The Spanish Enlightenment Revisited

BookThe Spanish Enlightenment Revisited

The Spanish Enlightenment Revisited

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2015:02


February 3rd, 2015

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Traditional historiography has tended to disregard and even deny Spain’s role in the Enlightenment, banishing the country to a benighted geographical periphery. In The Spanish Enlightenment revisited a team of experts overturns the myth of the ‘dark side of Europe’ and examines the authentic place of Spain in the intellectual economy of the Enlightenment.
Contributors to this book explore how institutional and social changes in eighteenth-century Spain sharpened the need for modernisation. Examination of major constitutional and social initiatives, such as the development of new scientific projects and economic societies, the reform of criminal law, and a re-evaluation of the country’s colonial policies, reveals how ideas, principles and practices from the wider European Enlightenment are adapted for the country’s specific context. Through detailed analysis authors investigate:

  • the evolution of public opinion, and the Republic of letters;
  • the growth of political economy as an intellectual discipline; 
  • the transmission and reception of an Enlightenment discourse in the Spanish Empire;
  • Spain’s role in shaping a modern conception of the natural sciences.

The portrait of a demarginalised, modernising and enlightened Spain emerges clearly from this book; in so doing, it opens up new avenues of research both within the history of the pan-European Enlightenment, and in colonial studies.


‘This book and the windows it opens into recent and stimulating research […] are an example of the critical engagement of some of the best Spanish scholarship and international historiographical debate on the Enlightenment’.

‘Un recueil riche en informations et suggestions, et dont il est malaisé de rendre compte avec justesse en quelques lignes’.
Dix-huitième siècle

‘Esta reseña no consigue revelar con justicia el valor de esta obra colectiva en cada uno de los campos abordados por diversos expertos de la Ilustración española […] y su importancia a la hora de reivindicar un merecido lugar para España tanto en la historia intelectual del siglo de las luces’.
Cuadernos de Ilustración y Romanticismo

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of illustrations10
Introduction: admirer, rougir, imiter – Spain and the European Enlightenment12
The merits of good gobierno: culture and politics in the Bourbon court30
The Spanish Republic of Letters in its European context: images, economics, and the representation of the man of letters52
Economic societies and the politicization of the Spanish Enlightenment74
The Indians of Europe: the role of Spain’s Enlightenment in the making of a global science94
Political economy and the creation of the public sphere during the Spanish Enlightenment116
Constitution projects during the Spanish Enlightenment140
The reform of the Spanish empire in the age of Enlightenment160
The Spanish debate on public finance: a privileged laboratory for enlightened reforms180
The image of the British system of government in Spain (1759-1814)204
From the ‘voice of the people’ to the freedom of the press: the birth of public opinion224
Penal Enlightenment in Spain: from Beccaria’s reception to the first criminal code246