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Half Title Page

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Chapter 1: At the Dawn of a New Century: The Spains around 1300

A Plurality of Spains

Geography, Climate, and Languages

The Diverse Geographies of Spain

Geographical, Topographical, Climatic, and Linguistic Diversity Revisited

Toward 1300

A Sense of the New Around 1200

Structural Changes

Money and Land


The Conquest of the South and Structural Transformations: Castile and the Crown of Aragon

Chapter 2: Medieval Spain in the Late Middle Ages: Society and Economy

Years of Crises

The Spanish Realms


Demographic Changes Reconsidered

Inflation, Declining Revenues, and Violence

The Crown of Aragon


Famine, War, Plague, and Rebellion

Chapter 3: The Answers of Politics: Spain, 1300–1350


Castile, 1300–1350

The Crown of Aragon, 1300–1387


Chapter 4: Toward Trastámara Spain, 1350–1412

The Crown of Aragon from Peter IV to the Compromise of Caspe (1412)

Toward Trastámara Spain

Castile, 1350–1410

The Trastámaras in Power

The Perpetual Minority of John (Juan) II (1406–1454)

Chapter 5: Spain in the Fifteenth Century: Toward the Rule of the Catholic Monarchs, 1412–1469

Castile, 1410–1469

The Trastámaras in Aragon, 1412–1479

Chapter 6: The Sinews of Power: Administration, Politics, and Display

Administering the Realms

Local Administration and the Law

The Language of Power: Castile

The Crown of Aragon

Symbols of Power

Sumptuary Laws and Ceremonies of Power

Chapter 7: Muslims, Jews, and Christians in a Century of Crisis

Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Medieval Spain

Toward the End of Plurality, 1300–1469

Chapter 8: Culture and Society in an Age of Crisis


Education and Cultural Resources

Poetry, Romances, and Cancioneros

Beyond the Romancero

Poetry in the Literature of the Crown of Aragon

Catalan and Castilian Chronicles, Religious Writings, and Romances

Religion and Philosophy


Religion, Romance, and Knight-Errantry

Courtly Romances

Chapter 9: Epilogue

Toward the Reign of the Catholic Monarchs, 1469–1474

A World of Crises and Renewal, 1300–1474


Bibliographical Essay


Spain’s Centuries of Crisis

A History of Spain


Iberia in Prehistory*

María Cruz Fernández Castro

The Romans in Spain

John S. Richardson

Visigothic Spain 409–711 Roger Collins

The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–797 Roger Collins

The Contest of Christian and Muslim Spain, 1031–1157

Bernard F. Reilly

Spain’s Centuries of Crisis: 1300–1474 Teofilo F. Ruiz

The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs 1474–1520 John Edwards

Spain 1516–1598: From Nation State to World Empire*

John Lynch

The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 1598–1700*

John Lynch

Bourbon Spain, 1700–1808*

John Lynch

Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808–1939 Charles J. Esdaile

Spain: From Dictatorship to Democracy, 1939 to the Present

Javier Tusell


Caliphs and Kings 798–1033 Roger Collins

Spain 1157–1300: A Partible Inheritance

Peter Linehan

* Out of print

†Print on demand

Title Page

To Sofía Rose

Preface and Acknowledgments

Writing the history of Spain in the late Middle Ages, as I will reiterate in the first chapter, is not an easy task. The diversity of political players and entities, the endless conflicts between noble factions, urban oligarchies, and the Crown, the numerous and violent challenges to royal authority, and severe social and economic crises stood in sharp contrast to vigorous and innovative cultural transformations, linguistic changes, and signal administrative reforms. All of these components paved the way for Spain’s later primacy of place among western European powers in the early modern period.

In attempting to reconstruct the history of the two most important realms in the peninsula – the kingdom of Castile (Castile-León) and the Crown of Aragon – from around 1300 to the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1469 and Isabella’s ascent to the throne in 1474, I have placed that troubled history and the general evolution of political, administrative, and cultural life within the context of the long-term crises that plagued most of the West from the late thirteenth century to the end of the Middle Ages. By emphasizing crises and the demands they placed on Spanish women and men, I have also sought to see administrative, political, religious, and cultural innovations as responses to, as well as shaped by, the general late medieval crises. These developments had also their counterparts in growing antagonism against religious minorities and the end of religious pluralism in the peninsula. They were also paralleled and influenced by vigorous and novel cultural production.

Chapter 1 provides a general view of the Spanish realms in 1300 and seeks to place the events of that year and the next century and a half within the long sweep of Spanish medieval history. A brief foray into the geographical features of the peninsula and the links between topography and political life leads us to chapter 2. In that chapter I describe the different aspects of Spain’s social, economic, political, and structural crises from the late thirteenth century into the late fifteenth, with emphasis on the impact of the crises on political institutions and practice.

Chapters 3 to 5 offer a chronological narrative of Spanish political life, highlighting the ebb and flow of peninsular conflicts and territorial expansion and contrasting the different paths followed by Castile and Aragon. In chapter 6 I turn to those administrative, fiscal, and institutional changes that, while the crises raged, set the foundations for either stronger royal authority in Castile or formal “constitutional” arrangements in the Crown of Aragon. True “sinews” of power, these institutional innovations provided the framework for new ways of articulating power. Chapter 7 focuses on the intertwined histories of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. I would argue that the clear deterioration of these relations in the period after 1300 reflected, to a large extent, the shifting context in which different religious groups interacted. The crises of late medieval society had, on the whole, nefarious consequences for Jews and Muslims, and the Christians’ (or at least some Christians) growing hostility towards them was also a complex and perverse response to the general crises affecting the peninsular realms. Finally, the last chapter examines cultural production – mostly literary culture, festivals, and other cultural artifacts – as paralleling and emerging from the troubled climate of the age.

Were I to list all those to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, the list would be so extensive as to duplicate the length of this book. The sparse notes and the more extensive bibliographical essay do not begin to reflect the large number of scholars and students whose works and comments have informed these pages. Angus Mackay, a historian of rare understanding and insightfulness, and a generous friend, was to have written this volume originally. The reader, I fear, will be short-changed. No matter how very hard I have tried, this book would never match that which Angus Mackay would have written. That this particular volume is preceded by Peter Linehan’s book, Spain, 1157–1312, in Blackwell’s History of Spain series and is followed by John Edwards’ The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs honors me greatly. I could not think of more distinguished company, and their contributions to Blackwell’s History of Spain have been a very strong incentive to attempt to make a contribution worthy of their distinction as scholars. I have known Peter Linehan for many years and have greatly benefited from his insightful comments and exceedingly generous friendship. John Edwards’ work has also been an enduring source of inspiration and a model for my own.

At UCLA, Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob, Ron Mellor, David Myers, David Sabean, Arch Getty, Patrick Geary, Muriel McClendon, Steve Aron, Kevin Terraciano, and Geoffrey Symcox have provided the scholarly community in which it has always been a pleasure to do research and writing. Graduate and undergraduate students have provided me with vigorous critiques and helpful comments. I have learned much from the work of Gregory Milton, Claudia Mineo, Jenny Jordan, and Bryan Givens. In the United States Paul Freedman, David Nirenberg, William C. Jordan, Olivia R. Constable, and Daniel Smail have always given their unreserved support.

Abroad, as always, Jacques Le Goff, John H. Elliott, Jacques Revel, Adeline Rucquoi, Manuel González Jiménez, Hilario Casado, Judith Herrin, Denis Menjot, and others have encouraged my work and taught me by example. At Blackwell, Tessa Harvey, Gillian Kane, Angela Cohen, Rebecca du Plessis, and Janet Moth have been extremely generous with their help and understanding. John Lynch, the general editor of the series, has been equally supportive and encouraging. To them I owe a great debt of gratitude. Scarlett Freund, my friend and wife, is, as I have written many times before, the enduring reason for which I live and write. But this book is dedicated to my granddaughter Sofía Rose Ruiz. Born on December 11, 2005, she, my first grandchild, has brought me joys and feelings I did not know existed. And this book is dedicated to her in the hope that – not unlike those fifteenth-century Castilian poets who wrote in search of remembrance – many years from now, when she reads this, she knows that I was lovingly thinking of her.

Map 1 Spain in the late Fifteenth Century.

Source: based on Edwards, J. The Monarchies of Ferdinand and Isabella (Historical Association pamphlet), p. 4

Map 2 The Crown of Aragon and the Western Mediterranean in the late Middle Ages

Source: Bisson, T. The Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History (Oxford, 1986), p. 91