John S. Ott
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors
Américo Castro (1885-1972), Spain -- Historiography, Saint James the Greater -- Cult -- Spain
The present essay is broadly interested in the problem of writing history, and the way different manners of confronting this problem are received and represented in the modern day as our historiographical compass increases in depth, scope, and capacity. Within the breadth of this theme, my case study is centered on the Spanish historian Américo Castro (1885–1972), an author whose work embodies not only the Spanish intellectual trends of his day, but also a substantial swath of Western philosophy and academic scholarship. I demonstrate the influence of existential philosophy on Castro, as well as the myopic filter of nationalism through which most contemporary historians tend to think of Castro. My approach is purely historiographical, apart from providing the necessary contexts of Castro's treatment of the Middle Ages, particularly the cult of Saint James (Santiago Matamoros), and also the brief intellectual history of Castro's own late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century scholarly milieu. My essay is ultimately concerned with the roles of existential philosophy, nationalism, and religiosity in Castro's rendering of the Middle Ages. I then consider Castro's understanding of the Reconquista, the cult of Saint James and his military order, and subsequently Spain's making of a national identity within the contemporary historiography, comparing and contrasting new trends in historical scholarship with Castro's own philosophy of history. While I acknowledge that Castro's work has become more of a primary source of twentieth-century, Franco-era intellectual history, the argument is that his cultural history of the Middle Ages deserves to be considered within its own contexts. By recognizing Castro's unique philosophy of history, historians may more fully understand and appreciate the intellectual circumstances of Castro's time as a Spanish writer, albeit having spent a large portion of his career in exile. Within this essay's broader historiographical interests, the case of Castro demonstrates the need for fuller consideration of contemporary contexts as we gloss what are becoming classic renderings of the past.
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Blanchard, Daniel, "Américo Castro, Saint James, and Spain: the History of a Belief" (2014). University Honors Theses. Paper 80.