks, the Turks, and the Moors, among the forests and the ruins; I donned the bear skin cloak of the savage and the silk kaftan of the Mameluke.  
After having endured poverty, hunger, thirst and exile,I was made minister and ambassador, decked in gold, in dazzling insignia and ribbons, at the table of kings, at the feasts of princes and princes—only to fall back into destitution and get a taste of prison.
I knew a multitude of famous figures in the military, Church, politics, judiciary, science, and the arts.  I was embroiled in war and peace.  I signed treaties and protocols and published numerous works.  I was initiated into the secrets of all parties at court and in the state.  I saw up close the most unexpected misfortunes and the highest fortunes.  I was present at sieges, summits and conclaves—at the restoration and the demolition of thrones.  
I made history and I wrote it.”
—François-René, Vicomte de CHATEAUBRIAND (1768-1848), French writer,diplomat, and homme de lettres.Chateaubriand’s Génie du christianisme was instrumental in the revival of Catholicism in France following the Revolution and his posthumous Mémoires d’outre tombe is considered a masterpiece of Romanticist literature. 
The above quote is a translated excerpt from an 1833 draft preface to Mémoires d’outre tombe.
(Photo: Portrait of Chateaubriand by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (c. 1808))

I have met nearly every man who has played a role—large or small—in France or abroad: from Washington to Napoleon, from Louis XVIII to [Tsar] Alexander, from Pius VII to Gregory XVI, from Fox, Burke, Pitt, Sheridan, Londonderry, Capo-d’Istria, to Malesherbes, Mirabeau, etc.; from Nelson, Bolivar, Mehmet [Ali] Pasha of Egypt, to Suffen, Bougainville, La Perouse, Moreau, etc.

 I was part of a triumvirate without precedent: three poets from rival nations with competing interests  who found themselves, almost at the same time, ministers of foreign affairs: me in France, Mr. Canning in England, and Mr. Martinez de la Rosa in Spain.  

I’ve lived through the empty years of my youth, the heady days of the republican era, the splendor of Bonaparte, and the triumph of the Legitimists.  

I explored the seas of the ancient and new worlds, and tread the soil of the four corners of the earth.  I camped under an Iroquois hut and in an Arab tent, in the wigwams of the Hurons, and amidst the remnants of Athens, Jerusalem, Memphis, Carthage, Granada.  I’ve been among the Greeks, the Turks, and the Moors, among the forests and the ruins; I donned the bear skin cloak of the savage and the silk kaftan of the Mameluke.  

After having endured poverty, hunger, thirst and exile,I was made minister and ambassador, decked in gold, in dazzling insignia and ribbons, at the table of kings, at the feasts of princes and princes—only to fall back into destitution and get a taste of prison.

I knew a multitude of famous figures in the military, Church, politics, judiciary, science, and the arts.  I was embroiled in war and peace.  I signed treaties and protocols and published numerous works.  I was initiated into the secrets of all parties at court and in the state.  I saw up close the most unexpected misfortunes and the highest fortunes.  I was present at sieges, summits and conclaves—at the restoration and the demolition of thrones.  

I made history and I wrote it.”

François-René, Vicomte de CHATEAUBRIAND (1768-1848), French writer,diplomat, and homme de lettres.Chateaubriand’s Génie du christianisme was instrumental in the revival of Catholicism in France following the Revolution and his posthumous Mémoires d’outre tombe is considered a masterpiece of Romanticist literature. 

The above quote is a translated excerpt from an 1833 draft preface to Mémoires d’outre tombe.

(Photo: Portrait of Chateaubriand by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (c. 1808))

Filed under Chateaubriand Romanticism Byron France French History French Revolution Revolution Christianity Genie du Christanisme Memoires d'outre tombe Restoration Napoleon Louis XVI History Literature

1 note

The Second-to-Last Crusade: The Abandoned Crusade of 1519

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French depiction of the Fall of Constantinople

The Last Crusade is well documented.  That great quest took place in 1938 when the American archaeologist Indiana Jones, with the help of his father Henry Jones, Sallah, and the mysterious Brotherhood, saved the Holy Grail from the Nazis.

The second-to-last crusade is considerably less well known—perhaps because it was abandoned during its planning stages.

The plan for the second-to-last crusade arose in 1519, more than two centuries after the fall of the last crusader enclave of Acre in 1291.   The impetus for a new crusade was the rapid expansion of the Ottoman Empire which had culminated in the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.  Following that monumental conquest, the Ottomans continued to expand into the Balkans and the Middle East and even invaded Italy briefly in 1480-81.  The Ottomans had no plans to stop there.  After all, if they could conquer Greece why not Germany as well?  If Constantinople could fall why not Rome?

Faced with this very real threat, Pope Leo X (the Medici pope) and the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, began to plan a massive invasion of the Ottoman Empire.  For the pope and the emperor a crusade presented advantages beyond eliminating the Ottoman threat.  During the previous thirty years, Italy had been ravaged by a serious of wars between France and Spain over control of Italy.  These wars threatened to pull the rest of Christian Europe into a more widespread conflict.  In addition, three of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe were ruled by young, ambitious, and highly capable kings: Francis I of France (25 years old); Charles I of Spain (19 years old); and Henry VIII of England (28 years old).  A crusade would have directed their youthful ambitions away from dynastic wars and toward a common effort which would benefit all of Christendom.    

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Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I

The crusade was planned in some detail.  Emperor Maximilian would lead the first army which would attack Constantinople by land.  This group was to be composed of troops from Hungary, Poland, and the various German states.  The second army was to be led by Francis I and would be composed of troops from France, Scotland, Switzerland, Lorraine, Savoy, and several Italian city-states.  Genoa, Venice, and Naples would provide ships for Francis’s army which would depart from Italy’s Adriatic ports and invade Greece.  The final contingent was to include England, Spain, and Portugal which would attack from the western Mediterranean and provide reinforcements.                                           

If the crusade had been launched as planned there would have been a good chance of success.  At that time Ottoman forces were concentrated in the newly conquered territories of Syria and Egypt and on the Balkan frontiers.  Thus the Turks might have been vulnerable to an unexpected invasion of their heartland.  Althoughh it is unlikely that the crusade would have been able to seize and hold onto the Holy Land, it is possible that the crusaders might have conquered Constantinople and that city might have remained mostly Christian until today.  After all, the Turks had controlled Constantinople for less than 70 years at the time of the second-to-last crusade.  The Ottomans might have decided that the city was not worth the trouble and that old Islamic capitals such as Cairo, Damascus or Baghdad would be more suitable centers for their Empire.    

But the crusade never happened.  It was doomed for at least two reasons—one short-term and one long-term.  First, the Emperor Maximilian died in 1519.  The crusade lost its leader and the kings of Spain and France began to compete with each other over who would succeed Maximilian as Holy Roman Emperor—dashing any hopes that the Christian princes would put aside their rivalries for the sake of the crusade.  The long-term cause was the Protestant Reformation which had begun in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg.  A crusade in the name of Christianity was no longer possible when Christians could no longer agree on what Christianity was. 

The End of the Crusades—For Some

The stillborn crusade of Leo X was not in fact the last crusade.  But it was the last  attempt of all of Latin Christendom to mount a counter-offensive against the Ottomans.   During the next decades France avoided the Ottoman threat by forming an alliance with the sultan.  England was far enough from the Mediterranean that it could afford to ignore the Turks.  The Dutch and the Protestant German states remained aloof, taking comfort in knowing that if the Turks ever did invade they would have to pass through Catholic Habsburg lands first.  There were also economic reasons for the end of crusades.  Although the economic explanations for the crusades are often exaggerated, it is undeniable that the discovery of the New World and the re-orientation of trade away from the Mediterranean and toward the Atlantic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries made crusades less profitable.

While France and Protestant Europe could afford to retire from holy war, the Mediterranean and central European countries did not have that luxury.  Thus Spain, Venice, and other Italian states continued to launch crusades against the Ottomans, most famously in the Battle of Lepanto of 1571.  The Ottomans occupied Hungary for over 150 years and Vienna was constantly under threat until the Austrians and the Poles defeated the Turkish army at the gates of Vienna in 1683.  

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Triumphalistic depiction of the Battle of Lepanto showing the intercession of the saints.

In later centuries Europeans would continue to invoke the crusade—but these  invocations were merely pious or romantic glosses on wars waged for other reasons.  There certainly were religious undertones to the Russian attempts to conquer Constantinople in the 18th and 19th centuries—but the czars, as Orthodox rulers, were not part of the crusading tradition and the possibility of strategic access to the Mediterranean was the Russians’ main priority.  There were allusions to the crusades during General Bonaparte’s adventures in Egypt and the Levant and when the British entered Jerusalem in 1917—but these were little more than self-indulgent comparisons.  The last chance for a real crusade had died with the Emperor Maximilian in 1519.  

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British troops led by General Edmund Allenby enter Jerusalem (1917)

3 notes

The Barbarian Contribution to Early Medieval Civilization , Or, Just Because You’re Named Pandulf, Doesn’t Mean You’re a Lombard

"Gothic" architecture has nothing to do with the Goths.  The Florentine Renaissance man Giorgio Vasari coined the term to express his disapproval of the typically (but not exclusively) northern European form of architecture that had flourished during the High Middle Ages.  During the Renaissance many Italians and others looked with disgust on the period between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and their own time.  It was what Petrarch called the Dark Ages— an epoch dominated by barbaric peoples (like the Goths) with ugly names who wrote uglier Latin.  

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Reims Cathedral.  The Goths did not build this.

One of the Many Terrible Theories to Come Out of the 19th and 20th Centuries

While the Renaissance scholars were mostly using the term “Goth” as a conveniently derogatory appellation for the medieval civilization they despised, scholars in Germany, England, the U.S., and elsewhere in the 19th and 20th centuries began to develop (with sinister consequences) racial theories of history that (contra Petrarch, Vasari et al.) praised the Germanic barbarians (e.g. the Goths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Norse, etc.) as a noble “Teutonic" race that purified the decadent and venal culture of the Mediterranean world.  The more Teutonic a race was, the more superior it was.  Based on these this theory, the Prussians could assert their racial superiority over the Slavic Poles and the English could justify their rule over the Celtic Irish.  Some of these historians and pseudo-historians went to absurd lengths to defend their nonsensical theory in the face of historical reality.  For example, they attempted to explain the cultural achievements of Italians from Virgil to DaVinci by inventing the idea that the ancient Romans were actually racially "Nordic" (modern Italians being the descendants of Roman slaves) and the Renaissance only flourished in places where the barbaric Germans had settled in large numbers.  

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This above map is (dangerous) nonsense. (From Madison Grant’s infamous Passing of the Great Race (1916)

 Of course these racial theories were less a reflection of actual history than they were of 19th and 20th century ideologies: nationalism, imperialism, Darwinism, eugenics, etc. In his insightful little book A Short History of England (which is really a commentary on early 20th century England rather than a scholarly history), G.K. Chesterton points out the absurdity of these racial theories of history:

I know of no way in which fair-haired people can be prevented from falling in love with dark-haired people; and I do not believe that whether a man was long-headed or round-headed ever made much difference to any one who felt inclined to break his head. To all mortal appearance, in all mortal records and experience, people seem to have killed or spared, married or refrained from marriage, made kings or made slaves, with reference to almost any other consideration except this one. There was the love of a valley or a village, a site or a family; there were enthusiasms for a prince and his hereditary office; there were passions rooted in locality, special emotions about sea-folk or mountain-folk; there were historic memories of a cause or an alliance; there was, more than all, the tremendous test of religion. But of a cause like that of the Celts or Teutons, covering half the earth, there was little or nothing. Race was not only never at any given moment a motive, but it was never even an excuse. The Teutons never had a creed;  they never had a cause; and it was only a few years ago that they began even to have a cant.

 

Was Early Medieval Civilization a “Germanic”  Civilization?

But even if we reject these racial histories, as we should, we are nonetheless confronted with the question of how much credit  (or blame) to attribute to the Germanic barbarians for the new civilization that was born in the ruins of the Western Roman Empire.  What were the effects of the barbarian settlement and migration— or peuplement (to use a fancier French word) of Western Europe?

 On the one hand, the histories of the fifth and sixth century do indeed describe a clear rupture with the Roman past and the emergence of a much poorer, more violent world with rude and strange customs.  Even during the High Middle Ages (more than half a millennium after the barbarian invasions) Byzantine and Arab observers describe the “Franks” as barbarians.  On the other hand, we can still trace the endurance of Romance languages and the Catholic religion.  And its obvious to everyone that the people of Italy, Spain, and much of France, generally don’t look like Germans.

In his chapter “Barbarian Invasions” in the New Cambridge Medieval History (2008), University of York professor Guy Halsall describes  two conflicting historiographies of the barbarian invasions.  There is the “Germanist” or “catastrophe” view “which, put bluntly, holds that everything new and different about the fifth, sixth, seventh and later centuries must be attributed to ‘Germanic’ influence.”  In contrast, there is the “Romanist” or “continuity” view which holds that the Germanic barbarians created little that was new.  In this picture, the migrations are the movements of small warrior elites (and some extreme versions come close to denying that anyone moved at all), and so are unlikely to have been able to bring about such sweeping changes.  The administration of the former provinces was essentially that of the Roman Empire, run by Roman provincials for their new barbarian masters; barbarian kingship was largely modelled on imperial Christian Roman ideas; there was continuity of settlement patterns, even if the forms changed; the towns were simply continuing in a process of change which began as early as the third century; and so on.”

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The Germanic invasions certainly changed many aspects of Western European culture.  For example, a glance at chronicles from the early Middle Ages reveals that Greco-Latin names have been replaced by Germanic names.  Instead of names like Antonius, Gaius, and Flavius we begin to encounter Hildebrand, Landulf, and Theodoric.  Even more familiar sounding names like William, Robert, Albert, and Louis are Germanic in origin.  But this does not prove that the people of Western Europe had become Germanic any more than the proliferation of Brians and Seans and Danielles and Michelles proves that the Americans with those names are ethnically Irish or French.

 The Germanic barbarians also seemed to have a small impact on languages like French, Spanish and Italian (which at the time were dialects of vulgar Latin).  For example, the Germans probably introduced the consonants “h” and “w” into French (w would later be rendered as “gu”).  Another example of Germanic linguistic influence can be seen in the word for “war” in French (guerre), Spanish and Italian (guerra).  These words are Germanic in origin and are unrelated to the Latin word “bellum." (It is not surprising that military words would be based on the language of the military elite (the German barbarians).  An analogous situation can be seen in the few Arabic-derived words in Spanish like alcazar (citadel or palace))

But these Germanic linguistic influences are the exception that proves the rule.  Despite the barbarian invasions, Romance languages continued to dominate Italy, Gaul, and Spain.  In religion too the populations of Italy and Spain remained overwhelmingly Catholic even though the Ostrogothic and Visigothic rulers following the Arian heresy (the Frankish king Clovis adopted Catholicism early on).  Thus, two of the most important characteristics of late Roman civilization—Latin language and Catholic religion—endured despite the Germanic invasions. (Although the other pillar of Roman society—Roman law—was lost for a few centuries.)

The biggest exception was Britain.  There, both the Latin language and the Christian religion completely disappeared following the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons.  

Perhaps the most plausible explanation for the difference between Britain and continental Europe is that the barbarians settled in greater numbers in Britain than they did elsewhere.  Although it is impossible to know for sure, the consensus among historians seems to be that the ethnically barbarian population was no higher than 25% of the total population in northern Gaul and probably less (perhaps much less) than 10% in southern Gaul, Spain, and Italy.  That would explain why these territories returned they Roman culture—at least in terms of religion and language.  

Yet this is not the only possible explanation.  As Halsall points out: “in southern Gaul and sixth-century Italy and Spain, Roman identity, especially amongst the aristocracy, was important, a source of pride which could be deployed against the parvenus, the barbarians and their hangers on” in contrast.  In Britain, however, “Roman identity counted for much less” thus the population may have been more willing to adopt the ways of the Anglo-Saxons or revert back to Celtic customs.   

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Present-day Language map of Europe

 

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Roman Empire in the 4th century

  But if the people of Gaul, Spain, and Italy remained mostly Roman, why did they call themselves, Franks, Goths, and Lombards?

Perhaps the most significant obstacle to understanding the cultural continuity among the vast majority of the populations in Western Europe (outside of Britain and parts of northeast Gaul) is the fact that people began to adopt Germanic names and embrace the demonyms of their barbaric conquerors.  The seventh-century bishop of Toledo, Sisebert, may not have known a word of Gothic and may have been descended from an old Roman family, but as long as he has the name Sisebert it’s hard (for me at least) not to picture him as a seven-foot-tall blond with trousers.  As Halsall point out:  

By 700, to all intents and purposes, everyone north of the Loire was a Frank, everyone in the south-east was a Burgundian, everyone in Spain was a Goth; everyone in lowland Britain was some sort of Anglo-Saxon; you had to go to Italy to find Romans. Where had the Romans gone? …[T]he categories of Roman and barbarian were fluid. In the post-Roman centuries this could be graphically illustrated. In Ostrogothic Italy, the Gothic rulers were almost never referred to as barbarians; barbarians were other foreigners, even other Goths! On the other hand, in the Burgundian kingdom, the label barbarian could be actively appropriated by the Burgundians to describe themselves. In Gaul, the Roman/barbarian dichotomy was turned to describe Catholic Christian as opposed to heretics or pagans. By the eighth century a bored Bavarian scribe could even turn the old attitudes on their head and write (in Latin!) ‘Romans are stupid; Bavarians are wise.’55

The new political identities of the Goths, Franks, Burgundians, Angles or Saxons could hence be adopted without much disgrace. This was particularly so in that it was the military elites of these people, the armed warriors, who called themselves Goths, Saxons or whatever, in the new kingdoms, and who held the military and political power… . [T]here was frequently a bipartite division of labour: barbarians fought; Romans paid taxes, so becoming a barbarian could bring with it tax exemption. In the post-Roman legal codes the ‘barbarian’ element of the population was often given legal privilege, another reason to adopt a barbarian ethnic identity. Even Gregory of Tours, a senatorial south Gallic aristocrat, had a maternal great uncle called Gundulf, a barbarian name perhaps associated with the fact that Gundulf had taken service in the Austrasian Frankish court. Returning to local communities, we can see that the adoption of a new ethnic identity could be important in striving for authority and power against rivals, especially in situations where people were looking for new sources of authority

How did one become a barbarian? Names were one way, as the example of Gundulf shows.We occasionally get references to individuals with two names, one Roman and one barbarian, revealing this process in action. 

Thus, the adoption of Germanic names and identify was what the great French historian Marc Bloch described (in another context) as a form of assimilation to “a victorious caste” and a “pretension to social distinction.”

So, does it really matter that Italy, Spain, and Gaul remained largely Latin or Roman despite the Germanic barbarian invasions?  Not really—and certainly not as much as many historians in the 19th and early 20th centuries would have claimed.  But it is nonetheless important to dispel the myth that the culture of the Middle Ages was a Germanic phenomenon.  The populations retained the most important aspects of their Roman culture-their language and their religion.  Although, ethnicity and culture was certainly malleable, many of the characteristics of early medieval civilization that are sometimes described as “Germanic” could just as easily be attributed to the disappearance of material wealth and the simplification, and de-urbanization of society.  

Ultimately, the civilization of the Early Middle Ages in Western Europe was neither Roman nor Germanic but a fusion of Latin, Greek, barbarian, and even Arabic elements that bloomed into something truly new.

Filed under History French History Italian History German History Vikings Barbarians Goths European History Medieval Middle Ages Renaissance Crusades Roman Empire Franks Lombards Spainish History Christianity Catholicism British History

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A French King, A Spanish King, and a Duel Over Italy, Part II: Francis I and Charles V

 

Francis I: The Most Powerful King in Christendom—Except for the Other Guy

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 King Francis I (1530)

Francis I was crowned king of France in 1515 during a momentous period in European history.  It was the zenith of the Italian Renaissance, the eve of the Protestant Reformation, and the high tide of Ottoman expansion.  In 1515, Francis was one of the most powerful kings in Christendom. He ruled over a Kingdom of France that was significantly larger than it had been 50 years earlier thanks to the annexation of Provence and Brittany. In addition, Francis’ predecessors, Louis XII and Charles VIII , had invaded Italy sparking a series of wars for control of Europe’s richest territories.  A few months after Francis’s coronation, he won a decisive victory at the Battle of Marignano which gave him control of Milan and dominance over northern Italy. 

 Charles V: Winning the Inheritance Lottery

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Emperor Charles V (copy of a portrait by Titian)

The main obstacle to Francis’s power was the genealogy of his greatest rival, King Charles I (the future Charles V) of Spain.  From his mother Juana la Loca (“crazy Jane”), Charles inherited the kingdom of Spain (which had been united by his grandparents Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon) as well as Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and a few outposts in North Africa.  He also inherited the Spanish territories in the New World from which his conquistadores launched the conquests of Mexico and Peru.  From his father, Charles inherited the Habsburg territories in central Europe and the extremely wealthy territories of Burgundy and the Netherlands. 

Thanks to the fruit of his family trees, Charles was undoubtedly the most powerful man in Europe.  To stretch the metaphor even further, Charles’s empire was like a vast overgrown forest encroaching upon France on all sides.

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 The Empire of Charles V 

 

The Election of 1519—Undoubtedly Called the “Most Important of Our Lifetimes”

 When Charles became King of Spain in 1516, he and Francis quickly developed a rivalry.  Both kings were candidates for Holy Roman Emperor (which was an elected position).  As Francis later described it, the two men sought the imperial crown as if it were “the pursuit of a lady.”  Unfortunately for Francis, Charles got the girl and became Emperor Charles V (he technically was only King of Romans until he was crowned by the pope in Bologna in 1530).  Prior to the election, the less-powerful Francis might have been able feel superior to Charles by reminding himself that he was "the Most Christian King of France" and ruled over the Eldest Daughter of the Church.  But after the election, Charles  became not only the most powerful ruler, but also the most prestigious and highest-ranked ruler in Christendom.

 A Royal Captive

 As disappointing as Charles’s imperial election was for Francis, the real coup de grâce occurred in 1525 when Charles decisively defeated Francis at the Battle of Pavia in Italy.   Charles erased all of Francis’s earlier conquests in Italy and, worst of all Charles took Francis prisoner and held him for ransom in Spain. 

Charles’s victory over Francis at Pavia was absolute.  When Charles V returned to Spain, towing a cargo consisting of the spoils of Italy and the King of France, he had more power than any Christian ruler since the fall of the Roman Empire.

But, for all his power, Charles V was often a model of prudence.  (For example, Charles successfully avoided a fight over his inheritance by abdicating two years prior to his death.  Then again, prudent men don’t usually challenge others to duels).  Whether out of mercy or out of a fear of upsetting the balance of power, Charles released Francis in 1526 after the French king signed a treaty ceding Milan and other territories to Charles. 

Francis I was perhaps less prudent than the Emperor.  The French king reneged on his treaty and set out to regain his lost honor and territories The old enemies were once again at war.

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A 19th-century painting by Manuel Arroyo y Lorenzo depicting Charles V  the captive Francis I in Madrid.  The Emperor brings Francis’s sister, the Duchess of Alencon, to visit the bedridden French King.

 

The Duel

 The prospect of a duel arose a decade after the Battle of Pavia in the midst of yet another war.  During those years, the relationship between Francis and Charles had continued to deteriorate.  Charles’s armies had sacked Rome in 1527 and the Emperor effectively made the pope his hostage.  Charles advanced into France itself with a failed invasion of Provence.  Meanwhile, a desperate Francis transacted a half-secret and scandalous alliance with the Ottoman Empire.

 In 1536, after his conquest of Tunis, Charles V made a triumphant visit to Rome where he donned his full imperial regalia  and met the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica.  There, Charles launched a lengthy vindication of his rights and a critique of Francis. During this harangue, Charles proposed hat the two monarchs settle their disputes in a single combat, the sort of “which in the past took place between Christian princes in order to avoid greater damage.” The two rulers would meet on neutral territory, give hostages and agree on non-artillery weapons. If Francis were to win, he would gain Milan and if Charles were the victor, he would gain Burgundy. The winner would “be obliged to attend to the pope, the fight against the Turks and the good of Christendom.” Charles gave Francis twenty days to respond to the challenge.   Not long after the emperor’s challenge, Francis accepted the challenge and agreed that, if the opportunity should present itself, a duel would be preferable to a war.

 To the extent Charles and Francis seriously intended to duel, the combat was avoided when peace broke out in 1538.  Charles and Francis met in Nice (neutral territory at the time) where the pope mediated a peace agreement.  Notably, the monarchs refused to meet each other in person.  Did they fear that their honor would require them to follow-through with the duel?  In any event, after the Truce of Nice, relations improved and Charles and Francis embraced each other a few months later in Aigues-Mortes.  In 1540, Charles visited Francis in Paris where the French king welcomed the emperor as a brother—a remarkably different kind of welcome than Francis had received in Madrid fifteen years earlier.

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The Truce of Nice (1538) (Francis and Charles did not actually meet in person until a few months later at Aigues-Mortes)

The reconciliation between Charles and Francis put the possibility of a duel to rest.  But the peace did not last long.  War resumed in 1543 and continued off and on after the deaths of both kings (Francis died in 1547 and Charles died in 1558 (although he had voluntarily abdicated and divided his possessions two years earlier)).  The successors of Francis and Charles established a lasting peace with the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, in 1559 which established Spanish dominance in Italy for the next 150 years.

 Wars as Duels on a Grander Scale

 Most of the wars of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (with the major exception of the crusades) arose out of little more than conflicting claims of rival families.  Because the causes of the wars were entirely personal, it was fitting that Charles of Anjou and Peter III in the 13th century and Charles V and Francis I in the 16th century considered settling their quarrels through duels. In a duel the kings could vindicate their rights and preserve their honor without exposing their subjects to the misery of war.  

The average soldier of the medieval and early modern periods was motivated to fight out of loyalty to his king and devotion to his religion.  Hardly anyone was inspired to fight by patriotic feelings toward his “nation.”  In the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, there existed only an embryonic concept of the nation-state.   Indeed, the History Fix’s facile use of the terms “Spanish king” and “French king” obscures this point.  On the one hand, it is certainly accurate to call Charles of Anjou French as he was a member of the French royal family.  On the other hand it is a stretch to call Peter III “Spanish.”  Peter had been raised  north of the Pyrenees and no one had told him that the future of his kingdom lay in the Iberian peninsula rather than in modern-day France.  Instead of being “Spanish,” Peter belonged to a cultural region that extended from Eastern Iberia to Provence and the Alps and was defined by what Dante described as the language of Oc— a civilization which has mostly disappeared, except for Catalonia and increasingly rare pockets of southern France.   Similarly, Francis I certainly can be described as French, but it is once again a stretch to call Charles V Spanish.  Charles V was a figure who cannot accurately be identified with any single national group.  He grew up in the Low Countries and his first languages were French and Flemish.  He later spent a substantial amount of time in Spain where he learned to speak Spanish (although not perfectly).  The scope of his empire and his many travels also led him to learn German and Italian.  According to a famous story, Charles V once remarked: “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”

 For the most part, the populations that were subject to these kings cared little about the language or culture of the king who ruled over them.  Foreign kings were perfectly acceptable as long as they were not heretics or infidels and did not try to exploit the population in innovative ways (which the Sicilians accused Charles of Anjou of doing).

In the end, neither of these kings followed through with their duels.  But if they had, history might have been a lot less bloody and perhaps a little more interesting.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

Filed under History Duels Francis I Charles V Emperor Renaissance Italy Spain France 16th Century Tudors Itailan Wars Holy Roman Empire Medieval History

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A French King, A Spanish King, and a Duel Over Italy, Part I: Charles of Anjou and Peter of Aragon

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19th-century painting depicting the Sicilian Vespers

 1283:  A French King and a Spanish King, engaged in a war over control of Italy, agree to resolve their differences through a duel.  The duel never takes place.

1536: A French King and a Spanish King, engaged in a war over control of Italy, agree to resolve their differences through a duel.  The duel never takes place.

PART I: 1283

 Charles of Anjou

Charles of Anjou was a French king—but not the king of France.   

Charles was the youngest of King Louis VIII’s four sons.  The youngest son of a royal family always lives in the shadow of his eldest brother.  But the angst of a second-son must be particularly acute when his older brother is both a king and a saint.  To add to Charles’s feelings of inadequacy, his mother doted upon the saintly Louis and Louis favored his other brothers.  

We must not feel too sorry for Charles.  He had the good fortune of contracting a profitable marriage to Beatrice of Provence which made him Count of Provence (Provence would not become part of France until the end of the 15th century).  Nevertheless, Beatrice’s father Raymond Berenguer IV probably considered Charles his least-impressive son-in-law.  After all, the other Berenguer sisters married more illustrious men.  The eldest sister Margaret married Charles’s brother King Louis, Eleanor married Henry III of England, and Sanchia married the wealthy English prince Richard of Cornwall who would later become King of the Romans (i.e. uncrowned Holy Roman Emperor).

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Early 14th-century statue of St. Louis (brother of Charles of Anjou)

Instead of resigning himself to a life of relative mediocrity, Charles developed an indomitable ambition.  To simplify a complicated sequence of events:  The pope, who was engaged in a war with Manfred, the de facto king of Sicily, offered Charles the crown of Sicily—if he could defeat Manfred (The  pope claimed lordship over Sicily and Southern Italy and thus had the legal right to confer or revoke the Sicilan crown).  Charles eagerly accepted the pope’s offer and before long he had killed Manfred in battle and established dominion over southern Italy and Sicily.  In the mean time, Charles had become a power-broker in the rest of the Italian peninsula.  Charles was not content to merely rule Italy.  Instead, he sought to extend his power further, conquering parts of Albania and Greece and invading Tunisia(where his brother St. Louis died).  

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14th-century illustration of Charles of Anjou’s coronation as King of Sicily

In 1282, Charles was amassing an army and fleet to take the grandest prize of all—Constantinople and all the imperial glory that came with it.  But, in one of the most dramatic twists of fate in history, Charles’ imperial ambitions were dashed by a massive popular revolt.  On the evening of Easter Monday, a French soldier made advances on a married Sicilian woman in Palermo.  The woman’s enraged husband drew a knife and killed the French soldier.  As the bells began to toll for the evening’s vespers, the crowds of Sicilians who had gathered at the churches began to attack every Frenchman in sight.  Before long, the anti-French violence spread throughout all of Sicily and thousands of Frenchmen were massacred.  Most devastatingly for Charles, the Sicilians set fire to Charles’ fleet which was anchored in Messina awaiting the expedition to Constantinople.   When the pope refused to recognize the Sicilians’ claims to independence, the people of Sicily sought a foreign protector who would respect their rights.  King Peter of Aragon was more than happy to oblige.

 

Peter III of Aragon

Peter of Aragon was a Spanish king, but not king of Spain.  

In the 13th century, Aragon was just one of the many kingdoms that composed the Iberian Peninsula.  When Peter became King of Aragon in 1276, he ruled roughly the eastern third of modern-day Spain.   

 Under the reign of Peter’s father James (who, coincidentally, nearly married Beatrice of Provence before Charles came on the scene), Aragon rapidly expanded its power.  Peter fought in his father’s wars of the Reconquista which resulted in the conquest of the Muslim Kingdom of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.  During the reign of James, Aragon also expanded to the north of the Pyrenees where it was a rival to the Kingdom of France.  Like Charles, Peter had his own share of family issues.  During his father’s reign, Peter had to help put down a revolt led by one of his father’s several illegitimate sons.  And when Peter’s father died, the kingdom of Aragon was split between Peter and his younger brother James—who would later betray Peter by allying with France against him.       

After the Sicilian Vespers, the Sicilians could not have asked for a better candidate for king.  Peter had a strong legal claim to the throne—he was a descendant of the Norman kings of Sicily and his wife Constance was the only daughter and heiress of the late Manfred.  In addition, Peter had become a skilled military leader during the Reconquista.  He also happened to have a large fleet and army stationed near Sicily in Tunisia.    

Not long after arriving in Sicily, Peter invaded mainland southern Italy.  He eventually obtained the alliance and support of the Byzantine Emperor (who was more than happy to form an alliance against his would-be conqueror) and seized most of Calabria. 

The Duel

As Charles prepared for the Aragonese invasion, he devised a scheme which would allow the two men to settle their scores with minimal bloodshed—a duel.   Because Charles was 15 years older than Peter he did not propose a single combat.  Rather, each king would pick his 100 best knights and the two mini-armies would fight a mini-battle.  Because neutral ground was a necessity, the English territory of Bordeaux (in southwestern France) was selected as the site of the duel.

Even though Peter may have had the upper-hand in the war, he nevertheless agreed to the duel (as any self-respecting medieval king would have done).  The two kings abandoned the battlefields of Italy for the dueling grounds of Bordeaux. 

The great historian Steven Runciman (whose book the Sicilian Vespers discusses this very interesting in period) describes the sequences of events:     

Neither [Peter] nor Charles had any intention now of fighting the duel; but the comedy had to be played out.  King Edward [of England] obedient to the Pope’s command [condemning the duel], refused to have any personal connection with the affair.  He remained himself in England, and would not promise any safe-conduct to the participants… . King Charles arrived at Bordeaux with great pomp, accompanied by the King of France and a splendid escort of French knights from whom he could choose his hundred champions.  The world should see that he was still a great king.  Peter adopted a different technique.  He arrived modestly with his champions carefully avoiding any ostentation, as though to show that he pinned his faith solely in God.

The date for the combat had been fixed for 1 June, but unfortunately no one had named the hour.  Early in the morning King Peter and his company rode into the lists, to find themselves alone there.  His heralds formally announced his presence.  He then rode back to his lodging and issued a statement declaring that his opponent had failed to meet him at the proper place.  His, therefore, was the victory.  A few hours later King Charles arrived in all his panoply and followed exactly the same procedure.  He, too, had been victorious.  The rival kings left Bordeaux a few days later, each declaring the other to be a coward who had not dared to face the judgement of God.

Aftermath

The “duel” resolved nothing.  Before long, the two kings (with their honor intact) resumed their war against each other.  The animosity between the House of Anjou and the House of Aragon survived the deaths of both kings and their sons continued the hostilities.  (According to Dante, Charles and Peter finally reconciled in the afterlife.  He describes them singing together outside Purgatory (Canto VII, Charles is the one with “the manly nose”)).  The war eventually ended in 1305 with a settlement that established the descendants of Charles of Anjou in mainland southern Italy as the Kings of Sicily (usually called the Kings of Naples) and the descendants of Peter of Aragon in Sicily as Kings of Trinacria (usually called the Kings of Sicily) (This explains why the 19th-century kingdom was called the “Kingdom of the Two Sicilies”).  The Aragonese won out in the end, however, when King Alphonso the Magnanimous established control over Southern Italy in 1442.  Yet only 50 years later, the King of France, Charles VIII (who had inherited the Angevin claim), invaded Italy sparking a series of wars which would set the stage for the next royal duel in 1536.   

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A 16th-century portrait of Alphonso the Magnanimous, King of Aragon, Sicily, and Naples

Filed under Sicilian Vespers France Spain Italy Naples Sicily St. Louis Charles of Anjou Peter III of Aragon Peter of Aragon Runciman Duel Medieval History Mediterranean Pope Crusades Byzantine Empire Aragon Provence England French History Spanish History Italian History English History

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 The Last African Pope
Pope St. Gelasius (A.D. 492-496)
Little is known about the origins of this saintly fifth-century pope, but the records indicate that he was either from Africa or born in Rome to an African family.  Thus, Pope St. Gelasius was the third and last African pope.  The others were Pope St. Victor I (A.D. 189-99) and Pope St. Militiades (A.D. 311-14).
Contrary to the claims of some commentators, however, none of these popes were “black,” i.e. Sub-saharan African.  These popes were from North Africa (the present-day Maghreb), which was populated by the native Berbers (many of whom were Romanized or Hellenized) as well as Roman colonists.  
Thus, if the papabile Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson is elected pope, he would be the first black pope, but the fourth African.
Image: A Modern Print of Pope St. Gelasius.  
 
For more on the history of North Africa see the previous post “Abd al-Qadr: Hero of Algeria, Frenemy of France, International Celebrity.”

 The Last African Pope

Pope St. Gelasius (A.D. 492-496)

Little is known about the origins of this saintly fifth-century pope, but the records indicate that he was either from Africa or born in Rome to an African family.  Thus, Pope St. Gelasius was the third and last African pope.  The others were Pope St. Victor I (A.D. 189-99) and Pope St. Militiades (A.D. 311-14).

Contrary to the claims of some commentators, however, none of these popes were “black,” i.e. Sub-saharan African.  These popes were from North Africa (the present-day Maghreb), which was populated by the native Berbers (many of whom were Romanized or Hellenized) as well as Roman colonists.  

Thus, if the papabile Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson is elected pope, he would be the first black pope, but the fourth African.

Image: A Modern Print of Pope St. Gelasius.  

 

For more on the history of North Africa see the previous post “Abd al-Qadr: Hero of Algeria, Frenemy of France, International Celebrity.”

Filed under Pope Papabile Turkson North Africa Maghreb Gelasius Pope Victor Black Pope African Pope History Catholic Church Religion Roman Empire Pope Benedict XVI St. Victor Militiades Berbers Roman Africa

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Abd al-Qadr: Hero of Algeria, Frenemy of France, International Celebrity

Abd al-Qadr

Algeria has been in the news lately, but for unfortunate reasons.  Algeria is the latest country to gain publicity not for its ancient civilization but for its association with the tiresome trinity of deserts, oil, and terrorism.  Of course, there is much more to Algeria than that.  In fact, there seems to be something for every one in the history of Algeria.

 Existentialists might recall that Albert Camus was from an Algerian pied noir family. For anti-colonialists, the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62) was an historic triumph over European oppression and was a catalyst for decolonization throughout Africa and beyond.   Catholics may remember that Hippo,  the home of the great Saint Augustine, is in present-day Algeria (although Algeria is less than 1% Christian today). Pirate enthusiasts are aware that Algiers  was the global center of piracy (or good and decent privateering from the point of view of the locals) from the 16th century until the 19th century.  Finally, punk rockers should know that the Casbah is the name of the citadel in Algiers and the neighborhood surrounding it, even though the Clash seems to use the term to refer to a generic Middle Eastern locale. 

Present-Day Algiers

  Present-day Algiers

Abd al-Qadr

Abd al-Qadr (1808-1883) was undoubtedly one of the most interesting figures of the 19th century.  The son of a sharif (a putative descendant of Muhammad), Abd al-Qadr received a classical Islamic education in Mecca, Damascus and elsewhere and was noted for his mastery of a wide range of subjects both practical and academic.  When the French invaded Algeria in 1830, Abd al-Qadr organized armed resistance and soon became the effective leader of Algerian forces.  For over 15 years Abd Al-Qadr thwarted the French conquerors.  The French armies that 20 years earlier (albeit under a different government and a different leader) had humbled the combined armies of Prussia, Austria, Russia, and Britain could not defeat an Algerian Sufi scholar turned military leader.  

Read more …

Filed under Algeria Abdelkader Abd al-Qadr Napoleon III The Clash Pirates Camus Colonialism Anti-Colonialism France Maghreb North Africa Sufi Abraham Lincoln In Amenas Lebanon 19th Century St. Augustine Africa Islam Elkader

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James FitzJames, First Duke of Berwick (1670-1734)
James FitzJames was the illegitimate son of the Duke of York (future King James II of England) and Arabella Churchill (the sister of the Duke of Marlborough).
 FitzJames was raised Catholic and educated by the Jesuits in France.  As a young man he fought with the Duke of Lorraine against the Turks in Hungary.   In 1687, FitzJames moved to England where is father, James II, made him Duke of Berwick.  The new duke’s  stay in England was short-lived, however, and he left for France the following year after the invasion and usurpation/ Glorious Revolution of William of Orange.
Berwick joined his father in his attempt to retake the throne and was present at the ill-fated Battle of the Boyne in Ireland.  After James II’s failed campaign, Berwick entered the service of the King of France.  
The Duke of Berwick is perhaps most famous for his decisive victory at the Battle of Almansa during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Englishman Berwick led a Franco-Spanish army to victory over an Anglo-Portuguese-Dutch army commanded by a French Huguenot.  Following the battle, Berwick was raised to the rank of duke in both France and Spain.  (For more on the War of the Spanish Succession see earlier post: ”The Canada of South America: British Territorial Ambitions in Argentina”) 
Berwick distinguished himself in several other battles, participating in the War of the Quadruple Alliance (where he fought against his former ally Philip V of Spain) and the War of the Polish Succession.  Berwick was killed during the Siege of Philippsburg in 1737.
Today, the heiress of the Duke of Berwick is the Spanish Duchess of Alba.
(Image: Portrait of James FitzJames, Duke of Berwick (1687) by Godfrey Kneller, Liria Palace, Madrid)

James FitzJames, First Duke of Berwick (1670-1734)

James FitzJames was the illegitimate son of the Duke of York (future King James II of England) and Arabella Churchill (the sister of the Duke of Marlborough).

 FitzJames was raised Catholic and educated by the Jesuits in France.  As a young man he fought with the Duke of Lorraine against the Turks in Hungary.   In 1687, FitzJames moved to England where is father, James II, made him Duke of Berwick.  The new duke’s  stay in England was short-lived, however, and he left for France the following year after the invasion and usurpation/ Glorious Revolution of William of Orange.

Berwick joined his father in his attempt to retake the throne and was present at the ill-fated Battle of the Boyne in Ireland.  After James II’s failed campaign, Berwick entered the service of the King of France.  

The Duke of Berwick is perhaps most famous for his decisive victory at the Battle of Almansa during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Englishman Berwick led a Franco-Spanish army to victory over an Anglo-Portuguese-Dutch army commanded by a French Huguenot.  Following the battle, Berwick was raised to the rank of duke in both France and Spain.  (For more on the War of the Spanish Succession see earlier post: ”The Canada of South America: British Territorial Ambitions in Argentina”

Berwick distinguished himself in several other battles, participating in the War of the Quadruple Alliance (where he fought against his former ally Philip V of Spain) and the War of the Polish Succession.  Berwick was killed during the Siege of Philippsburg in 1737.

Today, the heiress of the Duke of Berwick is the Spanish Duchess of Alba.

(Image: Portrait of James FitzJames, Duke of Berwick (1687) by Godfrey KnellerLiria Palace, Madrid)

Filed under History 18th Century Stuarts British history French History Spanish History War of the Spanish Succession Berwick Duke of Berwick War of the Polish Succession War of the Quadruple Alliance Battle of the Boyne Battle of Almansa Louis XIV James II Charles II FitzJames Duchess of Alba English History Stuart England Restoration Glorious Revolution Liria Palace Godfrey Kneller Jacobites Philip V William III Bourbon 17th Century

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"Now, God be praised, I will die in peace

-Last words of Major General James Wolfe upon learning of the British victory over the French at Battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec (1759).  The French general, the Marquis de Montcalm died the next day from wounds inflicted in battle.
Wolfe’s victory led to British dominance in North America and, ultimately, the emergence of Canada.  The British were not so fortunate in their attempts to conquer Argentina (See earlier post: “The Canada of South America: British Territorial Ambitions in Argentina”)
 Image: The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto)

"Now, God be praised, I will die in peace

-Last words of Major General James Wolfe upon learning of the British victory over the French at Battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec (1759).  The French general, the Marquis de Montcalm died the next day from wounds inflicted in battle.

Wolfe’s victory led to British dominance in North America and, ultimately, the emergence of Canada.  The British were not so fortunate in their attempts to conquer Argentina (See earlier post: “The Canada of South America: British Territorial Ambitions in Argentina”)

 Image: The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West (Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto)

Filed under 18th Century Colonial History England British History History Canada Quebec French Canadian Ontario Seven Years War French and Indian War American History Georgian England Wolfe Montcalm Argentina North America Royal Ontario Museum

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The Canada of South America: British Territorial Ambitions in Argentina

The other day, The History Fix, came across an interesting lecture on Itunes U (via Oxford) from Yale Professor Steven Pincus entitled "The Pivot of Empire: The War of the Spanish Succession, Party Politics, and the Shaping of the British Empire.”  The lecture centers on the Peace of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession.  At risk of oversimplifying, the Peace of Utrecht established the Bourbon dynasty on the Spanish throne but required the new Spanish king Philip V (Louis XIV’s grandson) to renounce, for himself and his descendants, all claims to the French throne.   In terms of territory, Spain was the big loser.  It lost Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the Netherlands.  Britain, on the other hand, made some significant territorial gains, adding Minorca, Gibraltar, St. Kitts, and New Foundland and gaining a slave-trading monopoly from the Spanish.  Noticeably absent from the Peace of Utrecht, however, were any significant territorial changes in Central and South America.      

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Philip V, the first Bourbon king of Spain, added some much-needed genetic diversity to the Spanish monarchy following the reign of El Hechizado

In his lecture, Pincus focuses on the debate in Britain over the Peace of Utrecht.  He conceptualizes this debate as a clash of party politics emanating from differing theories of empire.  The Whigs, Pincus argues, rejected the idea of a large territorial empire.  They viewed the Spanish model (establishing dominion over large swaths of land and exploiting natural resources) as a flawed.  Therefore, the Whigs were not concerned with making territorial gains but rather wanted to establish a commercial empire based on trade.  The Tories on the other hand, thought the only problem with the Spanish Empire was that it was controlled by the Spanish. Therefore, the Tories sought to seize as much land and natural resources as possible.  

A prime target for this territorial expansion was the Spanish colony of Rio de la Plata—present-day Argentina.  The British hoped to use Buenos Aires as the base for a new British colony which would exploit the rich mineral resources of South America.  They came  very close to achieving this goal.  In his lecture, Pincus describes the efforts of John Pullen who established the South Sea Company in 1711 with the object of invading Argentina.  Queen Anne approved the plan and authorized an invasion force.  However, the War of the Spanish Succession ended before the invasion was launched.  According to Pincus, the Spanish agreed to give the British Rio de la Plata during preliminary negotiations.  However, the Spanish later reneged on this part of the deal during final negotiations and the British, who had demobilized following the war, were in no position to hold Spain (or Spain’s ally France) to its word.  

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Europe after the Peace of Utrecht

The Canada of the Pampas

What if Britain had succeeded in acquiring Argentina?  One possibility is that the

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Filed under History Argentina Philip V War of the Spanish Succession Queen Anne South America Colonialism Falklands War Malvinas Buenos Aires Canada Pampas Napoleon Napoleonic Wars Seven Years War Quebec