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Miguel de Cervantes and the political turn of history (c. 1570-1615).

Historicism, or the approach to the historical task, is a phenomenon of special interest in the life and work of Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). (1) We may consider this historical method from various perspectives. First, to consider Cervantes as a historian is to reveal the epistemological experience in which Cervantes practiced historical methods in his writing, since a close reading of his works shows that he displayed a high degree of familiarity with the prevailing theories of the historian's task of his day. Second, we may approach his work through the lens of Cervantes as a chronicler of the very events he lived through and which rocked the world of his time. Third, we may discover a Cervantes who was both preoccupied with and who played with the truth, veracity, and verisimilitude of what he recounted. This is a Cervantes who ranged from the historian to the "strange inventor," from the writer of texts within his creative laboratory to his "table of tricks" (mesa de trucos) (Blasco 165).


Although we might approach both Cervantes the writer and his great reader Alonso Quijano without thinking of their social and cultural context, if we permit them to live within the period they happened to inhabit, it is possible to understand them somewhat better.

Throughout his life, Cervantes's works coincided with those of many historians and chroniclers, including well-known scholars such as his master Juan Lopez de Hoyos (1511-1583), and the historiographers Esteban de Garibay y Zamalloa (1533-1600), Luis Cabrera de Cordoba (1559-1623), and the brothers Lupercio and Barolome Leonardo de Argensola (1559-1613; 1562-1631). In addition to the writers of his own time, Cervantes also imbibed the classical authors--whom he might have read anywhere, among the scraps of papers strewn in the streets, or at some time during the thirteen boring years he spent traversing "el" Andalucia (as they called it)--whose works he certainly read in Madrid at the Estudio de la Villa of his master Juan Lopez de Hoyos. Lopez de Hoyos kept such works in his library for that very purpose: from Cicero to Tacitus, each left a mark on and in the work of Cervantes, whether or not he referred to them directly (Alvar Ezquerra, Un maestro 168).

Cervantes had the good fortune to live through a fascinating period in the development of the genre that is historiography. He witnessed the change in "doing history," which was transformed from the creation of wild and imaginative histories to a search for reliable sources on which to base the assertions of history. In addition, along with the impact of print as a means of diffusing knowledge, there were increasing efforts to define the form of the historical text that were couched in a language of transmission, of style, etc., and which made constant reference to Thucydides, Caesar, or Cicero. At the same time, the question of what the object of the Historian actually was became subject to doubt, criticism, and discussion. To what depths must the historian plumb, and to what point should he concern himself--as Sancho did--with the question of who was the first to use a handkerchief? Was such a thing incumbent upon the knowledge of the humanist historian? Cervantes also reflected on the forms of transmitting historical knowledge and of the written text, and his defenses of vernacular languages are well known.

Among the classical authors who influenced Cervantes, Cicero stands out in particular, and Cervantes cited him repeatedly. At the same time, Cervantes had direct contacts with contemporary historical writers, or theoreticians of history, like Esteban de Garibay y Zamalloa (whose routes often overlapped with those of Cervantes and with whose widow Cervantes shared a house in Valladolid) or Luis Cabrera de Cordoba, who Cervantes compared to Tacitus. However, he also had influences that were much closer to home. The year 1568, a mournful year that witnessed the imprisonment and death of don Carlos and the death of Isabel de Valois, gave rise to the literary after effects of these tragedies in 1569, including the edition of a text by Juan Lopez de Hoyos praising the Queen, in which Cervantes's second verses appeared. Our author must certainly have read and re-read what his master Lopez de Hoyos was writing.

In the Relacion de la muerte y honras funebres del serenisimo principe don Carlos, Lopez de Hoyos provided several epistemological reflections on the writing of history: for example, that there are some topics worthy of historical attention and some that are not; that some part of what occurs is always hidden from human understanding; that there are two types of people who write about History (i.e., the "doctrinal" or theoretical writers, and the "historians," or narrators, who are descriptive writers); that the tone and quality of the narration must be appropriate to the object being narrated; and on and on. Cervantes was present when Lopez de Hoyos composed the brief and conflictive "Don Carlos," and the subsequent 1569 work, la Historia y relacion verdadera de la enfermedad [...] de la Serenissima Reyna de Espana dona Isabel de Valois. In "Don Carlos" Lopez de Hoyos's rapid reflections about historiography were, in reality, neither original, nor was their position in the text innovative (they were part of the preliminary materials). What is important, however, is that they comprised a declaration of principles. Lopez de Hoyos was a providentialist, who proposed that the function of the historian was to describe. Despite these reflections, Lopez de Hoyos had some problems as a historical writer--namely, his incapacity for synthesizing the narrated fact (although he was capable of cutting himself off abruptly)--and he believed that the style of the narration must be connected to the contents of what was being narrated. His style, however, is leaden and his references to events are difficult to follow as he jumps from one thing to another.

In the dedication to Cardinal Diego de Espinosa (1513-1572) that preceded the text of "Isabel de Valois," Lopez de Hoyos excused himself for the text being "rough, hard, and without reason." However, he justified this roughness by explaining that it was the first thing he had written, adding in the margins the phrase "early attempts" ("ingenios tempranos") (Lopez de Hoyos, Hystoria [Dedicatoria]). Ultimately, he closed the dedication promising to ameliorate subsequent works, as the author and his work continued to mature.

In his other dedication to the Senate ("Senado") of Madrid (Lopez de Hoyos, 1569) he spoke of the fact that "no less glory and triumph is due to the historian who writes [...] than to he who did [the deeds]" because the historian could make great deeds immortal, or silence them and condemn them to oblivion. Then he entertained himself (though it was far from an entertainment) by speaking of the nobility of Madrid, of its peoples and notable personages, and with quiet references to Erasmus and Luis Vives when he spoke of the fact that bad republics were unconcerned with the selection of teachers for their youth.

The third of these first texts, the exhortation to the reader by Lopez de Hoyos (Lopez de Hoyos, Hystoria), attacked envy, in particular the envious and detractors (who whispered against him or his work: the Jesuits? some court faction?) and stated his sources of information. The book is made up of his own memories ("testigo de vista") and the accounts of those who were present. He pursued one goal, "to make it a garden, an agreeable entertainment." Finally in the preface, Lopez de Hoyos advocated for the reform of certain customs that had been corrupted by sin.

Cervantes's name was consigned to a spot nearly 150 pages further on in this same book as "our dear and beloved pupil," while the epitaph, the quatrains, and the second verses of Cervantes appear scattered in the disordered anthology of pages and the chaotic structure of the work. The epistemological precepts proposed by Lopez de Hoyos must have been known by Cervantes. The master had passed these on to the student (naturally, along with much more than had been written).


In his youth, Cervantes studied both the art of writing history and those who had initiated the practice over time, that is, the great historians. This undoubtedly left a mark on him. If his early verses had been published in a book on arithmetic, and had they referred to the virtues of three-dimensional bodies, perhaps he would have become a different kind of writer all together. However, at the age of twenty-one, Cervantes published on the misfortune of unexpected death, on the wars and peace between Spain and France, and on the Grim Reaper who conquered everything in his path. His teacher, Lopez de Hoyos, wrote about history, about eyewitness events, and even corrected some elements of a chivalric novel in one of the memos he wrote to approve a book for publication. (2) Thus, Cervantes's historical mind was formed around those materials that Lopez de Hoyos transmitted to him and in the cultural environment that surrounded Lopez de Hoyos.

However, the discussion so far is not the only indication that Cervantes had imbibed his historical precepts from Lopez de Hoyos. Later, when Cervantes ridiculed mercilessly the crazed humanist, preoccupied only with fatuous topics, he was in fact making an allusion to Lopez de Hoyos. Throughout Don Quijote one may find interspersed phrases from Lopez de Hoyos written three long decades previously (Alvar Ezquerra, "Las enciclopedias" 427).

It is clear that Cervantes wished to distance himself from his teacher since even in his maturity he continued to mock Lopez de Hoyos, even though none of his works, which were in fact compilations of the state of Spanish literature at the time, make any mention of him. The excuse of limiting himself to writing about living authors served Cervantes well to avoid any allusion to Lopez de Hoyos. An accident? An excuse? Just a coincidence? The editorial process for La Galatea (in which the Canto de Caliope is to be found) began in February of 1584. That is, the work is certainly posterior to the death of Lopez de Hoyos (June 28 1583). That work was completed only a few weeks after the death of the master. However, not even in the donoso escrutinio did he include any line dedicated to the earlier work in which his epitaph and verses to the Queen were printed.

Despite this absence of references to his master and historical learning, throughout his work Cervantes left definitions here and there about how history should be written. He advocated a detailed account of the deeds of knights rather than squires. Of course, he insisted that the style should be appropriate to the quality of the deed being narrated (for this reason, funerals should be written with a leaden touch), although by warning that writing would be better disseminated in the vernacular Cervantes contradicted the principle of unifying style and subject. Still, Cervantes was a permanent defender of vernacularism. Thus the writing of biography could serve to praise the subject, or to cast infamy upon him or her. It was important to know that there were differences between error and manipulation. To "do" history was to subjectify the topic being written about--in the case of a famous deed, the "historiado"--which the historian narrates in his own way. And the reader reads in his own way despite the fact that, in the end, written history is the child of the writer, who is the only one responsible. Only the transcendental (i.e., that which serves to create fame) is worthy of being historiado. But the historian must look for the truth and not invent things, and in all cases must be measured, self-censoring, orderly, and decorous.

These were the intellectual spaces through which Cervantes moved, and which contributed to the way he defined historiographical objects and subjects. Rather than making a text that would explain historiographical problems (as did writers such as Sebastian Fox Morcillo [1526?-1559?], for example), or a prologue that would vaguely explain his concept of the historical task, Cervantes went much farther. He developed from his immense imagination every one of these points in a sort of Decalogue of the Good Historian, and not only in Don Quijote. (3) However, it would also seem that his need to create in and of itself found its source in the opportunity to wink at the reader, for example, by placing a historical narrative in the middle of a work of fiction, as if he wanted to publish the account in the style of all those relaciones de sucesos that circulated at the time. When he inserted this short but complete work of history, it was full of life and imaginative detail, but he still adhered strictly to the postulates that he had been defining (and which he would continue to define) of what it meant to be a historian.

In effect, all of the descriptions and details which appear in the Captive's Tale (1.39-41: ff. 230r-257r) correspond to what happened in real experiences. Comparing Cervantes's own writings to others that are still preserved, like those of the Castilian Andres de Salazar who lost La Goleta, or with other contemporaneous testimonies, the only discrepancies that one can find are in the nuances, the personal reflections of Cervantes which might not (or might) match the other accounts that are held in the archives of Simancas (Alvar Ezquerra, "Cervantes contra Moros y Turcos" 55). However, if in the Captive's Tale opinions are voiced, for example, on the capacities of the characters, is this not the voice of the historian as narrator of events, guiding the reader on the path of his hypothesis? Is Cervantes, then, not acting as the historian he could not officially become, although he knew perfectly well that he was capable of it?

Indeed, in the years around 1615, when Cervantes wrote the passages to which I have alluded, new historiographical currents advanced across Europe. It had been fifteen years since the death of Garibay, who had been the first to compile the history of Spain (1571), and who ended his days writing history that the royal historiographer Antonio de Herera y Tordesillas deemed no better than the writings of a chronicler--that is, the genealogies of kings--despite the fact that since 1575 royal historiography had marked a new path for how to write the history of Spain. In the midst of this intellectual effervescence, Cervantes confessed his epistemological aspirations and the playwright Felix Lope de Vega (1562-1635) did his best to become a royal chronicler without success. What then were the new lines on which historiography would be developed?


Cervantes's choice to write about historical events and to imbue his fictional writing with historical methods was made during a time of competitive forms of histories, when historiography was experiencing a political turn on the European stage (Kagan, Clio 207). As has been recently demonstrated, the political turn of history in the midst of religious polemics and conflicts at the end of the sixteenth century was characterized by the incorporation of historiographical methods in Realpolitik (Popper 6). History was used to define the political truth of the recent past. The how of writing history during this period defined history as a laboratory of political causation designed to find political solutions to conflicts (Byrne 14). The European politics during the first two decades of the seventeenth century were thus supported by historiographical projects, which helped create a new political frame for the interpretation of the most recent and traumatic conflicts. These projects tried to minimize the effects of the guerre larvee that threatened the peace during those decades.

Between 1598 and 1615, official histories were used to extend the official oblivion that had been decreed after a peace was signed between the Hapsburg Monarchy and France in Vervins. (4) The monarchical damnatio memoriae was the condition of forgetting dissention in order to impose a new political order within each monarchy (Frisch 65). These histories celebrated a timeless peace and the renewal of the dynastic alliance between the Hapsburg Monarchy and France. Around the same time, Philip II signed other peace treatises or dynastic alliances with Savoy (1601), England (1604), Holland (1609) and France (1612-1615). The historical celebration of this series of peace, traditionally called the Pax Hispanica, was in fact highly mediated by the Pope from Rome in order to preserve the Pax Romana in the Italian territories. This Pax coincided with the reign of Philip III and with other historiographical projects, which used political criticism against Philip II's earlier intervention in France in order to justify the apparent equilibrium reached by the politics of the king and his prime minister, the Duke of Lerma, before 1615.5 Defenses of peace and political criticism were the results of a politics of history that was committed to the conservation of the prestige of the Hapsburg Monarchy and the reputation of the King by the means of peace and internal reforms.

The political use of history as a knowledge that strengthened the order of the Monarchy, as incarnated by the royal laws, was also the product of a political culture that considered religion to be a pretext for conflicts led by the reason of State during the late sixteenth century. Historical truth literally became a political problem for rulers who disputed their temporal, and sometimes even spiritual, prerogative on the European stage. As royal historiographer of Castile and of the Indies, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1549-1625) recalled that around 1596 it was no longer worth it for a historian to describe the battles and the great deeds of kings or nobles (Pasamar 29). For Herrera y Tordesillas, recent history had shown that it was in the discourses, or, in the battles of words, that historians should locate the hidden purposes and interests that had led to the sixteenth century reforms and conflicts that broke the ideal of common Christian faith, history, and truth.

During the first part of the reign of Philip III, the celebration of peace and political criticism converted historical writing into a powerful instrument of cultural accommodation and political conversion for the seditious subjects of the king. As a soft power, history writing followed the law of oblivion decreed in 1598 and seemed to foster a consensus around an early idea of State and public good. In a letter sent in 1615 to Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553-1617), one of the representatives of the political turn of history in France, the Castilian-Portuguese jurist and late humanist Vicente Nogueira made a defense of this kind of history, arguing that the fact of treating religious or political dissidents well in written histories was the solution for the creation of a new order based on strong political and religious fidelities. (6) Cervantes's reflections on history were thus made during a time when history writing was deeply involved in international debates about tolerance, peace, and internal order between the many communities that circulated within and beyond, and that sometimes abandoned the Hapsburg Monarchy in favored of other European state intelligence systems.

Despite the claims of history writing to impartiality, historical production was the result of partisan interpretations of the recent past that tried to be legitimized as the official interpretation. Beginning at the end of the sixteenth century and during the first part of the seventeenth century, both Philip II and Philip III began to hire historians who were professionals of political information. It was a point in these men's favor to have traveled and acquired experiences on which to base their expertise for political negotiation. Good skills in languages and translation were required, not only concerning classical languages but also the vernaculars of their own time. Their ability to read languages like French, English, or Ottoman Turkish was fundamental in order to prepare responses to other histories written by foreign historians. The perfect historian was thus imagined as a man around his forties familiar with both archives and contemporary political affairs. (7) Most of these historians were trained as secretaries of noblemen involved in the diplomatic apparatus of the Monarchy. The practice of history became an art of specialists dedicated to reassembling the broken ideal of the unity of Christian faith in the realms of politics.

Taking into account both the critical and apologetic mode of writing history, Philip II appointed two kinds of historiographers during his reign (1556-1598). The first type was in charge of continuing the writing of the General History of Spain, started by Florian de Ocampo (1599?-1558?) and Ambrosio de Morales (1513-1591), whereas the second type was above all considered to be a kind of political counselor, closely related to the archives, papers, and affairs discussed in the Councils and assemblies of specialists convened by the administration of the Monarchy in order to foster political action. (8) Their historical erudition played an important part in diplomatic relations. The royal historiographer was no longer committed to the celebration of the glory of the King. New frames of interpretation were needed, and in order to achieve them historians needed to redefine their sources and objects of study considering the political pragmatism contained in their works.

In order to prepare reports on specific cases or write on the most problematic episodes of the previous decades, political historians needed access to non-archived information. In the case of the Hapsburg Monarchy, the global extension of the pasts that historians had to deal with and their many and sometimes conflicting versions created a profound debate about how to write the most reliable history. In order to support the Monarchy and its enterprises of reform by means of history writing, spontaneous counselors appeared everywhere within and beyond the Monarchy. Most of them begged the councils of the Monarchy for economic compensation in exchange for their reports of recent deeds. Despite their ambition, none of them was appointed as historiographer. These givers of advice were necessary, however, for the political historians. The Monarchy's administrators tried to maintain and support those informants who were close to the historians, thus transforming the distributive justice of the king into economic compensation. As Jacob Soli has demonstrated, the political turn of history during the seventeenth century helped associate historiographical practices with the development of the state information system (Soil 120-39). In the Hapsburg Monarchy, history writing was associated definitely with state administration from the 1570s onwards. (9) Historians depended directly on administrative structures and state archives to compose their histories. (10) Testimonies were collected by state systems of information connected to the institutional display of the monarchy. The archives of the councils opened their doors to political historians who were trying to monopolize the empirical knowledge produced within the Hapsburg Monarchy in order to shape the Iberian imperial project after the union of the Crowns of Spain and Portugal in 1580 (Brendecke 35).

A man like Cervantes, who trained with a humanist like Lopez de Hoyos, must have developed his historiographical reflections in the midst of the political turn of history. His later experiences across the many worlds of the Monarchy and beyond gave him the capacity to fashion himself as one of the informants that sent their memorials in order to obtain rewards and privileges from the king (Barrera-Osorio 81). Despite this, Cervantes seems to have never committed himself to the official administration of knowledge. As will be presented in the next section of this article, his reflections about history writing relied on the uncertainties and counter-histories that appeared in the Hapsburg Monarchy during the first two decades of the seventeenth century.


At the end of the sixteenth century it was common for historians to refer to the impossibility of achieving any historical account. This was perhaps a humble manner in which to signify the impossibility of representing the great extent of the king's power, but this impossibility was also due to the complexity of the sources and the systems of information that the historian had to deal with. In the Hapsburg Monarchy, fully realized histories were composed by men like the royal historiographer Esteban de Garibay, the Jesuit Juan de Mariana (1536-1624), or the censor of Don Quijote, Antonio de Herrera, and were mainly syntheses or historical compendia.

At the local level, many histories based on antiquities challenged or complimented the whole narrative of a common history produced within the court's historiographical workshops (Kagan, "La corografia" 82). At the individual level, noble culture promoted the trend for genealogies in order to distinguish its members in the general histories of their times. The rise of forgeries and false chronicles were also a result of the doubt generated around the status of the truth throughout the sixteenth century (Garcia Arenal and Rodriguez Mediano, 171-187; Olds, 135-141). Other voices rose against the incapacity of official historians to write about present facts based on reliable accounts because of their lack of information. As just one example among many, Francisco Caro de Torres published in 1620 the Relacion de los servicios que hizo a su Magestad del Rey Don Felipe Segundo y Tercero, don Alonso de Sotomayor [...] in order to vindicate (against Lope de Vega and Antonio de Herrera) the version of the battle of Panama in which Caro de Torres's master, Alonso de Sotomayor, defeated Francis Drake (Sanchez Jimenez and Montcher).

Most of the histories written during Cervantes's life were not the product of official historians. Many of them--as the case of Caro de Torres--demonstrates were in fact counter-histories. Many times, the Monarchy's administration paid for the contractual services of other historians in order to create specific histories. The ideal of the monopoly of official history based on a historiographical dispositif was debated. Cervantes's choice to write about history was conceived as an alternative to many competitive forms of histories.

Within this sea of histories, history as a genre was also used and adapted in theatrical works, epics novels, and festivities. Caro de Torres's allusion to both Antonio de Herrera's historical account and Lope de Vega's epic novel La Dragontea regarding Drake's history demonstrate that all these adaptations of the same historical object influenced one another. The plasticity of historical culture, its social circulation, and the increase of its polemical dimension during this time helped foster a deep sense of historical relativism. The traditional eyewitnesses were no longer reliable on their own. Historians had to write their histories based on a succession of oral, written, and visual testimonies found in the street, in the archives, or during oral conversations. This diversity of sources presupposed social contacts between official historians and a long list of informers.

The extent of the sources for writing history and the problems related to the discrimination of information were clearly expressed in Don Quijote when Cervantes alluded to fact that he was used to reading any kind of paper, even the ones thrown on the street. The original version of Don Quijote was bought, following Cervantes's metahistoriographical fiction, in the street of Toledo from a young boy who was selling old papers. Cervantes complimented the list of his sources by mentioning the archives and the oral testimonies the narrator of his Don Quijote checked in La Mancha. Finally the episode of the discovery of the lead boxes of the academicians of Argamasilla that contained prophecies essentials to the development of the story, closed a long list of discoveries that synthesized the many ways of composing "una nueva y jamas vista historia" during the early decades of the seventeenth century in the Hispanic Monarchy (1.52: f. 314r).

Throughout this quest for recovering the story of Don Quijote, every object was considered as a possible testimony across which the past, even the most recent past, was currently occurring. The eyes of the historian were witnesses and critics of the "new and never seen" past as it had been condensed either into the actuality of conversations or into the archived documents. Philip Ill's royal historiographer, Atanasio de Lobera (?-1605), confessed in one of the memorials he sent in 1604 to the king about his project to pursue the writing of the general history of Spain that in the archive he conceived of himself as a witness, who with vista de ojo was watching the past happening across his readings of the documents (Lobera doc. 19). The eye of the historians, who were defined by Cervantes as secular evangelists, was a prolongation of the eye of God, which illuminated the heart of the King in order to conduct him to the peace along a path a fraternal love (Tallon 127). This idea of interior illumination demonstrated that Valdesian ideas influenced the historiography of the first part of the reign of Philip III in order to strengthen the politics of peace designed by the King's favorite, the Duke of Lerma. Ultimately, it was the opinion of the reader that would interpret the many contradictions that contributed to the history writing process and its never-ending final version (Gaylord 139). History was an open text ready to receive different influences and authorship. Cervantes used these considerations and multiplied their effects in his own works by inventing the story of the translation of the original history of Don Quijote written by Cide Hamete Benengeli. Cervantes offered his reader the right to interpret and judge a story based on many historical accounts. At the same time, these many historical accounts gave his novel a strong verisimilitude that would help Cervantes legitimate his text and ideas in the historical market of his own time in which toleration, peace, and political truth were debated.

As E. C. Riley has said, "the intellectual climate of the age in which Don Quixote was created was one where the old credulity and capacity to wonder coexisted with a nascent empiricism" (Riley 165). Riley, like Bruce Wardropper and, most recently, Susan Byrne, argues that modernity of Cervantes was due to his manner of playing with the limits between fiction and truth. Cervantes's Lucian irony and critique of history contributed to the verisimilitude of his fictions. Meanwhile, Anthony Close nuanced this interpretation by arguing that the truth of the history in Cervantes echoed the "truth of the matter" and recalled that Cervantes' work was made for entertainment (Close 99104). Cervantes's historiographical statements about history in his work were part of stories related to the politics of history that supported the Spanish enterprises of peace. Cervantes used history as a common language in order to involve his literary approach in the historiographical debate of its own time.


Confronted with both the historiographical instability of his own time and the many competing narrative styles upon which he drew and which tried to impose their own versions upon the recent past, Cervantes created a metahistoriographical discourse that accompanied most of his literary creations. This metahistoriographical discourse in Don Quijote constituted the line that the reader had to follow if he wanted to understand the inner history of the story. Like other historians of his time, Cervantes represented history in the making. In the second part of Don Quijote, references to the inner story of the fictional history increased notably and the historiographical practices of Cervantes served to vindicate its real authorship. This practice connects with the multiplication of metahistories and biographies written by historians beginning in the second half of the sixteenth century in order to justify, correct, and orient the contents of their histories following the political changes of the period. In Don Quijote, Cervantes presented the fragmentation of testimonies--various proffered by characters like the embedded narrators, the historian Cide Hamete Benengeli, and the Arabic translator--that he, as an author, had to deal with in order to offer a coherent historical account of a multidimensional story. If most historians during Cervantes's life solved the fragmentation of testimonies or their absence by privileging the political truth of their writing, Cervantes used the diversity of sources as a means to critique history writing. He presented many points of view based on many sources and witnesses and ceded to his readers the power to interpret the correct use of history and the degree of fiction in his writings (Gaylord 51). He displaced the historiographical and political debate into a literary field articulated around poetical and historical truth.

Cervantes used the relativism of historical practices to locate his narrative in an undetermined space and time. In his fiction many versions of the past coexisted even if they came from a Moorish historian, were found in the street, were held in escritorios or archives, were born of oral testimonies, or were the product of his own imagination. The timeless dimension of his stories was connected to the image of peace during his time. In this way Cervantes freed himself as a historian from the material dimension of history and its inherent limits. He proposed the use of imagination and faith when history seemed to come to an end. By doing so Cervantes reached the poetical dimension of historical truth (Strozesky 520).

Other men of letters during the period started to use the relativism inherent to the recent past to vindicate the importance of history in the support of the peace that the Monarchy was pursuing during Philip Ill's reign. Such relativism also vindicated the administration of Philip Ill's prime minister, Francisco Gomez de Sandoval-Rojas y Borja, the first Duke of Lerma. For these men, peace was the result of political accommodation and tolerance in order to create a political order articulated around a common and vernacular law. This political order would provide a common frame of behavior for the subjects of the King no matter their confessions or political affinities. It was during this particular time that Cervantes was most active and he seems to have also shown some sympathy towards the political strategy of the peace. It is relevant that one of the historians Cervantes mentioned as a good poet in his Viaje del Parnaso, Pedro Mantuano (who was known as an enemy of the Jesuit historian Juan de Mariana), was the man chosen by the Duke of Lerma to officially celebrate the dynastic alliance and friendship between France and Spain during the time of the double marriages of 1615. Many references to the contemporary peace signed by the Hapsburg Monarchy could be found in Cervantes's novels, short novels, or comedies like Don Quijote, Persiles y Sigismunda, "La espanola inglesa," or La casa de los celos as Michael Armstrong Roche has argued recently (Armstrong Roche). Cervantes died just when Lerma's historiographical patronage began to decline and he was passed over in favor of other politicians who used history as a weapon in the military conflicts that would rise in Europe after 1615. (11)

Cervantes took advantage of the historiographical hesitations of his own time. It was a time of opportunity when historiographical methods inherited from late humanism coexisted with the pragmatic needs of political history. By associating the narrator of Don Quijote as a second author of a history originally written in Arabic, who was not receiving any stipend from the King, Cervantes proposed an alternative to the political turn of history by situating his reflections about history in literary fiction.

In 1615, the publication of part two of Don Quijote vindicated the historical fiction of the whole novel. Cervantes playfully toyed with the fictional "fact" that Don Quijote, a novel presented as a new and true history, had awaked some interests beyond the Hapsburg Monarchy in particular in China. As Cervantes tells us, the Chinese Emperor wanted to articulate a whole educational system around the teaching of Cervantes's "history" translated into Chinese. During these times of relative peace in Europe, historical knowledge was considered to be a product of cultural and political exchanges, and Cervantes fashioned his most political and moral fictions in a historiographical way. By doing so, he offered to the history market of his time, (in which many narratives were competing) a new and ingenioso medium of knowledge that would delight people and teach the scholars across the globe. (12)

Cervantes's joke regarding the Emperor of China illustrated just how his historiographical enterprise was conceived at the margins of the official historical practices of this time. Indeed, Cervantes, with a huge amount of irony, mentioned the fact that the Emperor of China forgot to provide money to his ambassador in Spain with which Cervantes's services could have been contracted. The historical varnish of his stories made for entertainment, which helped him to escape the censorship of royal historiographers. Despite the fact that Cervantes was never appointed as an official historiographer, his fictions found a way to play a role in the international politics of the Hapsburg Monarchy at this time. It is not a surprise that in his aprobacion of the second part of Don Quijote, Cervantes's friend, the licenciado Marques Torres, alluded to the fact that the French embassy had been sent to Spain to celebrate the Franco-Spanish weddings in 1615, and used the fame of Cervantes and his work as a metaphor of the historical friendship between the two monarchies. In Marques Torres's aprobacion, no mention was made of the histories that circulated between the two monarchies at this time. Cervantes's fictions in this case were considered as alternative media that would ensure, more than any other history of the period, the spirit of the politics of peace that was spreading across Europe during the early seventeenth century.

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Saint Louis Univeristy, Saint Louis

(1) This article forms part of work being carried out with the support of the Investigation Project of the National Plan of I+D+i, financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, housed by the state agency, Spanish Council of Scientific Research (CSIC), under the direction of Dr. Alfredo Alvar Ezquerra, the title of which is "La escritura del recuerdo en primera persona: diarios, memorias y correspondencias de reyes, embajadores y cronistas (siglos XVI-XVII)" (numero de referencia: HAR2011-30251).

(2) Lopez de Hoyos signed this aprobacion in Madrid on July 9, 1581 for the 1586 Barcelona edition of the Chronica llamada el Triumpho de los nueve mas preciados varones de la Fama [...]. See Alvar Ezquerra [Un maestro 340).

(3) For a review of all Cervantes's preceptive ideas about history writing, see Alvar Ezquerra ("Cervantes y la comunicacion de la historia").

(4) After the peace of Vervins was signed in 1598 the French and the Hapsburg Monarchy decided to forget most of the aggressions that had occurred after the direct intervention of Philip II in the French Wars of Religion, both before and after the official declaration of war by Henri IV against Spain in 1595. In Spain, measures taken to counter the publication of histories that might offend the new Bourbon King, and these were censored. Just after the signing of the peace, the Historia [...] de los sucesos de Francia (1598), written by Philip Us new royal historiographer, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, was censored. The book was taken out of circulation within the monarchy (Montcher).

(5) Michael Gonzales argues that during the reign of Philip III political criticism against Philip II's policies was sustained by history writing. Historians received official funding to write and criticize the intervention of Philip II in France during the last decade of the sixteenth century.

(6) On this letter, see Thou (85).

(7) In the memorials sent to the Camara de Castilla by the candidates for the office of royal historiographer it was a common tactic to underline age. A man of forty years was considered mature in the art of writing as well as active. This double dimension was important considering the fact that the historian would accompany the King and witness the deeds he was then to write about. See Juan de la Puente.

(8) Membership in a religious order or any other religious affiliation was an important criterion for the appointment of this kind of historiographer. Such connections with ecclesiastical life and history ensured the Crown that the historian would have access to a network and archives not ordinarily open to secular individuals.

(9) During the reign of Philip II enterprises such as the Descripcion de los pueblos de Espana tried to solve the problem of the dispersion of the information in order to enhance a global and comprehensive writing of the composite history of the Hapsburg Monarchy. The questionnaires sent to the many parts of the kingdom of Castile and some parts of the Indies with the idea of extending the inquiry to the rest of the part of the Monarchy during the seventeenth century were not conceived as a statistic tool intended for a demographic campaign, but rather as a project of collecting testimonies from the bottom in order to write the general history of Spain (Alvar Ezquerra, "Sobre" 80). This system relied on the information given by many collaborators and the contents would be ordered and censored by historiographers. During the reign of Philip II, Ambrosio de Morales wrote his Antiguades de Espana. Although Morales recognized his failure to synthesize all the information he received, after his death, his ways of proceeding as a humanist traveler or as a state agent helped fix a model to follow for many of Spanish historians during the seventeenth century. See Montcher (144).

(10) In the middle of the sixteenth century, the humanist Juan Paez de Castro had already established the political criteria of the historian's craft in relation to the politics of history. On the "Metodo para escribir la historia," see Domingo Malvadi (18). Around 1570, theoretical approaches were put into practice by projects that claimed to write the history of Philip II. In his memorial entitled "Que su magestad debe mandar escribir su historia," the royal cosmographer, Juan Lopez de Velasco (1530-1598) presented the writing of current history as a state necessity. See also Alvar Ezquerra ("Sobre la historiografia castellana" 102).

(11) After Cervantes's death the acceleration of the polarization of historical knowledge in favor of political propaganda in Europe challenged the idea that history had to support the pacifist politics of the early seventeenth century. The pragmatic dimension of historical knowledge increased. A series of hired pens transformed history into pamphlets by working with historians and scholars who helped feed the content of their works (Valladares 787). Historical erudition and propaganda were funneled in one direction after Cervantes death.

(12) In Don Quijote, the episode of Maese Pedro underlines that any history, even one represented on stage by puppets, needed a translator for its correct communication to the public (2.26:99V).
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Author:Alvar Ezquerra, Alfredo; Montcher, Fabien
Publication:Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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