Providentialism in Early Modern Catholic Iberia: Competing Influences of Hebrew Political Traditions

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Abstract: Half a century ago, in a debate over the shaping of Hispanic history and identity, Américo Castro argued that Iberian providential ideologies had their roots in Hebraic political traditions introduced into Iberian Catholic culture by conversos. This article presents both Castro’s position and alternative approaches and argues that while conversos indeed promoted early modern Iberian providentialism, they were joined by anti-converso elements. The narrative proposed here assumes the existence of two competing versions of Iberian Catholic providentialism: the first was ethnically and culturally inclusive, deeply imbued with Pauline theology; the second was exclusive, influenced primarily by an interpretation of the Old Testament idea of an elected people. While converso and pro-converso providentialism endorsed the former, anticonverso elements promoted the latter. Through an examination of the complex relationship between conversos and ideas of providentialism in early modern Iberia, I reconsider assertions regarding Old Testament origins of medieval and early modern European national discourses.

Biography: Claude (Dov) B. Stuczynski is a Senior Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University’s Department of General History. His main fields of research are Portuguese Converso phenomenon, and the first encounters between Europeans and Amerindians—specifically, the relationship between religion and politics in Medieval and Early Modern periods—and he has written a number of books, articles and reviews on these subjects. Stuczynski’s current projects include preparing a study of the theological-political dimension of the Converso phenomenon (what he calls “The Marrano Paulinian Moment”), and writing a book on Father Bartolomé de Las Casa’s defense on behalf of the Amerindians in XVIth century Spanish America, to be published in Hebrew.

Volume 3, Number 4 (Fall 2008) pp. 377-395