John Brandon Fowles and Dr. Alvin F. Sherman, Jr., Spanish and Portuguese
The Ilustración, or Spanish Enlightenment, followed in the footsteps of the general European Enlightenment but with a decidedly national flare. Enlightened thinkers in Spain, no less interested in neoclassical motifs than their European forerunners, also looked back to periods of Spanish history that defined the thrust of the Ilustración. Philip II, the sixteenth-century absolute monarch of Spain, became an important symbol for Spanish intellectuals.
My focus in this research project has been to pursue the consequences of Philip II’s administrative policy and personal ideology in the Ilustración in order to identify differences between this movement and the general European Enlightenment. The collection of Philip II original manuscripts located in the Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL) at Brigham Young University has provided some minor insight into his administrative policy, but has proved less central to my research than I initially planned. Geoffrey Parker expresses the problem of research in Philip II’s original writings: “Hundreds of thousands of papers written by or to the king have survived, creating a daunting mountain of data.”1 These papers are scattered throughout the archives of many European and American cities (397-402).
The excellent volumes of secondary research available in the HBLL, such as the copiously researched study by Geoffrey Parker mentioned above, provide a much wider perspective of Philip II by referencing and coordinating these unaccessible collections of the king=s more important personal papers found mostly in various European archives.
Modern scholarship, however, provides a revised and generally more objective view of Philip II than did the works available to intellectuals of the Ilustración. For example, John Lynch (1964) and Henry Kamen (1997) both interpret Philip II=s policy on the basis of his sincere and devout belief in the Catholic faith and his perceived responsibility for the welfare of the souls of those in his realm: Athe sincerity of his religious life could hardly be questioned; his conscience was scrupulous, his beliefs firmly based and carefully practiced.@2 The modern view seems to vindicate Philip II personally while not excusing his oppressive tactics in the empire.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the information circulating about Philip II and his policy and ideology was highly inaccurate and critical. Sources outside of Spain, such as William of Orange=s Apology (1581), Friedrich Schiller=s Die Geschichte des Abfalls der vereinigten Niederlande von der Spanischen Regierung (History of the Revolt of the United Netherlands from the Spanish Government) (1786), and John Lothrop Motley=s Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856), all portray Philip II in a very bad light as an insane, power-hungry tyrant and fanatic. Similarly negative works by Antonio Pérez (1598), João Teixeira (1598), and Balthasar Álamos de Barrientos (1598) perpetuate a critical view of the king in Spain and Portugal (Parker 403).
Reading such reports of the king, it is no wonder that many Spanish enlightened thinkers identified the figure of Philip II as a giant out of their own national history who represented everything against which the Ilustración should educate the people. I have researched the writings of Manuel José Quintana, among other intellectuals of the Ilustración, as an example of this Spanish enlightened perspective of the king; specifically, two of Quintana’s poems relate to the Ilustración and Philip II: “A la invención de la imprenta” (1813) and “El panteón del Escorial” (1813).
In my paper “Poesía contra fanatismo: la Ilustración romántica de Quintana,” I analyze these poems on the basis of Quintana’s enlightened and democratic view of both education and the Spanish monarchy. Predictably, Quintana’s treatment of Philip II and his Habsburg line closely follows the negative take of the early analyses mentioned above.
Nineteenth-century Spanish intellectuals also focus on the importance of Philip II’s reign, and often in a similarly negative light. One such writer is Ángel Ganivet. As part of the Generación de >98, Ganivet examines the sources of Spain=s downfall and presents ideas for future progress. However, contrary to the accusatory analysis of Philip II common in the eighteenth century, Ganivet views him more as a truly Spanish victim of complicated international relations inherited from his father Charles V.
Although Ganivet states in Idearium español (1897) that the policies of Philip II led to Spain=s eventual ruin, he makes it clear that these policies were merely a continuation of the international machinations of the foreigner Charles V; Ganivet labels Charles V’s entrance into Spain after the death of Cisneros “la muerte de Castilla” (“the death of Castile”).3 I have included much of my research of Ganivet’s nineteenth-century perceptions of the Habsburgs and specifically Philip II in my paper “Revaluación de la caída: Ganivet y el Imperio,” which I plan to submit for publication in Winter 2001.
I would like to acknowledge the excellent resources provided by the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU and the ORCA funding that was instrumental in my research. Additionally, I thank Dr. Alvin F. Sherman, Jr. for his academic direction and support throughout this project. Dr. Paul Kerry gave me generous amounts of his valuable time and continually supplied me with much needed inspiration, for which I also express my gratitude.
- Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), p.xv.
- John Lynch, Spain Under the Habsburgs. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 172.
- Ángel Ganivet, Idearium español. With an introduction by E. Inman Fox (Madrid: Colección Austral, 1999).