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  • Historia crítica de la vida y reinado de Fernando II de Aragón
  • Christine Shaw
Historia crítica de la vida y reinado de Fernando II de Aragón. By Jaime Vicens Vives. Introduction by Miquel A. Marín Gelabert. [Colección "Historiadores de Aragón," 3.](Zaragoza: Institucíon "Fernando el Católico," Cortes de Aragón. 2006). Pp. cxx, 698. E30,00. ISBN 84-7820-882-8.)

This volume has been published not so much as an addition to the recent spate of books on Ferdinand (Fernando) of Aragon, as one of a number of works by earlier generations of Spanish historians that are being reissued. [End Page 351] Miquel Marín Gelabert's long introduction is concerned with placing this book in the contexts of Jaime Vicens Vives's work and publications and of the Francoist era, rather than in the context of studies of Ferdinand and his reign; the bibliography he provides is on historiography, and on Vicens Vives, not on the king.

In this introduction,Gelabert stresses how anomalous this book was among the publications and the scholarly and professional interests of Vicens Vives during the last decade before his premature death in 1960.Vicens Vives's doctoral thesis had been on Ferdinand and the city of Barcelona, and he had also written books on Ferdinand's father Juan II, and on Ferdinand as king of Sicily during the lifetime of his father. Historia crítica de la vida y reinado de Fernando II de Aragón deals with his career only up to 1481. In his original introduction,Vicens Vives described it as the first of four projected volumes on Ferdinand's life and times, concentrating on him as king of Aragon. It won the valuable "Fernando el Católico" prize awarded in 1952 to celebrate the quin-centenary of the king's birth, and it seems to have been expected that he would produce the other three volumes as well.These, however, were never completed, indeed do not seem to have ever been started. Publication of what would have been the first part was delayed until 1962, after Vicens Vives's death.Although he spent years correcting several sets of proofs for it, he did not really update it to take account of the many publications on Ferdinand that appeared in the 1950s.The book remained one largely based on archival documents, and on the works of Vicens Vives himself and of his pupils and other scholars in his circle. In fact, he had lost interest in the king, in medieval history, and in political and institutional history; his current research was on modern and contemporary, social and economic, history.

Like some other works by this distinguished historian, this book has largely been forgotten. Little reference is made to it in works on Ferdinand, or in assessments of Vicens Vives, or general accounts of the historiography of the Francoist era.Vicens Vives himself thought that it would soon be obsolete, and Gelabert makes no claim for it as a significant contribution to the literature on Ferdinand. This is to do the book an injustice. A conventional, painstaking chronicle of the first thirty years of Ferdinand's life, based largely on documents from the archives of the Crown of Aragon,may not be of interest to historiographers, but it does constitute a mine of well-documented information, put together by a great historian who was an expert on the period. The detailed chronological account of political, institutional, and diplomatic history up to 1481, is followed by a final chapter on Ferdinand's household and court; the bulk of the appendix of documents is taken up with a list (about one-hundred pages long) of the officials of his court.

Modern historians might be inclined to dissent from some of his interpretations of the evidence, if not his whole approach, but they can still find much of value in this book. It is an unjustly neglected work, whose republication is [End Page 352] a welcome reintroduction to the burgeoning literature on Ferdinand and on late fifteenth-century Spain. [End Page 353]

Christine Shaw
University of Cambridge


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