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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Harsh measures were taken in Catalonia


was to take. Having lost their

political power the nobles concentrated their interest on getting wealth out of their lands, especially through the tributes of their serfs. In this respect they had the enormous advantage of possessing the greater part of Catalan territory.[41] The serfs were subject to a great number of annoying personal services, and (in a typical case) to as many as thirty different tributes, most of them in kind, besides the ordinary rental for the land. They had already won a right to redeem themselves for money, and Juan I, Mart?n I, and Mar?a (the wife and regent of Alfonso V), as well as many jurisconsults, made some more or less ineffectual attempts to better their condition. The plagues which swept Europe in the fourteenth century were a greater aid, since laborers became scarce and therefore more desirable. By the time of Alfonso V the serfs had become sufficiently emboldened to formulate demands, on the threat of a general uprising. Alfonso accepted a sum of money from them, granted what they asked, and then withdrew his promises when the nobles also bribed him. The revolt was delayed, however, to the year 1462 in the next reign, when it formed one of the complications in the wars of Juan II against the deputation of Catalonia and the city of Barcelona. Both sides sought the aid of the serfs, but Juan was able to win them to his support, although their military operations were directed primarily against their own lords. The peace of 1472 did not solve the social question; so there
was another uprising in 1475, and it was still going on at Juan's death, in 1479, being left for solution to the reign of his son, Ferdinand.

[Sidenote: Decline of the nobility.]

[Sidenote: Persecution of the Jews.]

As a result of these troubles the nobles declined even in social prestige, for they had received very little in the way of tributes from the serfs since the reign of Alfonso V, and had aggravated the situation by their wars with one another or against the towns. Meanwhile, the _caballeros_ and others of the secondary nobility, natural enemies of the great lords, had advanced in importance, and in the reign of Pedro IV had won a right to law courts of their own, free from the jurisdiction of nobles of the upper grades. On the other hand, the great nobles continued to receive donations of land from the king, with more or less complete jurisdiction, since the existing needs of the royal treasury usually seemed greater than the ultimate evil of the grants; often the kings gave away towns which they had previously pledged their word never to alienate. It is to be noted that the mere ownership of land did not entitle the lords to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction without a specific grant of those powers from the king. In addition to the serfs and the kings, the nobility had a third element against it, the very powerful bourgeoisie, or middle class, which in this period attained to the greatest splendor. The history of the Mud?jares at this time was unimportant, for there were not many in Catalonia. The Jews suffered as they did in Castile. The year 1391, which witnessed the massacre in Seville, was marked by a similar event in Barcelona, where the Jewish quarter completely disappeared. From that time on, harsh measures were taken in Catalonia, and as a result the Jews came to be regarded as sharing with slaves (of whom there were still a considerable number) the lowest level in the social hierarchy.


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