The transformations wrought by the monarchy in the noble tension here between a tacit essentialism and scholarly order, mostly by selling its attributes, made such claims caution is disconcerting. Regardless, I am not per- decreasingly credible, Montesquieu then scrambled suaded that this survey, of all books, should venture a matters further by arguing that virtue and honor were chronological leap to focus on tiny, ultra-marginal opposed principles, only appropriate in different types groups.
It would have been preferable to explore the of state. He left nobles, the mainstay of monarchical history of key communities of early modern conversos states, with honor, defined by him as love of self. But in the Qttoman Empire, Spanish North Africa, the Ca- virtue, or love of country, was for republics, where cit- ribbean, New Spain, and Brazil—where identity was izens were equal. Both sides in the debate over com- very much at issue. A main problem with the book is that it does not The Abbe Coyer argued that if trade ceased to be deemed dishonorable, nobles could solve their eco- grapple with the very concept of "identity" as a category and object of historical analysis.
The introduction doesnomic problems and become virtuous citizens too. The not identify objective and subjective elements of "iden- Chevalier d'Arc replied that the definition of honor tity" and tlius cannot provide guiding hypotheses as to should be tightened, not loosened, to make the nobilify the relationship between them. There is no precise ex- an ascetic and profoundly virtuous military caste. No planation of the key categories of "ethnicify," "nation,"sooner had these exchanges died down than the defeats and "religion," or of the ligaments between all three; noof the Seven Years' War plunged the nation into pa- unified, in-depth analysis of what the church, the Ibe- triotic angst.
Much of it continued to be articulated, rian crowns, rabbis, and the peninsular Inquisitions right down to the prerevolutionary crisis, through dis- meant and of what the book itself means by "Jewish" cussion of the role to be played by the nobility, and its and "Christian"; and no overarching interpretation of values, in the nation's revival. And it was in the course the historical evolution of these definitions in medievalof these debates that voices were first heard asking and early modern theory and practice.
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A principal con- whether a nobility was needed at all. Qne senses that the rise of anti-nobilism interpretation, is that conversos anchored their self-def- initions chiefly on notions of ethnic difference devel- might once have been his primary project, but that ex- oped within Iberian milieux and adapted in response to plicit and unequivocal hostility to nobilify before diverse diasporic conditions.
This welcome insight proved surprisingly and disappointingly? Patriotism thus ration. The central argument, therefore, arrives late emerged as his major quarry. In pursuing it, he tends to and does not overcome the overall impression of an un- allow the anti-noble scent to go cold. It resurfaces in the finished historical analysis lagging behind an otherwise s with the usual suspects, such as Les Liaisons dan- worthwhile chronicle of events and attendant dilem- gereuses , The Marriage of Figaro , and the great scandals over courtier corruption.
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