Sometime during the first years of the sixteenth century, Leonor Pacheco and Martín de Córdoba y de Velasco celebrated their wedding. The bride and groom had grown up on neighboring estates in the verdant Andalusian countryside in southern Spain. The adjacency of their properties reflected the close blood ties that united their two families; Leonor and Martín were cousins who belonged to two interrelated branches of the up-and-coming noble lineage known as the Fernández de Córdoba. Their marriage, like those of other premodern elites, was crafted with biological, social, economic, and even political calculations in mind. In many ways, Leonor and Martín's match was arranged to meet the expectations of the country gentry. The bride brought a handsome dowry to augment her husband's estate. She bore him eight heirs, and with her management skills organized his hearth, properties, and finances. Her father, Diego Fernández de Córdoba, the first Marquis of Comares, even used his influence with the Catholic Monarchs Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to secure the crown's favor, including royal offices for his new son-in-law. In turn, Martín de Córdoba provided Leonor with the creature comforts that suited the wife of the future Count of Alcaudete I. His political ambitions brought her into contact with other ladies and lords, some at the glamorous court of the Spanish sovereigns. His sizable income enabled her to live well beyond the means of most people.
The story of Leonor and Martín richly illustrates the comfortable life of provincial nobles. Marked by the conventions of pedigree, property, wealth, and status, the couple seemed to typify the affluent security of the elite. Their lives, however, also tell a more important history of the early Spanish empire. The couple and their family formed the nexus of an administrative network of officers that helped create and sustain the expanding polity. Leonor's father, Diego, had pioneered what came to be the family's tradition of service by being one of the first to depart his provincial home to fight for the empire. He captained companies of soldiers in the invasions of Granada (1482-92), Algeria (1505, 1509), and Navarre (1512). He stayed on in the latter two as their first governor. His son-in-law Martín followed in these footsteps and also served as governor of Algeria and Navarre. Leonor and Martín's children and grandchildren went on to replicate the careers that their elders had undertaken. Seven of them commanded in Algeria, and four in Navarre. Four consecutive generations of the lineage ruled as royal executive officers in Córdoba, Granada, Toledo, Algeria, and Navarre over the course of the sixteenth century. The repeated appointments of the Fernández de Córdoba to the same critical posts, especially in Algeria and Navarre, reveal that the deployment of this particular family network ultimately constituted an organizing principle of imperial administration.
Scholars have usually defined Spanish imperial administration in terms of official institutions and positions, such as the chancellery, state councils, royal secretariat, and viceroyalties. Yet the fact that the individuals who manned these offices also led personal lives is often overlooked. At the same time that officers were members of an administrative hierarchy, they also belonged to other structures of relations, most importantly their immediate and extended families. It is well known that family relations created personal and patronage obligations that influenced the functions of premodern governments. Appointments were made and actions taken based partly on these commitments. However, the importance of family networks to the structure of imperial administration extends even further. I argue that family networks constituted an essential pillar of Spanish imperial administration that stood next to the official hierarchy of offices. In other words, as much as imperial administration consisted of institutions and offices, it also has to be seen as networks of family ties.
The networks that made some of the greatest impacts were those of noble families. The most powerful order in medieval society continued to play important roles in managing early modern empires. Noble families enabled military expansion from the very start. For example, it was the Marquis of Cádiz, his relatives, and his retainers, not a royal force, that seized the Granadine town of Alhama in 1480 and sparked the Granada War. Lineages such as the Fernández de Córdoba made enormous contributions to the war effort by mobilizing seigneurial troops and leading them into battle. They and their descendants served in senior martial and administrative capacities in Italy, the Low Countries, the New World, and North Africa. These nobles, then, made up the first officer corps of the nascent empire. Family relations went on to organize imperial office-holding at a time when defined bureaucratic structures had not come into being. The crown recruited personnel via familial ties. The Catholic Monarchs took notice of Diego Fernández de Córdoba's skills as a battlefield commander in Granada and employed him again in the conquest and administration of Algeria and Navarre. The crown then drew Diego's son-in-law Martín and other Fernández de Córdoba kin into the same offices. The succession of the captaincy general of Algeria and viceroyalty of Navarre went through the bloodline of the Fernández de Córdoba lineage, even though these were not, technically, inheritable offices.
The processes of biological and social reproduction that took place in families even helped imperial administration endure over time. Families dedicated to imperial affairs brought new generations of potential personnel to life. Families also enabled social reproduction. Usually understood to mean the passing down of status and property, in this case social reproduction transmitted skills, knowledge, and experience accumulated by earlier generations of officers to later ones. Such expertise was essential for service. The nepotism that was typical of a society of patronage may have helped perpetuate families in office. However, the fact that these families managed the affairs of the most perilous frontiers generation after generation, as the Fernández de Córdoba did in Algeria and Navarre, meant that skills were just as important as personal connections for service. The crown would not have appointed officers of lesser abilities when the security of vital borderlands was at stake. In an age when there was no formal training for imperial officers, the crown could draw only from a short list of candidates with the requisite status, ability, knowledge, and will to manage a far-flung, extensive, and heavily populated empire. The biological reproduction of families supplied bodies to serve the empire, and their social reproduction transmitted the necessary experience for office. Family networks, then, were a pillar of imperial administration and critical for its survival.
Family networks, thus, structured imperial administration. Administration, in turn, constituted the skeleton that supported the empire. Family administrative networks therefore helped give the empire visceral form. As such, this account of family history is in essence imperial history. The conception of empire as a collection of human beings who envisioned and enacted the polity is innovative. It stands alongside new ideas of empire as networks of exchanges and challenges conventional representations of empire as inert territories, a glorious monarch, the projection of disembodied power, grand strategies, and abstract theories. To reconstitute a more functional empire and locate power in human agency, it is crucial to recognize that imperial officers created empires. Officers led armies that conquered territories. Afterward they enforced and managed the allegiance of new communities to an overarching political authority. They transmitted the orders of monarchs and royal councils to the provinces. They also conveyed the needs of subjects to decision-makers at court. The ties they cultivated in the territories brought other provincials into a transregional world. In their minds officers envisioned an interconnected political community out of the discrete physical spaces that Spain controlled. They ascertained the needs of one territory and weighed them against others. They acquired skills in one locale, then applied their experience elsewhere. They conveyed such knowledge to subsequent generations of officers, often relatives, who reproduced their career trajectories. Networks of administrators whose peripatetic careers spanned multiple territories gave structure to empire. As one such familial-administrative network, the Fernández de Córdoba provides a new way for understanding empire.
The work of these officers came at a critical juncture when the inception of imperial expansion intersected with the transition from the Middle Ages to early modernity. This was a moment in which new government institutions were being established, and in the case of Spain, through necessities presented by a growing realm. Where medieval government was based on the conservation of rights, customs, and privileges, the early modern state was faced with a growing range and density of martial, financial, judicial, and patronage affairs that required proactive administration and management. Just as permanent diplomatic missions emerged at this time, specialized governing councils were also established to conduct business where such gatherings had been ad hoc and the personnel undifferentiated. Spain was setting up a government of territorial and thematic councils, including something as elemental as the Council of War. Family networks were key participants at the very beginnings of this process, and their contributions serve to remind us that though this was a critical moment in state formation, we are still far from the "rational" and "impartial" concept of modern bureaucracy that conditions our understanding of the state today. Officials connected through blood, affinity, and patronage ties largely staffed administration. Moreover, administration was often effectuated through the cooperation of individuals who expected favors, honors, and rewards in return.
The contributions that family networks made to the construction of imperial administration and the empire itself have been overlooked. So too has the way service transformed families embedded in local communities into imperial officers operating in the cosmopolitan milieus of an emerging global empire. The Fernández de Córdoba made a mark on the construction of the Spanish realm and was deeply etched by it in turn. This book analyzes the family's history from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries to identify how early modern imperial careers upended once-parochial lives in the late Middle Ages. Exploits on the battlefield often shortened lives, and therefore licit reproduction. Martín de Córdoba and his three brothers all died in battle, and only one had married and produced legitimate offspring. To conserve resources and direct them toward the demands of office, thirteen of Martín's fourteen sisters and daughters entered the family convent. When marriages were celebrated, the Fernández de Córdoba preferred partners from distant Old Castile and even once-foreign Aragon and Navarre, whereas it had once almost exclusively wedded local nobles. Patronage ties that nearly made the monumental mosque-cathedral of Córdoba a part of the family's patrimony were transferred to churches, chapels, and convents elsewhere in the realm. Previously anchored to Córdoba, its household became mobile as members ascended the military-administrative cursus honorum.
The history of the Fernández de Córdoba—its participation in imperial affairs and the changes it underwent—introduces a larger history of the nobility in the construction of the Spanish empire. Nobles played vital roles in administration. In an age of extreme social stratification, only the most elevated members of society could serve as viceroys, captains general, and governors, offices that embodied the authority of the royal person. As Philip II instructed the viceroy of Naples, the Duke of Alcalá de los Gazules: "You will have to represent our person and act as we would act if we were present." Indeed, Diego Fernández de Córdoba received the title of Marquis of Comares, and Martín de Córdoba became the Count of Alcaudete over the course of their service. Among the extensive personnel that the crown employed, the nobility nearly monopolized the highest command posts. Important officers in the sixteenth century came from the Fernández de Córdoba clan as well as a long list of other illustrious families, including the Áfan de Ribera, Álagon, Aragón, Álvarez de Toledo, Borja, Cárdenas, Castro, de la Cerda, de la Cueva, Enríquez, Guzmán, Manrique de Lara, Mendoza, Pimentel, Suárez de Figueroa, Téllez Girón, Velasco, and Zúñiga, among others. These names came with impressive titles: the dukes of Alba, Albuquerque, Alcalá de los Gazules, Cardona and Segorbe, Feria, Maqueda, Medinaceli, and Nájera; the marquises of Aguilar de Campoo, Cañete, Denia, Mondéjar, and Villafranca; and the counts of Almazán, Benavente, Castrogeriz, La Coruña, Miranda, Monterrey, Olivares, and Sástago. Like the Fernández de Córdoba, many of these nobles served throughout the realm. Their relatives also joined them in office, and the repetition of surnames over time is notable. Their history, however, has been sidelined by a focus on a centralizing monarchy in the early modern period. Aside from the story of the Fernández de Córdoba, there are many other family stories waiting to be told.
The Fernández de Córdoba's history is typical of nobles serving in imperial administration. However, the lineage's dual feats—domination of executive office in multiple territories that endured over the span of four generations—were unique. Though historians have not studied early modern lineages sufficiently, it appears that only the Mendoza, Álvarez de Toledo, Guzmán, Cárdenas, de la Cueva, and Manrique de Lara lineages approximated one aspect of this achievement. Most of these families placed its members in viceregal offices in different territories. Very few families repeated service as viceroys of one territory, much less two, over generations. Both representative and unusual, the Fernández de Córdoba's history sheds light on dynamics that were experienced more broadly by a critical caste of society. At the same time, its continuity and longevity in service enable us to minutely track the transformation of locally rooted señores into international imperial officers.
Imperial history ultimately balances with that of the family to form the core of this book. Fernández de Córdoba lives intertwined with imperial affairs. Their history logically illuminates the development of the state and forms part of the annals of the Spanish realm. While other scholars have ably reconstructed the narrative of Spanish expansion elsewhere, I address events that touched the lineage and that were in turn shaped by the clan. These events include the inception of Spain's early modern expansion in the Granada War, the establishment of a string of presidio outposts on the North African shore of the Mediterranean, the tense transition from the Trastámara dynasty of Isabella and Ferdinand to the Habsburg regime of Philip I, the violent outbreak of the Comunidades Revolt that marked Charles V's succession to the Spanish throne, and Spain's long struggle with France over Navarre and with the Ottoman and Moroccan sultanates over the Maghrib. These and other events were enmeshed in the family's history.
The Fernández de Córdoba also intersected with critical dynamics in the sociopolitical organization of the empire. Its history opens a window onto the recruitment of the first generations of administrative personnel, the establishment of governing institutions, the management of logistics, and the negotiation of rule. The vantage point of this study is that of individuals who were on-the-ground, at the scene, and crucially involved in these endeavors from the very start. Finally, a study of the Fernández de Córdoba takes us on a panoramic tour of five distinct territories of the Spanish Mediterranean realm, each treated in its own chapter. Though these lands formed a part of the imperial polity, no scholar has ever linked their narratives. Yet from the perspective and experience of the clan, they were vital parts of the empire and interconnected theaters of operation. To take just one example, Algeria and Navarre bordered Spain's two most capable enemies—France and the Ottoman Empire. The state's overall well-being required the clan to defend both, not just one.
That Fernández de Córdoba and its family ties could have so critically contributed to the structure and history of an empire may be hard to grasp. Before moving further, it is useful to examine how another late medieval marriage and the reproduction it engendered also shaped the Spanish polity. Although of a different caliber, the wedding of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 bore a striking resemblance to that of the Cordovan pair. Like Leonor and Martín, the future Catholic Monarchs were relatives. Their intermingled blood, however royal, did not guarantee them a stellar future. After all, the bride was estranged from her half-brother King Enrique IV of Castile, and the groom was heir to a realm that had seen its glory days wane with the passing of the Middle Ages. The king of Castile opposed their match, so the wedding was a furtive affair, celebrated without fanfare, out of the sight of Enrique and the adulation of his subjects. It was a sorry commentary on the precarious position of the couple.
From unpromising beginnings Isabella and Ferdinand's marriage famously united the destinies of Castile and Aragon and came to effect unforeseen changes on Europe and the rest of the world. Combining their energy and guile, the Catholic Monarchs initiated an acquisitive foreign policy that led to the conquest of Granada, Naples, Navarre, a significant portion of the North African coast, and the Caribbean basin. The two sovereigns stood at the head of developing government institutions that managed the expanding realm; they drew in personnel to serve in these positions through affinity ties. These endeavors heralded the creation of a Mediterranean empire that emerged alongside, but has often been overshadowed by, the exploration, colonization, and exploitation of the New World. Once a peripheral actor on the European stage, Spain came to intervene in the affairs of other Old World powers and helped to forestall the hegemony of the Ottoman Empire. The mingling of the two sovereigns produced, two generations later, a grandson named Charles who augmented the Spanish realm by combining it with his Habsburg and Burgundian inheritances. In hindsight, the Catholic Monarchs' wedding, the family network it created, and administrative institutions they directed reorganized much of Europe and even the world.
The Theory and Practice of Empire in History and Historiography
The unorthodox method of using family networks of administrators to understand, structure, and tell imperial history begins with the question, how do we characterize an empire? I employ the term empire to mean a polity cobbled together from multiple territories, peoples, and cultures. At the same time, empire was also constituted by the people that circulated through this space, built social ties, transmitted power, and performed administrative duties. In the late medieval period, however, the word empire possessed a more specific meaning. It referred to the Holy Roman Empire, a polity that claimed descent and cultural-political legitimacy from Rome, the empire par excellence in European historical memory. Still, though Germans and the Habsburgs may have claimed the title of empire for their own polity, this does not preclude historians from examining a state like Spain as one. Early modern Spaniards recognized their realm as such. The fact that the Iberian kingdom's most extensive expansion coincided with Charles V's reign over both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire conflated the Spanish domain with empire. The conquistador Hernán Cortés even suggested to the sovereign that "one might call oneself the emperor of this kingdom [Mexico] with no less glory than of Germany." It is important to note, though, that Spaniards did not use the term imperio in administrative documents, employing monarquía instead. Anthony Pagden has explained that in early modern usage this word also signified a multiterritorial polity subject to one ruler and hence was a synonym of empire.
The study of empire and empires has long absorbed the attention of scholars. In recent years, studies have proliferated analyzing the "hyper-power" that the United States has projected far afield in its "War on Terror." Despite taking a critical attitude toward unilateralism, preemptive strikes, and hegemony, academics are not immune to a grandiose notion of empire. For a long time the discipline of history accepted politics, war, and diplomacy as humankind's most worthy deeds. It has studied empires as the embodiment of the omnipotent agency of monarchs. From the top down, their power was considered capable of enforcing allegiance and service on the masses. In essence, the names of kings and emperors stood in the place of a considered appraisal of how power worked, how policies were implemented, and how other social actors such as allies, rivals, and subjects behaved.
Postcolonial and subaltern studies have reevaluated empires by resurrecting the presence, participation, and resistance of subjects in the polity and analyzing the ambivalence and refusal produced by hegemony. Still, despite the obvious divergences between top-down imposition and bottom-up resistance, both of these approaches conceptualize power as vertical. This understanding of force does not adequately characterize the horizontal mechanisms that held together a complex multiterritorial and multiethnic polity developing simultaneously on different fronts. The linearity of power, either from above or from below, is too limited to explain the maintenance of the empire. To be able to characterize an empire, we must take into account how power was distributed and dispersed, vertically as well as horizontally, and how rule was negotiated and contested.
Existing side by side with the grandiose conception of empire is its corresponding mirror image, decadence and decline. How empires came crashing down, caused by their apparent inability to adapt to the challenge of rising competitors (seen, of course, as other empires on their way toward greatness), seems to attract as much attention as the majesty of the golden ages. Sociologist of empire Karen Barkey has argued that the standard division of imperial histories into "set periods of rise, apogee, stagnation, and decline" that inevitably follow one another "[casts] molds into which chunks of history were neatly arranged." The fact that the "decline thesis" has dominated work on the Spanish, Roman, Ottoman, Chinese, Mughal, and other empires demonstrates both the moral hold and the undiminished power that this analytical tool and narrative mode continue to have as an explanatory mechanism for the history of these diverse and unique polities.
Telling history as rise to glory and decline to obscurity sets empires down linear trajectories and precludes what Barkey terms "the possibilities of empire." In the case of Spanish historiography, this means that much more attention has been focused on the reigns of Philip II as the avatar of apogee and harbinger of decline and Philip IV as a tragic figure who tried to fend off but could not escape the fate of decline. Focus on these two monarchs has prejudiced our understanding of the Spanish empire under the Catholic Monarchs and Charles V (as well as Philip III and Charles II). Apart from traditional political histories that narrate the conquest of territories, few studies have examined the social processes and mechanisms that brought together the Spanish empire—yet this was an incredibly rich period full of human agents emerging from local communities to create political institutions that managed a global empire. It is worthwhile to dig deeper into this incipient era of imperial formation.
To understand early modern empires, it is necessary to examine how historical actors from this period thought of them. Scholars have often focused on the point of view of Renaissance jurists and humanists who derived notions of empire from what they understood of ancient Rome. To them, Roman Imperium consisted of three principal attributes: authority to rule, the sovereign ruler, and unified political community encompassing more than one territory. Attached to these primary definitions were additional meanings and, more significantly, values. Romans considered Imperium as the civilized world (defined of course by the polity encompassed by Rome) standing against barbarity (everything else). The law that permeated the empire further accentuated the divide between the two, since jurisprudence, developed through the application of reason, gave ethical purpose to the state and its people. In contrast, barbarity, susceptible as it were to the passions, wallowed in despotism, and thus its denizens were subject to tutelage or natural slavery. The transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages Christianized the concept of empire. Empire, especially as asserted by the popes, claimed broad jurisdiction over peoples because Christianity was meant to be a universal religion applicable to all. A redemptive purpose joined the civilizational and legalist conceptions of the polity so that membership suggested a path toward salvation. The polity that Spaniards constructed in the Old and New Worlds was conditioned by these conceptions of empire.
Intellectual musings certainly played a role in creating the Spanish empire and justifying imperial authority. Yet they mostly belonged to elite political theorists, propagandists, jurists, humanists, and clerics. It is true that some of these people were closely affiliated with the centers of power, and a few even transformed their thinking into practical tools of domination that commanders deployed on the battlefield or in administration. Juan López de Palacios Rubios, a jurist at the Spanish court, composed the notorious "Requerimiento" to legitimize the conquistadors' conquest, subjugation, and evangelization of Native Americans. The conceptions of armchair theoreticians, however, tell only part of the story. A perspective that has not been examined at length is that of noble commanders who directly molded the empire in the field. Possessing different educational and cultural backgrounds, these officers represented another sector of society, one that Helen Nader has termed caballero. What motivated the actions of these men? How did they envision the polity they were constructing and maintaining?
Aristocratic officers partly shared the cultural idiom of empire articulated by the theorists. Cortés invented the "donation" of Montezuma in order to legitimize the transfer of the Aztec empire to Charles V. This language echoed both Emperor Constantine's donation of the Western Roman Empire to the pope (also a forgery) and Pope Alexander VI's bulls granting much of the New World to Spain in 1497. By invoking this rhetoric, the conquistador displayed knowledge of the imagined lineage of empire in the West and its close connection to Christian community. This hidalgo also revealed his familiarity with the legal discourse that justified imperial authority and with how to transfer and apply that authority from the Old World to the New. Still, the primary goal of Cortés's expedition to Mexico was conquest and, by association, the acquisition of economic, political, social, and cultural resources. Caballeros had long valued waging war, demonstrating martial prowess, garnering fame, and earning rewards for their endeavors. These, more than abstract theories of Imperium constituted critical impulses for early expansion.
Even though military expeditions were launched mostly under the auspices of royal authority, campaigning created opportunities for the nobility to take independent action, win glory and fame, and acquire power. Acts of insubordination against King Alfonso VI of León-Castile laced the eleventh-century career of Rodrigo Díaz "El Cid," yet he was celebrated for striking out on his own, mustering a private army, and capturing the taifa state of Valencia in 1094. In our period, the Duke of Medina Sidonia's storming of Gibraltar in 1462 followed by the Marquis of Cádiz's seizure of Alhama in 1482 preempted the crown's launch of the Granada War. Medina Sidonia's expedition to and conquest of Melilla in 1497, conducted without the support of the crown, also anticipated Spain's invasion of North Africa in 1505 and 1509-10. Although Cortés was dispatched by the governor of Cuba Diego Velázquez to the Yucatan to search for an earlier expedition, redeem captive Christians, reconnoiter, and trade, he conquered Mexico on his own initiative, contravening the authority of crown officials in the Caribbean. Aristocrats at times followed their own agenda that, perhaps not explicitly disobeying royal orders, went beyond them. In military and administrative service they preempted the actions of the crown or other adventurers by taking the initiative, creating "facts on the ground," and then forcing the crown to either catch up to or ratify them.
Along with pursuing battlefield feats, noble officers engaged in military activities in the Middle Ages to win grants of properties, rents, and honors. The nobility enjoyed a windfall for its participation in the thirteenth-century conquest of Andalusia, receiving lands from the king that were later combined to form the region's notorious latifundia. The campaign to North Africa in 1509-10, patronized by the archbishop of Toledo and led by nobles, was still organized with this goal in mind. Diego Fernández de Córdoba, a commander at the siege of Oran, anticipated and received lands and rents for his service. His peers, including the Segovian nobleman Pedrarias Dávila, also won grants. The early explorers sailed to the New World with the same expectations. The "Book of Privileges" that Christopher Columbus assiduously compiled included claims to titles and revenues in the Mar Oceano. The fact that he copied the rights that King Juan II issued to the admiral of Castile in the early 1400s into his own records shows how much he envisioned this New World in terms of the socioeconomic priorities of the nobility in medieval conquests. Early empire building, then, was as much motivated by traditional noble pursuits as it was by royal power or theories of Imperium.
Still, in an era of royal centralization, the Catholic Monarchs were asserting and reserving more direct rights to the expanding realm and fending off the aristocracy's claim to privileges. In comparison to previous eras of the Reconquest, they restricted the land granted to high nobles in Granada following the subjugation of the emirate. The crown protected its prerogatives even more jealously in the New World, limiting the amount of land distributed to any single individual, refusing to grant jurisdictional rights, and creating very few noble titles. Adapting to expanding royal powers, caballeros that followed the first generation of imperial ventures served as crown officers. Such service still garnered them prestige, but status was achieved by performing duties and responsibilities commissioned by the crown. Revenue continued to flow into their coffers, but mostly in the form of annual salaries paid by royal treasurers. Once a fiercely independent warrior caste, nobles gradually transformed into military and administrative officers whose lives were directed toward and conditioned by royal service.
In royal service, noble administrators still exercised influence that was felt on a variety of administrative levels. Viceroys, governors, and captains general were responsible for military and civil administration in the territories. Taken together, they headed the empire in the provinces. Although they resided in the periphery, they also made their presence felt at the royal court by corresponding regularly and frequently with the monarchs and royal councils. Many would sit on the councils after they completed their terms as viceroys. Josep María Batista i Roca sampled forty members of the Council of State in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and found that twenty-eight were high nobles—of whom eleven had been viceroys (of Naples, Sicily, Catalonia, Valencia, and Navarre) and another ten were generals or captains general of the army and navy. Martín de Córdoba II, one of Leonor and Martín's four sons, served as captain general of Oran and the viceroy of Navarre before ascending to the Council of Military Orders. Having close patronage ties to critical royal secretaries, as the Fernández de Córdoba did with Francisco de los Cobos, gave noble administrators additional influence over imperial affairs. These noble administrators, then, helped formulate policy and determine the shape and nature of the empire both in the provinces and at the core.
How did officers think of empire? More than anyone else, they were able to envision the on-the-ground needs of territories vis-à-vis one another. They understood how actions initiated in or directed against one territory would affect another. In a memorial to Philip II, the viceroy of Sicily the Duke of Tagliacozzo de Marsi y Paleano Marco Antonio Colonna expressed his expectation that administrators should take into consideration the needs of other parts of the empire, admonishing those who did not: "'I have never seen Your Majesty's affairs in danger, or lost, for lack of money, men or munitions, but because there was an abundance in one part and want in another; and because the vanity of ministers prevented them from giving full support to their colleagues.'" Others were also capable of conceiving of the empire holistically, such as monarchs and royal councilors. The latter two, however, were rooted to a fixed capital. They depended on written and oral reports from officers on the scene, rather than direct experience, to keep abreast of imperial affairs. Officers possessed practical knowledge over the territories they administered. They were experts on the status of military forces, installations, and armaments in the area; external pressures that impacted territories; the identity and affairs of regional elites; the dealings of local individuals and groups who either cooperated with or resisted royal authority; and the dynamics of regional governmental institutions, including the rivalries of local factions. Over the course of their careers, noble administrators passed through a number of territories, accumulating knowledge of a variety of locales. They also gathered information from peers, often family members, who administered other lands.
For noble officers, the practical administration of territories and the empire as a whole trumped theoretical imaginings. While they may have applied theories of legitimation and concepts of imperial community, they were engaged with the contingencies and exigencies of governance. Helmut Koenigsberger has noted that the "theory of empire" particular to Spanish administrators in the viceroyalty of Sicily "came into existence by force of circumstances [and] was never a coherent body of carefully thought-out principles." The possession of practical expertise was highly valued. Not all knowledge may have been learned in the field, however. Like the historical memory that still weighed upon theoretical conceptions of empire, Spanish governance traced some of its methods back to the experience of others. The medieval Crown of Aragon had already developed a system of viceroyalties to manage territories spread across the western Mediterranean. King Ferdinand, especially during his governorship of Castile from 1506 to 1516, employed key Aragonese officials to run Spain's expanding realm. Other polities also instructed Spaniards on the "practice of empire." The personnel that Charles V brought to Spain from other parts of Europe, including the Low Countries, Italy, the Franche-Comté, and Germany, imported ideas and methods. Portuguese and Castilian royal dynasties continuously exchanged marriage partners, bringing with them more officials, who staffed two global empires. The circulation of methods and practices of governance among European states is still, however, an area that requires further investigation.
Officers were men who had to use the necessary means and justifications to face very real challenges and to carry out their duties, which ranged from leading forces into battle to presiding over regional parliaments. These commanders brought the skills, expertise, and knowledge needed to perform essential tasks. This was the experiencia to which Cortés's letters constantly refer, an abstract element that Elliott has defined as "personal and individual knowledge of men and of things which an increasing number of early sixteenth-century Spaniards were coming to regard as superior to the knowledge derived from traditional authority." The experience that Cortés had garnered as a student in Salamanca and a notary in Hispaniola was deftly applied to the legalist incorporation of Mexico into the Spanish realm. The abilities he acquired in Mexico were likewise transferred and instituted elsewhere when he sailed on Charles V's expedition to Algiers in 1541. A premium was placed on experience, a commodity that the Fernández de Córdoba also identified and valued. The accumulation of experience by a coterie of officers circulating around Spain's imperial world, its application to other areas of the realm, and its transmission to other individuals, including the offspring of administrators, kept the empire running.
The Spanish empire was distinguished from its European contemporaries by the fact that it enfolded heavily populated regions in both the Old and the New Worlds. To manage such a polity it was essential to develop a full-fledged administrative system and institute a legal code tailored to the colonies. Given the importance of administration for the longevity of the empire, institutional histories enjoy a distinguished place in scholarship on Spain. Scholars have examined the royal councils that were founded in the empire's early years. They have shined the spotlight on royal favorites (validos) and the controversial regimes they headed. Other important offices like those of viceroy and captain general have also received attention. Yet these works tend to study how institutions ideally functioned rather than how administrators faced the challenges of everyday administration. They often do not analyze how subjects of the empire interacted with the institutions. A closer look at administrators exposes the practical everyday structure of empire. Interactions between administrators and other social actors can tell us a great deal about the formation, function, and maintenance of the Spanish empire.
The Study of Social Networks in Empires
In an era before the rise of impersonal economic, bureaucratic, and social systems, the functions of governance, trade, business, vocation, education, and private life went through personal ties. Viewing government as a set of relations underlines the fact that rule had to be negotiated and cajoled, not merely forced. By nature elastic, networks describe how polities absorbed new members while they expanded, and withdrew affiliation when they contracted. By highlighting individuals whose influence and control enacted force onto others, power is finally embodied in real human beings. Composed of a variety of individuals, networks remind us that people had to make choices and decisions, even if they were at times in response to contingencies or subject to compulsion. Ultimately, social networks were mechanisms that kept disparate communities, whose particular identities and geostrategic interests diverged from one another, tethered together to form empires.
Studying polities as social networks takes issue with telling the history of empires as "macro-history." Such an approach invokes the name "Spain" to signify and explain decisions, actions, and processes that were carried out by human beings; it renders a society of individuals into a unitary totality. Sociologist Michael Mann has criticized the treatment of polities as undifferentiated units of analysis, asserting instead that "societies are constituted of multiple overlapping and intersecting sociospatial networks of power." Within this framework, social units such as organizations can form as "institutional means of attaining human goals." Officers seeking to manage a polity constituted such an association, in this case the nascent imperial administration.
Historians working across a number of fields have investigated social networks within the context of empires. Ottoman scholars have applied the concept of networks to their studies, and the implications are telling for Hispanists. Leslie Peirce's study of the imperial harem has dissected the relationships among sultans, concubines, other members of the imperial household, and bureaucratic officers to understand how relations within the palace affected the larger administration of the empire. Jane Hathaway, Dina Rizk Khoury, and Amy Singer have examined how "household" networks helped organize diverse elites in the provinces, connect them to the imperial center, and effectuate local rule. Karen Barkey has envisioned a social network at the core of the Ottoman state that from its very beginnings was able to incorporate individuals ranging across religious and ethnic lines to form a multicultural government. Ottoman scholarship illuminates a critical path for Hispanists to take. Though the Ottoman and Spanish empires battled mightily with each other, and Ottoman society did not possess a juridically defined noble caste, the two realms had more in common than meets the eye. The two emerged at coincident moments in the Mediterranean basin. Both came to erect large-scale territorial empires that encompassed a variety of peoples and communities, the first of their kind in the European world since Charlemagne. Social networks explain how both Ottomans and Spaniards, facing similar challenges, managed their ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse populations. This approach opens up new ways to compare Spanish and Ottoman histories, too often overlooked because of political and cultural barriers between the "West" and "Islam."
The role that the nobility has played as an intermediary body linking different sectors of society has also helped explain the structure of a number of empires. In Spanish historiography, Helen Nader's study of the fabled House of Mendoza remains the touchstone for understanding how a noble lineage helped organize the politics and culture of a kingdom in the transition from the late medieval to the early modern period. Valerie Kivelson has studied the Muscovite gentry to understand how an intermediary stratum of state and society helped enact imperial government in the provinces and at the same time preserve an autonomous sphere of activity in what had previously been considered a monolithic "autocracy." Robert Harding has explored how the early modern French crown relied on nobles from a select number of wealthy and powerful provincial families to serve as territorial governors, making use of their personal clientele networks to effectuate rule. Noble-administrative networks in Spain, Russia, and France transmitted and negotiated power up and down a vertical spectrum of actors and distributed it horizontally across the polity.
How networks abetted the circulation of bodies and the transmission of knowledge across the expanse of an empire has also caught the attention of historians. Ida Altman has analyzed how family ties from Brihuega in Castile were transposed to structure the community of Puebla de los Angeles in Mexico. Historians of science such as Daniela Bleichmar and Antonio Barrera-Osorio have also uncovered how astronomical, navigational, natural, and other scientific knowledge critical for the exploration, conquest, and exploitation of the empire was transmitted across geographic expanses and down through time via social networks of scholars, merchants, and sailors. Alison Games has traced British subjects who circulated through the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian ocean worlds, forming connections through which they gained specific knowledge about trade, governance, and cultural relations that they then applied to other theaters of operation. Luís Fílipe Thomaz has stressed that the Portuguese Estado da Índia was a network more than it was a geographic space. This network was capable of disseminating and diffusing persons, goods, and ideologies, some of them universalist, to the extreme ends of the world. The circulation of individuals, then, helped shape the social structure of imperial communities as well as pass on critical information, including specialized knowledge on administration.
Of particular resonance for my work is the scholarship of Bartolomé Yun Casalilla. A historian who began his career investigating the local world of Córdoba in the late medieval and early modern periods, he has since moved on to study the formation of the Spanish imperial state, including the contributions of the nobility. Despite his change of focus, Yun Casalilla has not lost sight of the fact that the empire was composed of communities. Part of his recent work seeks to connect peripheral regions through the networks that noble administrators formed. In the introduction of a collection of essays, Yun Casalilla proposes to "investigate the relations between distinct territories that comprised the [Spanish] monarchy from the point of view of connections (and disconnections, if the case may be) between elites of such spaces." Very few historians have recognized that the territories of empires were linked to one another with some autonomy from the center, much less teased out these relations. Even a work as conceptually sophisticated as Barkey's downplays interregional ties, privileging instead the conventional focus on center-periphery dynamics. While scholars have invested social networks with the power to absorb diverse peoples and communities to create an empire, they have yet to examine how networks bonded inhabitants across the realm independently of the center.
The Multiterritoriality and Simultaneity of Empire
Empires by nature consisted of multiple territories developing simultaneously and in conjunction with one another. Most scholars would contend that disparate territories of a world empire did not have much in common with one another. After all, each region existed in situational contexts that were distinct from the others'. For example, Algeria and Navarre were each subject to internal and international dynamics that corresponded to their unique geopolitical situations. As part of the Islamic North African world, Spanish Algeria was constantly threatened by Ottoman and Moroccan forces eager to expel the Christians. In contrast, Navarre was once a storied Christian kingdom whose forced incorporation into Spain attracted the ire of Catholic France. On the surface, the two regions shared little in common. Yet their inclusion in the same empire tied their fortunes together. The resources that the crown expended in Algeria impacted on what it could accomplish in Navarre and elsewhere. The monarchy's actions in one of its territories were weighed and balanced against what it did in others. To represent an empire accurately, historians must capture a sense of this simultaneous and conjoined development that was one of its defining characteristics.
Much more conceptual thinking needs to be done to capture the multiterritoriality and simultaneity of empire in historical narrative. Sanjay Subrahmanyam has advanced the concept of "connected histories" that bring disparate areas together, but his work is an exception to the rule. Historians have tended to study territories on their own, though with good reason. A. J. R. Russell-Wood has observed that documentation in myriad languages and the need to access archives dispersed across the breadth of former world empires have affected the study of the Portuguese realm. Furthermore, the history of each territory must be contextualized in its particular geopolitical milieu. Finally, today's political landscape, organized around modern nation-states, has narrowed our vision, obscuring the imperial structures that at one time connected disparate places and diverse elements across the expanse of humanity. Unlike the obsession modern nation-states have for the holistic sanctity of delineated boundary lines that limit, close off, and divide the nation from the huddled masses just on the other side, rulers of premodern empires seemed to revel in multiterritoriality.
Long lists of territories—from kingdoms down to counties—preface documents signed by the kings and queens of Spain. These inventories were obviously meant to impress the awesome reach of the Spanish monarchy upon the document's recipient. At the same time, they also capture the conglomerate or "composite" nature of the imperial polity that the monarchs themselves consciously regarded with pride. Yet, much like the nightmare that these lists must have presented to premodern scribes who laboriously hand-copied them out for the king and queen, they also verbally symbolize the conundrum that conglomerate empires pose to scholars. Despite our best efforts, we are still limited to the linearity and two-dimensionality of text. To better characterize empires, we must find ways to encapsulate the histories of many territories, each subject to particular local, regional, and international exigencies that nonetheless developed simultaneously alongside and at the intersections of one another. We must write about empire in such a way that individual histories of different localities, when merged together, achieve coherent meaning rather than appear pieced together out of convenience and in a contrived manner.
Family networks point us to a new approach. Tracing a family of imperial administrators whose footsteps crisscrossed the realm enables us to reconstruct the expansion of the empire on its multiple fronts, thereby capturing some of the multiterritorial and simultaneous qualities of the development of the polity. At the same time, the identity and affinity that these individuals shared by dint of their membership in the same family network help alleviate some of the disorientation that following footsteps falling far away from others may induce in readers. The delicate balance between the centrifugal and the centripetal—an individual's independent career path and his or her obligations to the family he or she belonged to—is reflected in the history of imperial locales undertaken here. The Fernández de Córdoba weaves a narrative of empire that captures a sense of these territories as parts of an integrative polity.
The histories of multiple territories of the Spanish empire play out in the lives of the Fernández de Córdoba family. This does not mean, however, that I will downplay the individuality, distinctiveness, and vitality of the local histories that make up the imperial. On the contrary, I attempt to minutely analyze how early modern individuals experienced the unfamiliar physical geographies, topographies, and landscapes that were newly accessible through imperial expansion. On the surface, empire building meant piecing together lands and peoples into one political community. Below the surface, however, the individuals who lived in and, more specifically, governed the empire had to adjust their mental outlook to include the exigencies of individual lands and varieties of people into their mental world.
The five local histories examined in this book include three regions—Córdoba, Granada, and Oran—that were ruled by Muslims immediately prior to their incorporation under the Spanish-Catholic crown. In the premodern era, Christians and Muslims exchanged control of territories in the Mediterranean basin in a surprisingly fluid way. This stands in contrast to the relationship between the two communities today that is perceived in dualistic terms—Christian/Islamic, northern/southern, and developed/underdeveloped. Nowadays, it seems that a nearly impenetrable barrier has been erected stretching from the Straits of Gibraltar in the west all the way to the Bosporus Straits in the east. Rather than constituting a transportation and communications conduit uniting the different coastlines, the Mediterranean is bisected geographically, ideologically, and economically, with each side meant to stand for certain values of civilization. More integrative forces such as political unions, economic free trade zones, and immigration have strived to bridge this divide. However, Turkey's stalled application to join the European Union and the perilous voyages of emigrants embarking from North Africa for the shores of Spain, Italy, and Greece show that such a barrier is difficult to breach. By analyzing how Córdoba, Granada, Toledo, Navarre, and Oran were interconnected through the activities and mental world of the Fernández de Córdoba lineage, a hidden history of a more integrated Mediterranean region surfaces, one that defies the easy categorization of relationships between the Christian and Islamic worlds as a "clash of civilizations."
The Impact of Empire on Family
The seventeenth-century Spanish economic thinker Martín González de Cellorigo once remarked that "a commonwealth is the proper management of a gathering of families." This observation succinctly summarizes the conception of the Spanish empire that I have proposed above, a polity that noble families helped administer and a living organism that they embodied in part. Modern scholars have corroborated González de Cellorigo's statement, with David Sabean and Simon Teuscher recently explaining that the development of lineages was "closely connected to processes of state formation." Given the interlocking evolution of family and state, it is not surprising that as much as families gave life to the empire, they were in turn transformed by their activities on its behalf.
The expansion of the empire made an especially profound impact on the noble lineages that were actively engaged in managing the polity. The changes that these noble families underwent, however, have remained unrecognized. This would seem paradoxical as historians, social scientists, and genealogists have devoted much attention to aristocratic families. After all, as a group they were the most powerful and visible in society. Yet scholars have focused on the development of elite families in conjunction with their ownership of land, a possession whose immobility anchored them to a place. This orientation within kinship studies is understandable; property certainly shaped the structure and identity of noble families. Land and its devolution were so important that James Casey has defined lineages as descent groups focused "on the transmission of patrimony." Land would continue to remain critical to noble families in the imperial age, but their relationship to fixed properties changed in an era of mobile service.
The late Middle Ages was a period in which elite families accrued more and more land in Spain. The Castilian civil war of the mid-fourteenth century resulted in the usurper Enrique II awarding land to his noble supporters. Such grants (mercedes) helped solidify support for a dynasty that had been established through regicide. New laws were put into place to preserve the fortunes of these large landowners. Where inheritance was once partible and multilateral, trusts or entails (mayorazgos) were instituted that allowed a lord to gather all or a portion of his landed property and pass it on intact to one successor. An emerging preference for patrilineal descent further privileged the eldest male as successor. Although other offspring, both male and female, continued to inherit nonentailed property and moveable goods (bienes muebles) such as specie, bonds and rents, jewelry and other precious items, furniture, clothing, and livestock, the entail made sure that one chunk of the land would be concentrated in the hands of one successor each generation.
By establishing a procedure of inheritance that was based on direct blood descent, gender, and seniority, a successor could be designated as early as his birth. Given advantages and treated with deference all his life, he could assert a natural leadership among his kin. Authority derived from succession rights thereby created "heads" of houses and differentiated senior (the line that passed from eldest son to eldest son) and junior branches (the lines established by second sons) of lineages. Owning the most important properties and enjoying the largest share of the inheritance, a head of a house could potentially wield considerable power, controlling marriage prospects of younger kin and influencing the direction of their careers. How ancestral land was passed down thus did much to structure relations within families.
The stress that scholars have put on the ties between clans and land was warranted in other ways as property over time came to encapsulate families' identity. Since the entail concentrated the bulk of a lineage's property in the hands of one successor, other members of the family rarely had any land of comparable extension. The entail constituted a delimited space where kin could, but did not have to, cohabit. Family members also shared an interest in the use, cultivation, and well-being of the estate, as it was one of the main sources of their wealth. The permanent concentration of property created a seat for the family. The devolution of property over the course of generations also created associations between the land and the clan. The name of the estate came to stand for the family itself. This was the origin of the idea of casa (house). More than just a manor where the lineage resided or the territory over which the clan had legal jurisdiction, it was a shorthand way to signify the family. The name of the house (referencing geographic space and location) could supplant the surname of the clan (representing blood) in popular usage. Land, an inert piece of terrain, came to represent a lineage. In many ways, it was an ideal carrier or vessel of identity. Unlike perishable human bodies, the property's permanence and near indestructibility enabled it to transmit identity through time despite the vagaries and precariousness of the life cycle.
Though scholars have devoted much attention to the development of lineages in the late Middle Ages, few have examined how territorial expansion and careers in service in the early modern imperial age impacted lineages. Neglect of this subject may be attributed to a focus, instead, on the "absolutist" monarchy as the hegemonic force in society. Still, royal authority had its limits, and monarchs did not strive to eliminate competing social bonds that rivaled their power. So while historians focusing on centralization have noted the transposition of aristocrats to the new physical and social environment of royal courts, they have not studied the dispersion of nobles into newly conquered territories. Not only is it critical to investigate the changing relationship between the nobility and land in an era of increased mobility, it is also essential to examine how the expansion of physical and mental worlds affected the development, structure, and identity of lineages.
The Fernández de Córdoba Lineage: An Introduction to Its Origins
The Fernández de Córdoba will help us in this endeavor. Although its members never achieved the fame of Queen Isabella, King Ferdinand, and Emperor Charles V nor the notoriety of Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, and Francisco Pizarro, they were local señores who transformed into imperial officers laboring in an international setting. The origins of the lineage can be traced back to the era of the thirteenth-century "Reconquest," when King Fernando III and his Christian forces captured much of the heartland of Muslim Andalusia. Among the warriors who served with distinction at the conquest of Córdoba in 1236 were two middle-ranking noblemen named Fernán Núñez de Témez and Domingo Muñoz. The first was a Leonese who was awarded the castles of Dos Hermanas and Abentojiel in the Cordovan countryside as well as houses in the city's parish of San Nicolás de la Villa. Fernán Núñez married Ora Muñoz, the daughter of the second nobleman, Domingo. Ora brought to her marriage the cognomen "de Córdoba," which the king had granted her father in recognition of his deeds. Over the ensuing 250 years, their offspring accumulated vast and well-populated landholdings and constituted the Fernández de Córdoba lineage.
Over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the lineage branched off into separate lines, all of which retained the surname Fernández de Córdoba. The main trunk of the lineage was formed by the generation-to-generation succession of eldest surviving sons (primogénitos). This line came to be known as the House of Aguilar, or, later, the marquises of Priego. Second sons in the first three generations established junior branches of the lineage. Three of them reached levels of prominence comparable to the Aguilar. In the first branch were the lords of Montemayor and Alcaudete, later becoming the counts of Alcaudete. Martín de Córdoba belonged to this house. Members of the second branch went by the titles Alcaides de los Donceles (literally Governor of the Royal Pages) and the lords of Lucena, Espejo, and Chillón. In the sixteenth century this line would win the title Marquis of Comares. Leonor Pacheco was born into this house. The third branch was known as the lords of Baena, later the counts of Cabra and the dukes of Sessa. From the fifteenth century onward these four houses constituted the core of the Fernández de Córdoba lineage. For the sake of consistency, I will refer to these families throughout as the Aguilar, Alcaudete, Comares, and Cabra.
While a shared identity helped unify these four lines to a certain degree, the process that disaggregated the clan into separate houses created divergent political interests in each branch. For example, members of all four families contributed soldiers, funds, and their own lives to the Granada War, the campaign that initiated Spain's imperial expansion. Yet the Aguilar and Cabra would ultimately retreat from direct involvement in military and administrative service. Instead, they came to acquire the greatest fortunes and centered their activities at the royal court as courtiers performing honorific duties. The Comares and the Alcaudete, in contrast, chose to garner distinction through military and administrative careers. These latter two branches, relatively more modest and certainly scrappier, form the core of this book.