The Spain that was intact during the explorations to the New World (specifically that of Christopher Columbus in 1492) was a Spain vastly different from what it had been a mere couple of decades pre-exploration. This "new" Spain is actualized by the union of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469.
Before the marriage of the two major kingdoms of Spain (Aragon and Castile), Spain was in near anarchy. Weak kings and small local communities of feudal rule (medieval systems of local government, a feudal lord ruled over the small population of his lands) and city laws made for a divided and powerless country. The common person was in constant fear of his/her own life and the absence of any moderating force kept the country in turmoil. From about 1280-1480 the region of Spain was broken up into various provinces (Medieval kingdoms) all of which had different rulers who refused to break down any boundaries in favor of a unified Spain.
With the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand came unification, order, and royal laws to replace the opposing local ones. Isabella and Ferdinand (especially Isabella) worked energetically towards bringing the whole country under royal law and establishing strict justice to all parts of the country. They sent soldiers to the outer provinces (Galicia and Seville) that were still ruled by feudal lords and enforced order (in sometimes other than humane methods). The royal police (vigilant police) were so effective that thousands of criminals fled to Portugal. They also implemented a system of "keeping the peace" called the Santa Hermandad. Their main objective was to supervise the roads and countryside and bring to justice an...
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...ut to the New World, but much of what Spain had been for so long produced a dismantled and torn figure who set out to influence the "new" cultures. Some had lived in fair and democratic systems, some under viscous tyrants; some had been favored and tolerated and some persecuted and hated. The disarray of Spain was not cured in the mere moments between unity and colonization of new lands, and the Spaniard had no chance to heal himself of the discontentment and learn a new system of government and tolerance (although that did come much later in Spain) before sending himself off to influence the rise and fall of distant cultures.
Fuentes, Carlos. The Buried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Mariejol, Jean Hippolyte. The Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella. New Jersey:
Rutgers University Press, 1961.
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