The charitable bonds of the Spanish Empire: the Casa de Contratación as an institution of charity

McClure, J. (2018) The charitable bonds of the Spanish Empire: the Casa de Contratación as an institution of charity. New Global Studies, 12(2), pp. 157-174. (doi: 10.1515/ngs-2018-0026)

164564.pdf - Accepted Version



In the sixteenth century Spain developed Europe’s first global empire, an empire underpinned by the beliefs and structures of Catholicism, and driven by pursuits of God and of gold. Informed by Catholic doctrine, the Spanish Empire had a complex spiritual economy of charity, where spiritual, moral, and economic values were interchangeable. The Casa de Contratación became the commercial and administrative hub of the Spanish Empire, a position which made it an important node in the network of the charitable spiritual economy. This article will show that charity was an important part of the daily business of the Casa de Contratación and that this charity was important to the fabric of the Spanish Empire in three ways. Firstly, charity is a mechanism for maintaining social order and the crown used the Casa de Contratación to give a benevolent face to empire and prevent unrest. Secondly, the bonds of charity were at the foundation of Christian communities, and by administering long-range charity the Casa de Contratación helped to maintain these communities across the empire, forming the new global Catholic communities of the Spanish Empire. Thirdly, the Casa de Contratación provided a legal framework for people within the empire to claim that they were poor and access resources by requesting different types of charity.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McClure, Dr Julia
Authors: McClure, J.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DP Spain
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:New Global Studies
Journal Abbr.:NGS
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN (Online):1940-0004
Published Online:21 June 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH
First Published:First published in New Global Studies 12(2): 157-174
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record