"Lazy, Improvident People": Myth and Reality in the Writing of Spanish History

by Ruth MacKay
     
 

Since the early modern era, historians and observers of Spain, both within the country and beyond it, have identified a peculiarly Spanish disdain for work, especially manual labor, and have seen it as a primary explanation for that nation's alleged failure to develop like the rest of Europe. In "Lazy, Improvident People," the historian Ruth MacKay examines the

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Overview

Since the early modern era, historians and observers of Spain, both within the country and beyond it, have identified a peculiarly Spanish disdain for work, especially manual labor, and have seen it as a primary explanation for that nation's alleged failure to develop like the rest of Europe. In "Lazy, Improvident People," the historian Ruth MacKay examines the origins of this deeply ingrained historical prejudice and cultural stereotype. MacKay finds these origins in the ilustrados, the Enlightenment intellectuals and reformers who rose to prominence in the late eighteenth century. To advance their own, patriotic project of rationalization and progress, they disparaged what had gone before. Relying in part on late medieval and early modern political treatises about "vile and mechanical" labor, they claimed that previous generations of Spaniards had been indolent and backward. Through a close reading of the archival record, MacKay shows that such treatises and dramatic literature in no way reflected the actual lives of early modern artisans, who were neither particularly slothful nor untalented. On the contrary, they behaved as citizens, and their work was seen as dignified and essential to the common good. MacKay contends that the ilustrados' profound misreading of their own past created a propagandistic myth that has been internalized by subsequent intellectuals. MacKay's is thus a book about the notion of Spanish exceptionalism, the ways in which this notion developed, and the burden and skewed vision it has imposed on Spaniards and outsiders.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801473142
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
06/28/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Pt. 1Seventeenth-century Castile
Prologue : Castile and craftsmen in the early modern period11
1The republic of labor20
2The life of labor72
Pt. 2Las Luces
Prologue : work in the eighteenth century111
3The new thinking120
4The new work ethic163
Pt. 3"The problem of Spain"
Prologue : the short nineteenth century and the empire201
5A nation punished207
6The narrative245

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