Catalonia’s Mediterranean Expansion: An Instance of Colonialism?
By Dillon Webster
UCSC History Annals, a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Vol.3 (2011-12)
Introduction: The historiography of Catalonia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is concise in its assessment of overseas expansion. However, it is apparent that not all historians agree on what Catalonian expansion means, and what expansion meant to Catalonia. The terminology used to describe the principality during expansion is widely discrepant. The terms, empire, imperial, and colonial carelessly appear in texts written about Catalonia as though they represent commonly accepted facts, e.g. ‘the Catalans held a Mediterranean empire.’ However, the casual application of such terms fails to acknowledge their full implications.
In his article, “The Problem of a Catalan Mediterranean Empire 1229-1327,’ J.N. Hilgarth argues against the use of the term, empire, claiming that it does not describe the reality of the situation experienced by Catalonia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Hilgarth’s article, unique in its attempt to understand and clarify the terminology that describes the principality, strikes at the heart of the issue, calls into question the validity of such common terms, and provides an opportunity for further investigation of the Catalan expansion.