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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Spanish contributions to experimental science

peninsula were sent abroad.

Similarly, the government paid the expenses of numerous expeditions, which were largely or often wholly for objects of a scientific character. As examples of this phase of the state's activity may be mentioned the visit of Juan and Ulloa to South America in 1735 with several French academicians, to measure various degrees of the meridian at the equator in order to determine the shape of the earth; that of the astronomers Doz and Medina to Baja California in 1769 in company with the Frenchman Chappe d'Autereche, to observe the transit of Venus; and the numerous Spanish voyages to the northwest coast of North America in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, of which the best known, perhaps, is that of Malaspina, who set out in 1791 to prove the existence or non-existence of the alleged Strait of Anian through the continent of North America. This was an age, too, of official accumulation of libraries; the royal library, forerunner of the present-day Biblioteca Nacional, was thrown open to the public in 1714. Archives, also, were reorganized and their contents put in order. Such was the case with those of Simancas and the crown of Aragon, while many documents relating to the Americas were taken from the former in 1785 to make a beginning of the great Archivo General de Indias at Seville. Manuscripts were utilized, as well as merely arranged, resulting both in documented volumes and in printed collections of papers,--such, for example, as the _Espa?a sagrada_, or Sacred Spain
(1747-1773), a collection of diplomas, chronicles, charters, and other old manuscripts in ecclesiastical archives, with a view to making accessible the more important materials for the history of the church; this great work, begun by Father Fl?rez, eventually reached fifty-one volumes. This period also marked the beginning of scientific periodical literature in Spain, occasionally as the result of private initiative, but often as a government enterprise, or at least at state expense wholly or in part. The outbreak of the French Revolution caused the royal authorities to suspend most of these periodicals, but there was a return to a more liberal policy under Godoy.

[Sidenote: Slight effect of educational reforms.]

All of these efforts to rouse the nation from its intellectual lethargy encountered such obstacles as have already been mentioned in dealing with other phases of Spanish life in this period. Principal among them was the ignorance of the people. Great as were the endeavors of the reformers, they were unable to make the masses respond as quickly as could have been wished, while even on the bourgeois and upper classes the effect of the reforms was slight. Many interests directly opposed the new ideas, finding danger in them for the institutions which they represented. This was particularly true of the clergy as regards innovations in the intellectual life of the country. The state itself, prime mover in so many of the reforms, drew back when anything was suggested which seemed to impinge upon the royal prerogative. In the reign of Charles IV a distinct note of reaction began to make itself felt, coming to its full fruition at a later time under the autocratic Ferdinand VII.

[Sidenote: Spanish contributions to experimental science.]

One of the principal characteristics of the intellectual movement of the eighteenth century was the reawakened interest in the experimental sciences, representing a return to the Spanish traditions of the sixteenth century. If Spain furnished

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