James Casey has successfully attempted one of the most difficult tasks of historical analysis—the explanation of why an event did not occur. The middle years of the seventeenth century were ones that severely threatened the integrity of Hapsburg Spain; the balance between center and periphery was shaken as revolutions broke out in Catalonia, Portugal, Naples, and Sicily and abortive conspiracies occurred in Aragon and Andalusia. A significant exception to this otherwise general pattern was the kingdom of Valencia, which “stood like a rock in the tempest” (p. 223). Why and how Valencia remained “the loyal kingdom” is the subject of this excellent study.
To answer these questions, Casey provides an analysis of the social and political structure of the province. His conclusions are stated succinctly—the book is short—but are solidly supported by extensive archival research. He examines topics ranging from the demographic effects of the expulsion of the Moriscos to the financial problems of municipalities, from the state of agriculture to endemic banditry, from the economic plight of the nobility to the functioning of the Cortes. Indeed, the only important subject not discussed is a rather surprising neglect of the Church. What emerges is a picture of a society dominated by “the poverty-stricken senyor, the down-at-heel censalista, and the man of violence” and characterized by “economic backwardness, an oppressive social structure and a stiflingly conservative political framework” (p. 256).
The complexity of how these factors combined to promote loyalty and not rebellion precludes summary here. Suffice it to say that Casey’s analysis is never simplistic, that he refuses to allow data to overwhelm his conclusions, and that his book not only provides important insights into seventeenth-century Spanish history, but also provides an excellent example of the historian’s craft.