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The writer Elvira Roca Barea regrets that, traditionally, the approaches to the character of Philip II have been made to subject him “to a moral judgment” and that only some figures such as the historian Rafael Altamira (1866-1951) have fought against the image of the monarch as “psychopath”.
Roca Barea, author of ‘Imperiophobia and Black Legend’, among other books, presents this Thursday in Malaga the reissue of Altamira’s work ‘Essay on Philip II, Man of State’, which has been published by the Gadir publishing house.
He highlights in an interview that Altamira “has always been forgotten, despite his enormous international relevance, that he drafted the statutes of the International Tribunal in The Hague, he was a pro-European ahead of his time and a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.”
He was also the one who “developed the concept of Hispanophobia, and did not coin, but did popularize, the expression ‘black legend’, which would be the one that would later make a fortune.”
“He is a pioneer in the study of this complex world of insane arguments against the history of the Empire,” says Roca Barea, who highlights that the now republished book was originally published in 1950 during his exile in Mexico, “when the dominant vision was still of Philip II is that of the Demon of the Noon».
With this work, “he takes Felipe II out of that gloomy complex and all that gloomy and dark salad and places him in a position of important historical figure, on the road to normality.”
Because Roca Barea qualifies Altamira as “a normalizer of the History of Spain”, who, like other exiles such as Francisco Guerra Pérez-Carral, did “a very important job around the black legend to correct gigantic errors of appreciation”.
In the case of Guerra Pérez-Carral, he focused on the study “of the epidemiology in America and identified most of the diseases that spread there and that caused an enormous mortality that later has turned into a genocide.”
«The argument of Hispanophobia is consolidated, and you realize what seems to be an incontrovertible fact. These exiled men did much more than the Franco regime, which did nothing, to try to lift the rugs of the black legend».
That image of Felipe II as “Demon of the South” was “the one that was known internationally and the one given by the English Hispanists, who were the ones who had dealt with the character the most.”
«Still today, when one gets a Hispanist card in England, the first thing is to do a biography of Felipe II. It is a classic, but this has been the case since the 18th century”, says Roca Barea.
When he published this book, Altamira also edited the Ordinances of discoveries and new population of America of 1573, which in 1950 were still in the Archivo de Indias “unpublished, without a modern edition.”
“They are the Constitution of America until the viceroyalties are fragmented, and they establish not only that you have to be pious with the Indian, but also the rules with which that immense territory has to be governed, how a city is founded, the administration of justice , taxes, urban planning, how the arrival of missionaries is admitted or the control of trips to America». Altamira proposes in his book to make a biographical portrait of Philip II and place him as “a statesman, probably the most important of his time.” Roca Barea regrets that “everything that is not a black legend is systematically accused of being a pink legend, when you do not place the character in a negative perspective and in an angle of fanaticism.” «Altamira wonders why, when you approach this character, you automatically have to make a moral judgment, when he is a great ruler. If you approach Louis XIV or Winston Churchill, do you make a moral judgment? », He wonders.
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Felipe II seen as a statesman