Archivo General de Simancas
||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Spanish Wikipedia. (October 2014)|
The General Archive of Simancas (also known by its acronym, AGS) is an official archive located in the castle of Simancas, province of Valladolid, Spain. It was founded in 1540, making this the first official archive of the Crown of Castile.
The chronological evolution of the institution has been influenced by the history of the Crown of Castile. The moments of strength or withdrawal of the Spanish monarchy were reflected in the form of documents arrivals or resource shortages. A major milestone occurred in 1588, when Philip II of Spain gave the instruction to the Government of the Archives of Simancas, a key document for understanding the management of both this file and others in the peninsula. Also the damage suffered during the Spanish War of Independence had a major impact on what is now the institution.
Currently, the AGS is a cultural institution under the Ministry of Culture of Spain dedicated to conservation, cataloging and investigation with the large funds that are hosted there. These activities have brought about the reputation of the archive as one of the cornerstones of the Iberian Peninsula in what is relates to preservation and custody of documents.
The archive was placed in Simancas, a town some 10 km away from Valladolid. The place was not chosen randomly but was selected a fortified and easily defended. During the period of the Reconquista, the village of Simancas was relevant as a frontier zone. Subsequently, its strategic location between the kingdoms of León and Castile gave it a political role in that period. After the conquest of Toledo and its territory in 1085 the town lost its importance, and in the 13th century was just one of many towns in the outskirts of Valladolid. However, it soon ceased to be part of the jurisdiction of Valladolid, because in 1465 King Henry IV of Castile rewarded the city of Simancas to remain faithful to him.
Until 1917, modern and contemporary historians dated Simancas castle in time of the reconquest. However, in that year Francisco Rodríguez Marín published a paper in which he states that the Simancas castle was taken by Admiral Fadrique under Henry IV and later was demolished and rebuilt by his son, Admiral Alonso Enriquez. Thus, the construction date of the current castle can be assigned between the years 1467 and 1480. The castle has been extensively renovated during the centuries, and few traces of its original structure remain.
Factors that led to the decision to choose the castle of Simancas include the fact that, after advancing the frontiers of Christian territory to southern territories, the castle was not a specific function in peacetime. That meant that it had other uses, from being a weapons cache to act as a state prison, a facet played simultaneously to the archive. There was also the influence of Francisco de los Cobos, Comendador Mayor de León, as a member of the Carlos I Court exerted all his influence in order to place the institution in Simancas.
The castle was not a place designed to house an archive, which means that there are some problems that have concerned archivists throughout history. The most important of these is the risk of fire. In the past, sharing file space with a jail increased the risk that the books were reduced to ashes. Moreover, being a fortress, the building was a prime target in armed conflicts, such as the Spanish War of Independence of 1808-1814.
The place was designed to keep documents and not for research, so the ornament was not intended to decorate but only to remember that, behind the institution, there was the royal power. For example, one of the doors of the AGS was decorated with the coat of arms of king Philip II. Furthermore, it has been difficult to accommodate the researchers. Some improvements have been made this years about this trouble.
- (English) Official website
- Christopher Markiewicz and Nir Shafir, ed. (2014). "Archivo General de Simancas". Hazine: a Guide to Researching the Middle East and Beyond.