Thursday, February 19, 2015

Economy and society during the 19th century

This is the presentation of the second part of Unit 4. It includes information about the main economic activities, the main changes in society and the development of the labour movement. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A short history of the peseta

This is a short report about the Spanish currency during the 19th century. When the century began, the reales de vellón were the unit of account, that is, the normal currency used in official documents, like budgets or the tax collection reports. One real de vellón was equivalent to 34 maravedís, made of copper. But actually people used different coins and even different monetary systems in the country. For example, in the territories of the former Crown of Aragón they continued to use libras, sueldos and dineros. Monetary circulation was reduced and coins were more appreciated for the quantity of precious metals they contained (mainly silver). That's why people also accepted coins from other countries without much problem.

Silver real

Ferdinand VII's maravedí

The coins people commonly used were the multiples and divisions of the reales de vellón

- the duro, also called peso, peso fuerte, real de a ocho or piastra, was worth 20 reales de vellón. These coins were so widespread that they have been found even in China. They probably arrived there from the Philippines. The $ symbol, that everybody associates now with the dollars, was in fact the logo of the duro and it  represented the two Hercules columns with the motto Plus Ultra ( the great beyond) around them. When the USA chose this symbol for their currency, they were trying to link their money with the prestige of the Spanish silver coins. 

Duro with Ferdinand VII's efigy

- As the duros value was very high for everyday transactions, smaller copper coins (calderilla) were minted: they were worth 1, 2, 4 and 8 maravedís. The ones worth 4 maravedís were called cuartos and the ones worth 8 were called ochavos or chavos. 

The division of the reales into 34 maravedís complicated the everyday use. This was the reason for the monetary reforms made between 1848 and 1864:

- the real was adapted to the decimal system and divided into décimas and centésimas, eliminating the equivalence in maravedís, but this wasn't succesful.

- in 1864 the escudo, a new  monetary unit, was created, equivalent to 10 reales and fractional copper coins were minted: 10 copper cents were worth 1 real

However, the most important reform took place during the Democratic Sexenio. Minister Laureano Figuerola was responsible for the creation of a new coin, the peseta, and the definitive introduction of the decimal system.

This cartoon from La Flaca qualifies Laureano Figuerola, minister of Finances, as Un duro,  a play on words with the double meaning of the word duro (tough and  the name of the coin). He is persecuted by the public opinion for the poll tax (capitación)  he introduced. 

The name peseta came from a coin that had existed before in Catalonia during the Peninsular War and also in America, which was worth 4 reales, very similar to the French franc. Its equivalence facilitated the transition from the previous monetary system to the new one:

- the peseta became equivalent to 4 reales (835 thousanths of silver=20 carats)
- the duro became equivalent to 5 pesetas (900 thousanths of silver=21.5 carats)
- the 10 cent copper coin became equivalent to 8 maravedís

Amadeus I's duro

Other smaller copper coins were minted, worth 1, 2 and 5 cents. As these new copper coins were created during the Sexenio, they didn't have the efigy of any monarch, but a lion with a shield on one side and a matron representing Spain on the other side. People didn't identify the lion and transformed it into a female dog (perra). The 5 and 10 cents copper coins were popularly known as perra chica and perra gorda.

Perra gorda


Perra chica

The first peseta banknotes were printed in 1874, with the following values: 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 pesetas, but they were not used in normal transactions. They were destined to be used by banks and credit societies. The banknotes included the sentence: "The bank of Spain will pay to the bearer...". This meant that the banknotes were payment documents that could be exchanged for metallic money.

500 pesetas, 1874

1874 banknote of 500 pesetas, dedicated to Goya

During the 2nd Republic other smaller banknotes were printed (5 and 10 pesetas), due to the devaluation of the peseta and in order to try to avoid the accumulation of  silver duros. The silver duros were removed from circulation.

5 pesetas with an allegory of the Republic, printed in 1935

During the Civil War, the difficulties to buy metals obliged the government to print banknotes with very reduced value: 50 cents, 1 and 2 pesetas. Every contending side printed money and there were also numerous municipalities that printed banknotes.

Banknotes printed by the government of the Republic

Monedas y billetes emitidos durante la guerra civil de 1936, por el ejército sublevado
Coins and banknote minted and printed by the rebels in Burgos

Money printed by the workers' communities of Híjar and Calanda (Teruel) 

The biggest peseta banknotes were created in 1976 (5,000 pesetas), 1980 (2,000 pesetas) and 1985 (10,000 pesetas).

10,000 pesetas banknote, the biggest one printed

In 1982 the Bank of Spain stopped printing 100 pesetas banknotes and the ones of inferior value, which were replaced for coins. In 1987 the 200 and 500 pesetas banknotes were also removed from circulation and replaced for coins. Finally, the peseta was replaced by the euros in 2002.

In Spanish, there are many common expressions related with these old coins, like tener muchos cuartos (referring to the cuartos), tener muchas perras (referring to the copper coins), which means "to have a lot of money", no valer un chavo (referring to the ochavos or chavos), which means being worthless, no tener una perra/ no tener una gorda (referring to the 10 cents copper coin), meaning "to be broke" or para ti la perra gorda, meaning "you win, we don't need to continue to argue".

Some useful vocabulary:

Legal tender: moneda de curso legal
Bullion coin: moneda de ley (with a big amount of precious metal)
Carat: quilate
Thousandths: milésimas

Information extracted from Fontana, Josep, La época del liberalismo, Historia de España (dirigida por Josep Fontana y Ramón Villares), Volumen 6, Editorial Crítica/ Marcial Pons, Madrid, 2007

If you want to learn more about the monetary reforms from the arrival of the Bourbons to present day, here you have two more links:

- Legislación y reforma monetaria en la España borbónica, by Javier de Santiago Fernández:

- Del real al euro, by José Luis García Delgado:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Difference between pronunciamiento and coup d' État

Here you have a short explanation to distinguish a pronunciamiento from a coup d´État. They are similar, due to the participation of part of the army, but not exactly the same.

A pronunciamiento is an uprising against the government, led by part of the army , and including a manifesto where those who rise up explain their criticism to the régime and their will of change. Those who rise up expect the people's adhesion to their cause. Examples of pronunciamientos could be Riego's uprsising in 1820, the 1854 pronunciamiento and the 1868 revolution. 

Colonel Rafael del Riego

A coup d´État is an uprising of part of the army that uses force to overthrow the government and impose a new one. Coups d´État include the threat of use of considerable force against those who resist and they commonly mean overthrowing a legitimate government, elected by the citizens. Examples of coup d´État were General Elío's in 1814, when he led the army against the elected Cortes, Primo de Rivera's coup in 1923 or the July 1936 coup that provoked the Spanish Civil War. 

Political groups in the first half of the 19th century

Here you have a scheme of the evolution of the political groups in Spain in the first half of the 19th century. Remember that the moderates and the progressives were the first political parties created, but they were not as the modern parties. They were formed by few members, prominent representatives of the army, lawyers, journalists, merchants, bankers...

Some schemes about taxes

Here you have the schemes I promised about tax collection. They have been made with a very interesting tool  called Examtime. You can test it to prepare your own schemes.

The first schemes are about taxes in the Ancien Régime. They refer to taxes in Castile, but there were similar taxes in Aragón too:


And this is how tax collection was done:

Even with such a big amount of taxes, incomes were insufficient and the precious metals from the Indies became essential since the begining of the colonization. When most of the colonies were lost, the Treasury went through a big crisis and publuc debt increased to unbearable limits. Mon and Santillán tax reform tried to simplify tax collection and make it more efficient, but it was really difficult without a reliable population census. Here you have another scheme about Mon and Santillán tax reform:

Presentation of Unit 3

This is the Unit 3 presentation complete and corrected. Use it to meet all these interesting people and what they did for their country (or for their personal accounts).

The Olózaga incident

Salustiano de Olózaga was one of the most outstanding members of the Progressive Party during Isabella II's reign. He replaced Joaquín Mª López as prime minister in November 1843, but his government lasted only 10 days. Olózaga had a good relationship with the queen. His children had been Isabella 's playmates when she wasn't still the queen and he had made a passionate defense of her in the Cortes during Espartero's regency. He made a famous speech in which he repeated several times the sentence " God save the Queen!" and he had earned the nickname of the Salve politician (el político de la Salve). 

Salustiano Olózaga

Cartoon representing Olózaga during his time in Paris as ambassador

When Olózaga became prime minister, the Cortes had a majority of moderate deputies. Olózaga asked the Queen the decree of dissolution of the Cortes to call new elections and she signed it without any problem on the 28th November. But the moderates manoeuvered and put pressure on the queen. Narváez scared Isabella II telling her that if the progressives won the elections and armed the National Militia, she would lose the crown as her mother had. Finally, Isabella dismissed Olózaga and sent a note to the Cortes explaining that Olózaga had threatened her to oblige her to sign the decree and, as she had rejected to do it, he had forced her to do it. Olózaga tried to defend himself in the Cortes, but he was harassed by the police and was finally forced to take up exile. He didn't come back until 1847. Slander about Olózaga allowed the moderates' return to power.

During the Democratic Sexenio, Olózaga was the ambassador in Paris. That's why he appeared on this famous cartoon, looking for a monarch for Spain: 

And her you have him, with a lantern like Diogenes, looking for a monarch for Spain: 

White hands don't offend, mylady!

This is a curious story about Ferdinand VII's sucession. As we studied, Ferdinand VII got married four times, but he didn't have any children until he married to his niece Maria Christina of Bourbon- Two Sicilies. When she got pregnant in 1830, Ferdinand VII tried to make sure that his successor (boy or girl) would be the monarch of Spain and issued thew Pragmatic Sanction approved by the Cortes in 1788, during his father's reign, which abolished the Salic Law and restored the traditional succession law of Castile. The child born was a girl, Isabella. But the most intransigent absolutists didn't accept this and wanted Carlos María Isidro, Ferdinand VII's brother, to be the successor. The episode that gives name to this post took plce during Ferdinand VII's illness in 1832. Maria Christina acted as regent, replacing her husband, but both suffered a high pressure in order to favour Carlos María Isidro and declare him the heir of the crown. One of the most insistent figures in Carlos Mª Isidro's side was Francisco Tadeo Calomarde, minister of Grace and Justice and leader of the ultra-royalist party. Pressure was such that Ferdinand VII finally accepted to sign a decree annulling the Pragmatic Sanction and designating Carlos as heir, but with the condition of keeping this decision secret until Ferdinand VII’s death, in order to avoid instability. These events provoked a lot of commotion in La Granja Palace, when the royal court was spending the holidays. When Infant Luisa Carlota, Maria Christina's sister, knew what had happened, she called Calomarde to her presence and asked him to show her the decree. When she read what Ferdinand VII had signed, excluding his own daughter from the throne, she tora the document, threw it to the fire and slapped Calomarde with force. Calomarde bore the ofense and answered with the famous quote: White hands don't offend, mylady!

López Portaña, Vicente - Princess Luisa Carlota de Borbón-Dos Sicilias - Google Art Project.jpg

Infant Luisa Calota, a temperamental woman

Francisco Tadeo Calomarde, ultra-royalist minister

When Ferdinand VII recovered, he and his wife received the supoport of many members of the court and this decided him to annul the decree, re-appoint his daughter as his successor and exclude his brother from the throne. This would finally cause the beginning of the First Carlist War. 

Luisa Carlota's husband was infant Francisco de Paula, another of Ferdinand VII's brothers and they were Francisco de Asís of Bourbon's parents.