Two of the most important documents from 1492: firsthand accounts from the year when Spain started on the path to empire

Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives

Santa Fe (Spain) — 1492

Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives

Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives

Santa Fe (Spain) — 1492

  1. In 1492, Granada fell, the Jews were expelled from Spain, and Columbus set sail for India

  2. Two documents signed by the Catholic Monarch Ferdinand and Isabella witness these events

  3. Both documents listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register are presented with their royal seals

Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives

Alternative Titles:
  • Capitulations of Santa Fe and Alhambra Decree
  • Capitulaciones de Santa Fe y Edicto de expulsión de los Judíos
  • Kapitulation von Santa Fe und Alhambra-Edikt
Orígenes de la España Moderna 1492: Annus Mirabilis
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

These two documents are historic witnesses to two of the most important and controversial episodes in the history of Spain: the expulsion of the Jews and the exploration and colonization of the Americas. Both the Alhambra Decree, also known as the Edict of Expulsion, and the Capitulations of Santa Fe were signed in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Complete with their royal seals, both documents are presented in their original state as part of a single set and provide firsthand accounts of what was happening in the year when Spain began to transform into Europe’s first superpower, warts and all.

Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives

1492 was a monumental year for the world and for Spain in particular because that year saw the beginning of its transformation into the first colonial superpower controlling territory across the entire globe. Spain was united as never before since the 1469 wedding the joined Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504) with King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452-1516). Two documents, among the most important for the history of Spain, are presented here: the Alhambra Decree, also known as the Edict of Expulsion, and the Capitulations of Santa Fe. These historic and controversial documents are priceless artifacts providing precious insights into the origins of Early Modern Spain that have been on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register since 2009. They are presented in their original form with their royal seals just as they are preserved in the General Archive of the Crown of Aragon in Barcelona, which was founded in 1318.

Expelling the Jews

Anti-Semitism had been on the rise in Europe since the 14th century, when the Black Death ravaged Europe and many sought to place blame on the Jews. Spain had previously enjoyed a polyglot culture that benefitted from having Jewish and Muslim scholars working alongside their Christian counterparts, but the country was gripped by fervent Catholicism as the Reconquista reached its final violent conclusion. Now that the final stronghold of Grenada had fallen and the Muslim Moors were gone, the only “Others” left were the Jews. Written by Juan de Coloma, the Alhambra Decree was signed by Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon on March 31st, 1492 – less than three months after the fall of Granada – details the expulsion or conversion of all Jews living in their kingdoms. It was the final chapter of centuries of Jewish persecution on the Iberian Peninsula, where they would not return until the 19th century, making it the longest-lasting expulsion of the Jews in European history.

The Issue of Money

In the Late Middle Ages, the importance of feudal obligations was gradually undermined by the increased circulation and use of money. As Europe adopted an increasingly money-based economy, resentment against Jewish money lenders and financiers grew among all levels of society as members of the nobility, who had once found the Jew useful, felt their station being challenged by this industrious and increasingly wealthy group of people. It may not be surprising to learn that although Jews could take their property with them, but not gold and silver. This was a common feature of Jewish expulsions across Europe and their timing was usually associated with some kind of financial crisis. For the sake of their livelihoods and staying in their communities, ca. 200,000 of Spain’s 300,000 Jews chose to convert, although this community of so-called conversos continued to face persecution from the Spanish Inquisition for centuries.

A Royal Contract with Columbus

Only two weeks later, another document laid the foundations for Spanish exploration and colonization in the as-yet undiscovered Americas. Known as the Capitulations of Santa Fe, this series of agreements between Christopher Columbus and the Catholic Monarchs was signed in Santa Fe on April 17th, 1492 and was followed by the famous First Voyage of Columbus that summer and autumn. It outlines all the rights and privileges granted to him should he successfully establish overseas Spanish colonies in what was originally thought to the be “Indies” and would later be used as evidence by his descendants when pressing their claims to their inheritance. The so-called Capitulations were staggering, Columbus was named: Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Viceroy and Governor General over all of the regions he discovered, a 10 % share of the expedition’s revenues and profits, and finally, he would be awarded the title of Don upon his return.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Capitulations of Santa Fe and Alhambra Decree
Capitulaciones de Santa Fe y Edicto de expulsión de los Judíos
Kapitulation von Santa Fe und Alhambra-Edikt
Size / Format
2 documents / 43.6 × 30.6 cm
Date
1492
Style
Script
Secretary
Content
Capitulations of Santa Fe; Alhambra Decree / Edict of Expulsion of the Jews by the Catholic Monarchs
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives“

Orígenes de la España Moderna 1492: Annus Mirabilis
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Orígenes de la España Moderna 1492: Annus Mirabilis

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2020
Limited Edition
550 copies
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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