History ETDs

Publication Date

7-11-2013

Abstract

The study of legal history has attracted scholars who have surveyed legal writings and their development over time as a body of literature. Others have taken this further by analyzing how the principles contained in these legal writings have been applied, by attempting to analyze cases with similar issues, usually in regards to a specific region or jurisdiction. This study combines both approaches by analyzing how Castilian law formed in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries and was applied first through the royal court and then through the Audiencia Real Castellana (high tribunal). While there have been studies that analyze Castilian institutions, such as the curia regis (royal assembly), the cortes, and the Audiencia, these focus primarily on the development of the respective institutions with the analysis of legal elements where they contribute to the institutions history. Royal concessions, legislation, and cases have also been studied, but primarily to support the analysis of the reign of a particular monarch or the history of a specific region or kingdom. This study analyzes how the Castilian royal court and Audiencia Real Castellana applied law primarlily in deciding land disputes. It draws mainly from unpublished documents in the Archivo de la Real Audiencia y Chancillería in Valladolid, Spain. Other archival sources published and unpublished and secondary sources are analyzed as well. This research also incorporates formal legal analysis of royal concessions, lawsuits, and legislation, and it considers the impact of this legal tradition on the overseas possessions of the Castilian Crown, particularly in New Spain and New Mexico. The investigation focuses on land law, as land tenure on a practical level allowed the sovereigns of Castile to establish jurisdiction in other matters. It also held a central place in a royal policy that enabled the incorporation of enormous amounts of land in the Iberian Peninsula and the Americas by giving generous land grants to subjects of the crown. Territorial jurisdiction had to be established before a criminal case could be heard. Fernando III, Alfonso X, and Alfonso XI played significant roles in the formation of Castilian law and its dissemination in Castilian Spanish. Alfonso XI's ordering of Castilian law through legislation promulgated at the cortes of Alcalá de Henares in 1348 enabled Enrique II to formally establish the Royal Audiencia in the cortes of Toro of 1371. Land disputes represented a significant number of cases that the court decided. They were critical to the crown's claims of jurisdiction, upon which all other types of cases would then rely. Cases involving title, possession of land, usage rights, frequently adjudicated by the royal court, were now routinely adjudicated by the Audiencia. Title to communal lands, such as ejidos, pastos, and montes, were also disputed by villages, towns, and cities. The Audiencia consistently applied principles found in fueros (charters enumerating specific rights), royal concessions, and bodies of law such as the Fuero Juzgo, Espéculo de las Leyes, and the Siete Partidas. These principles were transmitted to the New World in concessions and written law through the authority of the Crown of Castile, which, through the Treaty of Tordesillas, claimed exclusive jurisdiction in the lands it claimed in the Americas. The crown established audiencias throughout the Americas. Viceroys and governors executed royal concessions to Natives and European settlers in what today is Latin America and also numerous states in the southwestern region of the United States. The final section of this study examines the province of New Mexico after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. As all of the records from the Spanish Archives prior to the revolt have been lost or destroyed, an analysis of the documents in the archive after this event will show what legal system, particularly concerning land, Spaniards established. After analysis of documents from the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Archivo General de la Nación of México, I make comparisons to Castilian land law prior to 1492. These comparisons show similarities in the royal concessions, accompanying documents, adjudications, and terminology that indicate that officials and inhabitants—Native, European, Mixed-Race (castas)—followed to a large degree legal precepts established in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. They reflect one legal tradition that followed long established royal policy, one that spans conventional historical periodizations. To understand the controversial adjudications by the United States of Spanish land grants, one must take into account the legal tradition and royal policies of the Crown of Castile before as well as after 1492. This also allows us to better understand the rich history of this lengthy era.

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Degree Name

History

Department Name

History

First Advisor

Graham, Timothy C.

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ryan, Michael A.

Second Committee Member

Ball, Durwood

Third Committee Member

Cárdenas-Rotunno, Anthony J.

Fourth Committee Member

Cutter, Charles R.

Language

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Included in

History Commons

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