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Sons of Something: Taxes, Lawsuits, and Local Political Control in Sixteenth-Century Castile

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 September 2007

Mauricio Drelichman
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, The University of British Columbia, 997 – 1873 East Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z1; and Scholar, The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. E-mail:


The widespread ennoblement of the Spanish bourgeoisie in the Early Modern period has been traditionally considered one of the main causes of the “crisis of the seventeenth century.” Using a new time series of nobility cases I provide the first quantitative assessment of Castilian ennoblement. Contrary to established scholarship, I find that the tax exemptions cannot alone explain the flight to privilege. My data show that the central motivation behind ennoblement was to gain control of local governments. Although ennoblement reflected a high level of redistributive activity, there is no evidence linking it to economic stagnation in Spain.

© 2007 The Economic History Association

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España. Ministerio de Cultura. Archivo de la Real Chancillería de Valladolid (ARChV), Valladolid, Spain. Sections: Sala de Hijosdalgo. Pleitos. (SHP); Pérez Alonso. Fenecidos. (PAF); Protocolos y Padrones. (PP); Registro de Ejecutorias. (RE); Cédulas y Prágmaticas. (CP).

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