The National Cost of Territorial Defense and Treason in Late Medieval Catalonia

17th century map of CataloniaThe National Cost of Territorial Defense and Treason in Late Medieval Catalonia

Kagay, Donald J.

Albany State University Working Paper (2010)

Abstract: Long before the international wars of the late Renaissance had wrought a true fault line in military affairs (which Geoffrey Parker and a burgeoning array of followers and opponents all refer to as the Military Revolution), the Hundred Years’ War constituted a stage on which many a tactical, logistical, and institutional change in the way of European war got its start. Though especially associated by later historians with England and France, the contenders in the set-piece battles of Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, the conflict also had an immense effect on Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. It is on one of the latter states, Catalonia, and its unique fiscal road to the battlefield during the fourteenth century and thence to nationhood that this paper will focus.

Medieval sovereigns, like their early modern counterparts, fully understood the old political maxim that “money constitutes the sinews of war.” They would also have agree with Tom Paine (no mean feat in itself) that “war has but one thing certain and that is to increase taxes.” In none of Europe’s sorely-vexed states of the fourteenth- and fifteenth- century arena of war were these lessons more bitterly learned than in “the Republic of the Principate of Catalonia.”

Emerging from the shadow of Muslim subservience in the twelfth century, Catalonia began to consume huge swaths of Spanish Islam’s heartlands shortly after the thirteenth century had dawned. The fiscal mechanism and adaptations utilized by the great warrior-king, Jaume I (1213-76), left a record for long-range war planning and rapid logistical as well as tactical response in the field that few of his successors could match. In addition to a valiant determination which often motivated his armies, Jaume showed himself to be an adept military administrator who raised money for his campaigns from general and individual sources. Since the service parameters of his feudal host seldom extended for more than a few months, Jaume was in constant need of soldiers and of the money to pay them. He fought the constant threat of military shortfall by calling out his parliaments (Cortes, Corts) where he extorted free service and such extraordinary imposts as the monedaje in Aragon and bovatge in Catalonia. The promise of great rewards, eventually formalized in the lists of plunder shares or repartimientos, often pryed loose such parliamentary seed money, especially when the king promised to forego such funding sources for some period in the future.

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