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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Greatness and decline of Majorcan commerce


The municipal form of Majorcan government.]

Since the outlying settlements were unimportant at the time of the conquest, the government of the city of Palma was extended over the entire island. At length the administration at the capital was organized on the basis of a magistracy of six persons (a _caballero_, two citizens, two merchants, and an artisan), who served for a year and appointed their successors. The attempt to maintain this organization after the rural population had grown to appreciable numbers was one of the causes of the social strife between the rural and city elements. Within Palma itself there were also the disputes of different social classes and of rival powerful families. By a reform of 1358 the rural population obtained some financial independence whereby their contributions were limited to those which were to be applied for expenses in which they had an interest in common with the city, and a portion was assigned to them to spend on matters of their own, for which purpose a rural organization was formed to provide for the management of their affairs. Another reform established a council subordinate to the six magistrates, in which the rural population had a minority representation, thirty in ninety-three in 1398. This did not satisfy them, for they desired a complete separation from the city government. Still other reforms were made, but they did not get at the root of the evil, for the city remained dominant over the

affairs of the country, oppressing the people both economically and politically.

[Sidenote: The social wars of Majorca and Minorca.]

Shortly after the successful issue of the attack upon the Jews in 1391 the rural levies moved against their Christian enemies in Palma. This time they failed, and a number of their chiefs were executed. No further conflict of importance occurred until 1450, when a bitter civil war broke out. Aided by the laboring classes of Palma the rural forces besieged the capital, but were unable to take it. In 1452 the insurrection was put down. In 1463 there was another uprising, and from that date to the end of the era a state of affairs bordering on anarchy prevailed, enhanced by the economic decline of Majorca, and by the disorders on the mainland which filled the reign of Juan II. In the island of Minorca a parallel situation existed throughout the era in the conflicts of the capital, Ciudadela, with the rural districts.

[Sidenote: Greatness and decline of Majorcan commerce.]

Majorca had an excellent climate and a fertile soil which fitted it for agricultural wealth, and the Moslems had furthered this by their use of irrigation. They had also engaged considerably in manufacturing, and had an already well-developed trade at the time of the conquest. Under Christian domination Majorca soon attained to an extraordinary commercial importance, trading in all parts of the Mediterranean and in Flanders, and having consuls and commercial exchanges in nearly all European countries. In the fourteenth century more than thirty thousand sailors resided in Palma, and many foreign merchants dwelt there. The wealthy trader was the veritable great lord in the island, with his palaces, country estates, and his display of luxury. The decline set in about the middle of the fourteenth century, due in part to the annexation of Majorca to the kingdom of Aragon. Other causes hastened the fall: disastrous plagues, earthquakes, and floods; the advance of the Turks into Europe, cutting off a rich commercial field; the increased importance of the Italian cities in the eastern Mediterranean trade; the raids of pirates; the expensive wars of Aragon; and the persistent social and political strife in Majorca itself. Nevertheless, a considerable trade remained until the middle of the fifteenth century, when a new series of misfortunes,--such as the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the prohibition of the entry of Majorcan cloths into Naples, the competition of Rhodes and Portugal in the east, and hostilities with the Moslem states of northern Africa (thus cutting off that avenue of trade),--added to the continuing effect of some of the already-named evils, brought about the complete downfall of the Majorcan mercantile power. One advantage resulted, though not great enough to offset the commercial loss: a beginning was made of a more intensive cultivation of the agricultural wealth which the island was so well able to produce.

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