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Hispanic American Historical Review 82.1 (2002) 135-137
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Les diplomates espagnols du XVIIIe siècle: Introduction et répertoire biographique (1700-1808).
Les diplomates espagnols du XVIIIe siècle: Introduction et répertoire biographique (1700-1808). By DIDIER OZANAM. In collaboration with DENISE OZANAM. Collection de la Casa de Velázquez, vol. 64 ; Collection de la Maison des Pays Ibériques, vol. 72 . Madrid: Casa de Velázquez; Bordeaux: Maison des Pays Ibériques, 1998 . Tables. Appendixes. Index. 578 pp. Paper.
For well over a generation, specialists in political, diplomatic, and institutional history have underlined the usefulness of a prosopographical method of investigation --the systematic gathering of biographical information on all the personnel in, say, a department of government or on groups of individuals with a special economic or social relationship during a given span of time. With such data in hand, the historian can trace common features (and occasional anomalies) in the background, education, and career trajectories of scores or hundreds of individuals, leading to interpretative analyses, generalizations, and new paths for future research.
Didier Ozanam's work, Les diplomats espagnols du XVIIIe siècle, is an outstanding example of such research and exposition, truly a model of its kind. The main body of the book consists of 550 entries on Spain's diplomatic and consular corps from 1700 to 1808 . Each entry includes the official's name, date, and place of birth and death, details on his parents and wife (if married), names of children, and stages in his career. In addition, the author furnishes the principal archival and bibliographical references, when available, for each individual. Four appendixes follow: an alphabetical listing of all the posts established by the Spanish crown together with the names of the ambassadors, envoys, and secretaries attached to those posts; a list of consulates and of those who served in them; a list of those consulates that were given governmental subsidies instead of simply living off a percentage of revenue from the local port; and, finally, a list of the known spouses of all the diplomats in the survey.
While the biographical directory is a monumental achievement, it is complemented by a splendid introduction of 125 pages that effectively links the main threads of research findings--including, for instance, the prevalence of Italian family backgrounds of many diplomats and the pattern of virtually dynastic control of consular posts by local families in a region over the course of generations--to crisp interpretation, often with the use of tables. The author writes clearly, with no obfuscatory jargon to mar the thrust of his narrative. The many citations from letters and a variety of archival material are translated into French, with the full text of the Spanish original at the foot of a given page. [End Page 135]
Ozanam, an accomplished scholar who has published a variety of studies on eighteenth-century Spain and the former director of the Casa de Velázquez (the French cultural institute and research library in Madrid), displays a masterful grasp of archival resources as well as the pertinent bibliography. He enlivens his introduction and many of the biographical entries with a delightful assortment of anecdotes. One of my favorite episodes occurred in 1797 when Prime Minister Godoy appointed a thirteen-year-old boy, Antonio Fernández de Astiz y Urrutia, to the post of agregado (a junior official) in the Spanish embassy in Paris. While the appointment undoubtedly satisfied a loyal friend in Godoy's political patronage network, it stupefied the ambassador, the marquis del Campo, who wrote a long letter to Godoy, noting that the boy was unprepared to serve at that time. Instead, he proposed that the young man receive education and that he be closely supervised "in the most irreligious, the most immoral, and most dissolute place in all of Europe." To place Urrutia in a private school, however, opened up all sorts of risks: "In many of them religion is completely neglected; if practiced, it is in accord with the wishes of parents or of...