The almost six centuries-long history of Spain’s gypsies has frequently been characterized as one of more or less unrelenting oppression, of ‘systematic discrimination, persecution and marginalization’, in the words of a 1991 report for the non-governmental organization Asociación Nacional Presencia Gitana.1 It is, of course, undeniably true that laws against gypsies in Spain over the early modern period became increasingly oppressive, stigmatizing and indiscriminate. Yet it is also clear that this trajectory was at once cause and consequence of the fact that for over 200 years the crown showed itself largely incapable of enforcing its own legislation with anything approaching the efficiency seen in 1749, the year of the savage round-up presided over by the Bourbon Ferdinand VI. One reason for this was that despite royal pretensions to absolute authority in ‘these our kingdoms’, early modern ‘Spain’ was never a unitary state, at least until centralization of power with the Bourbon reforms of the eighteenth century began finally to impose a new political and legislative template on the peripheries. As a result, the crown’s executive power, its ability to translate edict into effective action on the ground was in reality quite extensively circumscribed, notwithstanding the fact that the monarch’s theoretical authority as providential guarantor of justice and stability in an uncertain and dangerous world was almost universally acknowledged.
KeywordsRemote Rural Area Early Modern Period Mixed Marriage Systematic Discrimination Providential Guarantor
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