The Spanish Council of the Indies and the 1500s Petition-and-Response System

Petition and Response: Spanish America and the Council of the Indies in the 16th Century

Petition and response enabled the participation of almost anyone in the imperial system from the bottom up, and constructed the profoundly productive bureaucratic and social mechanics of the Spanish Empire, which incubated phenomena we associate with modernity today.

Adrian Masters

Dr. Adrian Masters is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Historical Studies.

His research focuses on 16th century Spanish imperial bureaucracy, racial formations, and state knowledge. He is currently co-authoring a book with Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, entitled The Radical Spanish Empire (under contract with Harvard University Press). He is also working on his own book, tentatively entitled Empire of Petitioners: Creating the Law in the 1500s Spanish Empire, and he has a forthcoming article in the August edition of the Hispanic American Historical Review, called ‘A Thousand Invisible Architects: Vassals, the Petition and Response System, and the Creation of Spanish Imperial Caste Legislation.’

In episode 17 of History Hub’s podcast series – ‘Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra: conversations on the history of Portugal and Spain, 1415-1898‘ - Dr. Masters and series host Dr. Edward Collins discuss the petition and response system. The system has been central to Adrian’s work on Spanish imperial bureaucracy, part of what he calls a ‘responsive regime’ – that is, a largely passive state that relied almost entirely on reports and requests of a huge range of subjects.

This arrangement enabled the participation of almost anyone in the imperial system from the bottom up, and constructed the profoundly productive bureaucratic and social mechanics of the Spanish Empire, which incubated phenomena we associate with modernity today. The podcast is now available on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Listen to ‘Petition and Response: Spanish America and the Council of the Indies in the 16th Century’, with Dr. Adrian Masters (UT Austin).

Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra

This History Hub podcast series features interviews with experts in the areas of Portuguese and Spanish history, from the beginning of the Portuguese discoveries in 1415 to the end of Spanish dominion in America in 1898. The interviews, conducted by historian Dr. Edward Collins, cover a range of topics on the domestic and overseas histories of both nations, which include, among others: the Portuguese explorations of Africa and Asia, Spanish navigation and settlement in America, the church in Portugal and Spain, monarchy and intermarriage in the Iberian kingdoms, natural science and mapping in America, the role of nautical science, Irish historical relations with Portugal and Spain, and imperial competition in Europe and overseas. The interviewees comprise a number of established and renowned academics, as well as up-and-coming researchers from universities and institutions worldwide.

This History Hub series is funded by UCD Seed Funding and supported by UCD School of History. Series editor is Mike Liffey (Real Smart Media).

Download series episodes on iTunes or listen via Soundcloud.

Episodes

Image: detail from “The Spanish Council of the Indies and the 1500s Petition and Response System”. Bibliothèque nationale de la France (Mss. Espagnol 325, 316r. Public domain, via BnF.