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Frontiers of Possession

Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas

Tamar Herzog
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 362
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  • Book Info
    Frontiers of Possession
    Book Description:

    Tamar Herzog asks how territorial borders were established in the early modern period and challenges the standard view that national boundaries are settled by military conflicts and treaties. Claims and control on both sides of the Atlantic were subject to negotiation, as neighbors and outsiders carved out and defended new frontiers of possession.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73580-4
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book analyzes the territorial formation of Spain and Portugal in both Europe and the Americas. Rather than being determined by treaties or military confrontations, as historians have asserted, the shape both countries acquired in the early modern period was the end result of multiple activities by a plethora of agents who, while they went about accomplishing different tasks, also defined the territories of their communities and states. Situated on islands of occupation and surrounded by a sea of land they considered open for their expansion, farmers, nobles, clergymen, friars, missionaries, settlers, governors, municipal authorities, and military men in both...

  4. PART I Defining Imperial Spaces:: How South America Became a Contested Territory

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 17-24)

      The territorial conflict between Spain and Portugal regarding the extension of their overseas domains was as ancient as the European expansion. In 1493, shortly after Columbus returned from his first voyage, the Catholic monarchs secured two papal bulls(Inter Caetera)that entrusted them with the duty to convert Native Americans in return for certain rights in territories discovered west of a meridian passing one hundred leagues off the islands “vulgarly called the Azores and Cabo Verde” (two island groups in the Atlantic). Because at that time Spain’s only viable rival for maritime expansion was Portugal, the following year the monarchs...

    • 1 European Traditions: Bulls, Treaties, Possession, and Vassalage
      (pp. 25-69)

      Although the criteria making a territory Spanish or Portuguese could vary by author, place, and time, most contemporary narratives mentioned two types of questions. The first involved several formal documents that suggested that in 1493 the pope gave Spain certain rights, that in 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas endorsed these (with some changes), and that subsequent treaties (1681, 1715, 1750, 1761, and 1777) either confirmed or undermined these arrangements. The second invoked legal doctrines which, originating in Roman law and developed in the Middle Ages and the early modern period, determined that title depended on possession.¹ How these two vastly...

    • 2 Europeans and Indians: Conversion, Submission, and Land Rights
      (pp. 70-134)

      The question of who was vassal of which country (and therefore which activity could benefit whom) involved not only Europeans but also the indigenous population living in the American interior. Contemporaries believed that religious conversion implied civic conversion and that, in the process, natives were transformed into both Christians and vassals of the power that had evangelized them. Considering this conclusion consensual and evident, they barely ever discussed or justified it. Instead, they suggested in passing, for example in 1652, that Indians who had collaborated with the Dutch were traitors because, having been baptized by the Portuguese, they now owed...

  5. PART II Defining European Spaces:: The Making of Spain and Portugal in Iberia

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 135-148)

      Iberian territorial conflicts—which sometimes began in the Middle Ages but mostly developed during the early modern period, thus paralleling debates in the Americas—allow a complementary understanding of how contemporaries viewed their entitlements, argued for their rights, and, in the process, also constructed their communal territories. If these conflicts sometimes acted as precedents that explained how things had developed in the New World, other times they demonstrated how discords mutated over time and where they could end in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their added value, therefore, is their ability not only to illuminate the background to colonialism...

    • 3 Fighting a Hydra: 1290–1955
      (pp. 149-190)

      One of the clearest examples of how European conflicts could mutate over time was the confrontation that for some six and a half centuries pitted the neighboring communities of Aroche, Encinasola, Moura, Noudar, Barrancos, and Serpa (in present-day Andalusia in Spain and Alentejo in Portugal) against each other. Habitually regarded as a by-product of the 1283 and 1297 reorganization of territory and its redistribution between Spain and Portugal, it is during this period that we first hear of a conflict between Aroche (in Castile) and Moura (in Portugal) and between both and Noudar (in Portugal) regarding the usage of certain...

    • 4 Moving Islands in a Sea of Land: 1518–1864
      (pp. 191-242)

      The multiplicity of parties, constantly on the move, the continuous mutation of the contested territory and what was demanded, as well as the frequent changes in claim making were also present in other conflicts. In some of them—as the first one narrated here dealing with the island of Verdoejo—at stake were problems that partially arose from changes in the landscape, namely, the appearance and disappearance of islands. Yet, however natural these changes might have been, the way they were detected, comprehended, and given meaning involved complex thinking about territory and rights, as well as membership and belonging. These...

  6. Conclusion
    (pp. 243-268)

    In both Iberia and the Americas, territorial divisions came into being through complex processes that involved a plethora of agents and a diversity of interests. Searching to define the spaces where they could perform certain activities by sometimes excluding others, sometimes joining them, individuals, communities, and groups invented and reinvented their entitlements according to their needs and abilities, as well as the needs and abilities of their neighbors. Their acts were guided by their understanding of what was right, what was just, what was possible, and what was effective. Reacting spontaneously or planning their activities with great care, they engaged...

  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. 269-272)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 273-374)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 375-376)
  10. Index
    (pp. 377-384)