Black legend (Spain)
The Black Legend, or the Spanish Black Legend, is a black legend consisting of anti-Spanish propaganda which started in the 16th century, originally as a political and psychological weapon by Spain's rivals in the attempt of demonizing the Spanish Empire, its people and culture, and countering its influence and power in world affairs. The assimilation of primarily English and German propaganda into mainstream history created an anti-Hispanic bias in subsequent historians and a distorted view of the history of Spain, Latin America, and other parts of the world. Although the 16th- and 17th-century Spanish black legend has general historical consensus, aspects of the legend are still debated. Charles Gibson described it as "The accumulated tradition of propaganda and Hispanophobia according to which the Spanish Empire is regarded as cruel, bigoted, exploitative and self-righteous in excess of reality".[full citation needed] Like other black legends, the Spanish black legend combined fabrications, de-contextualization, exaggeration, cherry picking and double standards with facts.
The term "black legend" was first used by Arthur Lévy about biographies of Napoleon in the context of the opposition between a "golden legend" and a "black legend": two extreme, simplistic, one-dimensional approaches to a character which portrayed him as a god or a demon. "Golden" and "black legends" had been used by Spanish historians and intellectuals with the same meaning in reference to aspects of Spanish history; Antonio Soler used both terms about the portrayal of Castilian and Aragonese monarchs. At an 18 April 1899 Paris conference, Emilia Pardo Bazán used it for the first time to refer to a general view of modern Spanish history:
Abroad, our miseries are known and often exaggerated without balance; take as an example the book by M. Yves Guyot, which we can consider as the perfect model of a black legend, the opposite of a golden legend. The Spanish black legend is a strawman for those who seek convenient examples to support certain political theses (...) The black legend replaces our contemporary history with a novel in the Ponson du Terrail style, with mines and countermines, which doesn't even deserve the honor of analysis.
The conference had a great impact in Spain, particularly on Julián Juderías. Juderías, who worked at the Spanish Embassy in Russia, had noticed (and denounced) the spread of anti-Russian propaganda in Germany, France and England and was interested in its possible long-term consequences. Juderías was the first historian to describe the "black legend" phenomenon, and identified its Spanish counterpart. His 1914 book, La Leyenda Negra y la Verdad Histórica (The Black Legend and Historical Truth), deconstructs aspects of Spain's image (including those in Foxe's Book of Martyrs). According to Juderías, this biased historiography has presented Spanish history in a negative light and purposely ignored achievements and advances. In La Leyenda Negra, he defines the Spanish black legend as:
... the environment created by the fantastic stories about our homeland that have seen the light of publicity in all countries, the grotesque descriptions that have always been made of the character of Spaniards as individuals and collectively, the denial or at least the systematic ignorance of all that is favorable and beautiful in the various manifestations of culture and art, the accusations that in every era have been flung against Spain."
Later writers supported and developed Juderías's critique. In Tree of Hate, historian Philip Wayne Powell wrote:
Spaniards who came to the New World seeking opportunities beyond the prospects of their European environment are contemptuously called cruel and greedy goldseekers, or other opprobious epithets virtually synonymous with Devils; but Englishmen who sought New World opportunities are more respectfully called colonists, or homebuilders, or seekers after liberty (...) When the Spanish prosecuted religious dissidents, that was called bigotry and fanaticism ... When Dutchmen and Englishmen did the exact same thing, that was called unifying the nation.[page needed]
Powell defined Spain's black legend as:
An image of Spain circulated through late sixteenth-century Europe, borne by means of political and religious propaganda that blackened the characters of Spaniards and their ruler to such an extent that Spain became the symbol of all forces of repression, brutality, religious and political intolerance, and intellectual and artistic backwardness for the next four centuries. Spaniards ... have termed this process and the image that resulted from it as "The Black Legend", la leyenda negra.— Tree of Hate (1985 edition)[page needed]
In his book Inquisition, Edward Peters wrote:
The inquisition was regarded outside of Spain as a necessary cleansing (among the Spaniards), since all Spaniards were accused of having Moorish and Jewish ancestry (...) First condemned by the impurity of their beliefs, the Spanish then came under fire for excess of zeal in defending Catholicism. Influenced by the political and religious policies of Spain, a common type of ethnic invective became an eloquent form of description by character assassination. So, when Bartolomé de las Casas wrote his criticism of certain governmental policies in the New World, his limited, persuasive, specific purpose was ignored.[full citation needed]
In his 2002 book Spain in America: The Origins of Hispanism in the United States, American historian Richard Kagan defined the Spanish black legend:
Compounding that perspective of Spain as an inferior "other" was the black legend, the centuries-old set of beliefs that the United States inherited from the British and, to a certain extent, from the Dutch ... Such reading of Spanish history was overly simplistic, but promoters of American exceptionalism found it useful."[full citation needed]
According to historian Elvira Roca Barea, the formation of a black legend and its assimilation by a nation is a phenomenon observed in all multicultural empires (not just the Spanish Empire. A black legend about an empire would be the result of propaganda attacks and efforts by most smaller contemporary powers and defeated rivals; propaganda created by rival factions in the empire; self-criticism by the intellectual elite, and a need by new powers consolidated during (or after) the empire's existence.
According to this view, the Spanish black legend was not exceptional but its persistence is. The causes of its durability are:
- Overlap of the Spanish Empire with the introduction of the printing press in England and Germany, which enabled the printing of hundreds of pamphlets daily
- Religious factors and identification
- Substitution of the Spanish intellectual class by another favorable to its former rival (France) after the War of the Spanish Succession, which established a French narrative in Spain
- The unique characteristics of the early modern era's colonial wars and the need for new colonial powers to legitimize claims in now-independent Spanish colonies and the unique, new characteristics of the succeeding empire: the British Empire.
Anti-Spanish sentiment appeared in many parts of Europe as the Spanish Empire grew. In the Habsburg realm, Spain was the dominant power in a union encompassing present-day Belgium, the Netherlands, Burgundy and parts of Italy.
During the Eighty Years' War, English and Dutch propaganda depicted Spaniards as bloodthirsty barbarians. During the following centuries, anti-Spanish stereotypes circulated widely (especially in English-, Dutch- and German-speaking parts of Europe). The propaganda depicted exaggerated versions of the evils of Spanish colonial practices and the Spanish Inquisition.
Sverker Arnoldsson of the University of Gothenburg supports Juderías' hypothesis of a Spanish black legend in European historiography and identifies its origins in medieval Italy, unlike previous authors (who date it to the 16th century). In his book The Black Legend: A Study of its Origins, Arnoldsson cites studies by Benedetto Croce and Arturo Farinelli to assert that Italy was hostile to Spain during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and texts produced and distributed there were later used as a base by Protestant nations.[full citation needed]
Arnoldsson's theory on the origins of Spain's black legend has been criticized as conflating the process of black-legend generation with a negative view (or critique) of a foreign power. The following objections have been raised:
- The Italian origin of the earliest writings against Spain is an insufficient reason to identify Italy as the origin of the black legend; it is a normal reaction in any society dominated by a foreign power.
- The phrase "black legend" suggests a tradition (non-existent in Italian writings) based on a reaction to the recent presence of Spanish troops (which quickly faded).
- In 15th- and 16th-century Italy, critics and Italian intellectual admirers of Spain (particularly Ferdinand II of Aragon) coexisted.
According to William S. Maltby, Italian writings lack a "conducting theme": a common narrative which would form the Spanish black legend in the Netherlands and England. Roca Barea agrees; although she does not deny that Italian writings may have been used by German rivals, the original Italian writings "lack the viciousness and blind deformation of black-legend writings" and are merely reactions to occupation.[This quote needs a citation]
Arnoldsson offered an alternative to the Italian-origin theory in its polar opposite: the German Renaissance. German humanism, deeply nationalistic, wanted to create a German identity in opposition to that of the Roman invaders. Ulrich of Hutten and Martin Luther, the main authors of the movement, used "Roman" in the broader concept "Latin". The Latin world, which included Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, was perceived as "foreign, immoral, chaotic and fake, in opposition to the moral, ordered and German."
In addition to the identification of Spaniards with Jews, heretics, and "Africans", there was an increase in anti-Spanish propaganda by detractors of Emperor Charles V. The propaganda against Charles was nationalistic, identifying him with Spain and Rome (although he was Flemish-born and raised, with origins in a German dynasty, spoke little Spanish and no Italian at the time, and was often at odds with the pope).
To further the appeal of their cause, rulers opposed to Charles focused on identifying him with the pope (a view Charles had encouraged to force Spanish troops to accept involvement in his German wars, which they had resisted). The fact that troops and supporters of Charles included German and Protestant princes and soldiers was an extra reason to reject the Spanish elements attached to them. It was necessary to instill fear of Spanish rule, and a certain image had to be created. Among published points most often highlighted were the identification of Spaniards with Moors and Jews (due to the frequency of intermarriage), the number of conversos (Jews or Muslims who converted to Christianity) in their society, and the "natural cruelty of those two.".
Anti-Islamism and antisemitism
The Inquisition was regarded outside of Spain as a necessary cleansing to be done in Spain, since all Spaniards were accused of having Moorish and Jewish ancestry (...) First condemned by the impurity of their beliefs, the Spanish then came under fire for excess of zeal in defending Catholicism. Influenced by the political and religious policies of Spain, a common type of ethnic inventive become an eloquent form of description by character assassination. So, when Bartolomé de las Casas wrote his criticism of certain governmental policies in the New World, his limited, persuasive, specific purpose was ignored.
According to Elvira Roca Barea, the Spanish black legend is a variant of the antisemitic narratives which have been circulated in England, most of central Europe and Italy since the 13th century. The image of a fanatical, overly-Catholic Spain has little to do with medieval Spain, where cohabitation, relative tolerance, and frequent intermarriage was the norm. Muslims in Christian territory were, for the most part, allowed to keep their religion; Jews held high public office. Scholarly cooperation with Arabic and Jewish scholars was common since the 11th century, and Jewish professors reportedly taught at the University of Salamanca. In 1555, after the expulsion of the Spanish Jews, Pope Paul IV described Spaniards as "heretics, schismatics, accursed of God, the offspring of Jews and Moors, the very scum of the earth". This climate would facilitate the transfer of antisemitic and anti-Muslim stereotypes to Spaniards as a new stereotype. This is evidenced in texts of German Renaissance intellectuals, the existence of a black legend in pre-Columbian Europe, and the similarity of Jewish and Spanish stereotypes.
Martin Luther correlated "the Jew" (detested in Germany at the time) with "the Spanish", who had increasing power in the region. According to Sverker Arnoldsson, Luther:
- Identified Italy and Spain with the papacy, although Rome and Spain were enemies at the time
- Ignored the coexistence (including intermarriage) of Christians and Jews in Spain
- Conflated Spain and Turkey out of fear of an invasion by either.
In 1575, Luther was quoted as writing: "The Spanish eat white bread and kiss blonde women with all pleasure, but they are as brown and black as King Balthasar and his monkey".
According to Philip Wayne Powell, criticism spread by the Jews who were expelled by Spain's Catholic monarchs were an important factor in the spread of anti-Hispanic sentiment (particularly religious stereotypes).
Eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote, "The Spaniard's bad side is that he does not learn from foreigners; that he does not travel in order to get acquainted with other nations; that he is centuries behind in the sciences. He resists any reform; he is proud of not having to work; he is of a romantic quality of spirit, as the bullfight shows; he is cruel, as the former auto-da-fé shows; and he displays in his taste an origin that is partly non-European." According to semiotician Walter Mignolo, the Spanish black legend was closely tied to race in using Spain's Moorish history to portray Spaniards as racially tainted and its treatment of Africans and Native Americans during Spanish colonization to symbolize the country's moral character.
Conquest of the Americas
During the three-century European colonization of the Americas, excesses were committed by all European nations according to both contemporary opinion and modern moral standards. Spain's colonization also involved some excesses, especially in the early years, following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean. However, Spain was the only colonial power and the first in recorded history to pass laws for the protection of indigenous peoples. As early as 1512, the Laws of Burgos regulated the behavior of Europeans in the New World forbidding the ill-treatment of indigenous people and limiting the power of encomenderos—landowners who received royal grants to recruit remunerated labor. The laws established a regulated regime of work, pay, provisioning, living quarters, hygiene, and care for the natives in a reasonably humanitarian spirit. The regulation prohibited the use of any form of punishment by the landowners and required that the huts and cabins of the Indians be built together with those of the Spanish. The laws also ordered that the natives be taught the Christian religion and outlawed bigamy.
In July 1513, four more laws were added in what is known as Leyes Complementarias de Valladolid 1513, three related to Indian women and Indian children and another more related to Indian males. In 1542 the New Laws expanded, amended and corrected the previous body of laws in order to improve their application. This body of legislation represents one of the earliest examples of humanitarian laws of modern history.
Although these laws were not always followed, they reflect the conscience of the 16th century Spanish monarchy about native rights and well-being, and its will to protect the inhabitants of Spain's territories. These laws came about in the early period of colonization, following some abuses reported by Spaniards themselves traveling with Columbus. Such reports led to an institutional debate in Spain about the colonization process and the rights and protection of indigenous peoples of the Americas. Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas published Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies), a 1552 account of the supposed atrocities committed by landowners and some officials during the early period of colonization of New Spain (particularly on Hispaniola). De las Casas, son of the merchant Pedro de las Casas (who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage), described Columbus's treatment of the natives in his History of the Indies. His description of Spanish actions was used as a basis for attacks on Spain, including in Flanders during the Eighty Years' War. The accuracy of de las Casas's descriptions of Spanish colonization is still debated by some scholars due to supposed exaggerations. Although historian Lewis Hanke thought that de las Casas exaggerated atrocities in his accounts, Benjamin Keen found them more or less accurate. Charles Gibson's 1964 monograph The Aztecs under Spanish Rule (the first comprehensive study of sources about relations between Indians and Spaniards in New Spain), concludes that the demonization of Spain "builds upon the record of deliberate sadism. It flourishes in an atmosphere of indignation which removes the issue from the category of objective understanding. It is insufficient in its understanding of institutions of colonial history."
The ill-treatment of Amerindians, which also occurred in other European colonies in the Americas, was used in works of competing European powers to create animosity against the Spanish Empire. De las Casas' work was first cited in English in the 1583 The Spanish Colonie, or Brief Chronicle of the Actes and Gestes of the Spaniards in the West Indies, at a time when England was preparing for war against Spain in the Netherlands.
All European powers which colonized the Americas, including England, Portugal and the Netherlands, ill-treated indigenous peoples. Colonial powers have been also accused of genocide in Canada, the United States, and Australia. These issues have received greater scholarly attention and the historiographical evaluation of colonialism's effects is evolving. According to William B. Maltby, "At least three generations of scholarship have produced a more balanced appreciation of Spanish conduct in both the Old World and the New, while the dismal records of other imperial powers have received a more objective appraisal."
Spain's war with the United Provinces and, in particular, the victories and atrocities of the Duke of Alba contributed to anti-Spanish propaganda. Sent in August 1567 to counter political unrest in a part of Europe where printing presses encouraged a variety of opinions (especially against the Catholic Church), Alba seized control of the publishing industry; several printers were banished, and at least one was executed. Booksellers and printers were prosecuted and arrested for publishing banned books, many of which were part of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
After years of unrest in the Low Countries, the summer of 1567 saw renewed violence in which Dutch Calvinists defaced statues and decorations in Catholic monasteries and churches. The March 1567 Battle of Oosterweel was the first Spanish military response to the unrest, and the beginning of the Eighty Years' War. In 1568 Alba had prominent Dutch nobles executed in Brussels' central square, sparking anti-Spanish sentiment. In October 1572, after Orange forces captured the city of Mechelen, its lieutenant attempted to surrender when he heard that a larger Spanish army was approaching. Despite efforts to placate the troops, Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo (son of the governor of the Netherlands and commander of the duke's troops) allowed his men three days to pillage the city; Alba reported to King Philip II that "not a nail was left in the wall". A year later, magistrates were still attempting to retrieve church artifacts which Spanish soldiers had sold elsewhere. This sack of Mechelen was the first Spanish Fury; several others occurred over the next several years. In November and December 1572, with the duke's permission, Fadrique had residents of Zutphen and Naarden locked in churches and burnt to death.
In July 1573, after a six-month siege, the city of Haarlem surrendered. The garrison's men (except for the German soldiers) were drowned or had their throats cut by the duke's troops, and eminent citizens were executed. In 1576, Spanish troops attacked and pillaged Antwerp. Soldiers rampaged through the city, killing, looting, extorting money from residents and burning the homes of those who did not pay. Christophe Plantin's printing establishment was threatened with destruction three times, but was spared each time with payment of a ransom. Antwerp was economically devastated by the attack; a thousand buildings were torched, and as many as 18,000 men, women and children were killed. Maastricht was besieged, sacked and destroyed twice by the Spanish (in 1576 and 1579), and the 1579 siege ended with a Spanish Fury which killed men, women and children. Spanish soldiers drowned hundreds of civilians by throwing them off the bridge over the river Maas in an episode similar to earlier events in Zutphen.
The depredations against the Indians described by de las Casas were compared to those of Alba and his successors in the Netherlands, and A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies was reprinted 33 times between 1578 and 1648 in the Netherlands (more than in the rest of Europe). The Articles and Resolutions of the Spanish Inquisition to Invade and Impede the Netherlands accused the Holy Office of a conspiracy to starve the Dutch population and exterminate its leading nobles, "as the Spanish had done in the Indies."
The existence of a Spanish black legend is generally, but not universally, accepted by academics. Ricardo Garcia Carcel denied its existence in his 1991 book, The Black Legend: "It is neither a legend, insofar as the negative opinions of Spain have genuine historical foundations, nor is it black, as the tone was never consistent nor uniform. Gray abounds, but the color of these opinions was always viewed in contrast [to what] we have called the white legend." Proponents of the theory include musicologist Judith Etzion and writer William Styron.
According to Carmen Iglesias, the black legend consists of negative traits which the Spanish people see in themselves and is shaped by political propaganda. References to black-legend constructs are used in Argentina to argue in favor of protectionism against Spanish companies.
The view that the Spanish black legend affects current US immigration policy has gained support. Past Spanish ownership of about half of the United States is unknown by most Americans.[page needed] Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell said that he saw a re-emergence of the black legend in European coverage of the Catalan independence movement, particularly by the English-speaking press (which unquestioningly accepted unverified injury figures which turned out to be false).
The black legend is cited in films such as Victoria & Abdul. In his essay "Why Spaniards Make Good Bad Guys", Samuel Amago analyzes the persistence of the legend in contemporary European cinema.[full citation needed] The American Council of Education reported anti-Hispanism in textbooks in 1944, identifying basic errors and biased portrayals and concluding, "The abolition of the black legend and its effects in our interpretation of Latin American life is one of our main problems in the educational and intellectual aspect, as well as in the political sphere". According to Philip Wayne Powell in 1971, however, the core textbook errors still remained. The black legend can be said to contribute to white supremacy, erasing the ethical and intellectual contributions of southern Europeans and reducing the power and competence of Native American empires before and during the Spanish conquest.[page needed]
The term "white legend" is used by some historians to describe historiography which goes too far in trying to counter the Black Legend, painting an uncritical, idealized image of Spanish colonial practices. This approach has been described as characteristic of nationalist Spanish historiography under the regime of Francisco Franco, which associated Spain with an imperial past couched in positive terms. Benjamin Keen criticized John Fiske and Lewis Hanke as going too far in idealizing Spanish history.
- Albigensian Crusade
- Aragonese Crusade
- Atrocity propaganda
- Black armband view of history, a similar concept in Australia
- Black Legend of the Spanish Inquisition
- Blood libel
- Colonial mentality
- Cultural depictions of Philip II of Spain
- Population history of indigenous peoples of the Americas
- Historical revisionism
- Historiography of Colonial Spanish America
- History of the west coast of North America
- Information warfare
- Mozarabic Rite
- Spanish colonization of the Americas
- Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire
- Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire
- Spanish conquest of Yucatán
- Toledo School of Translators
- Valladolid debate
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