Friday, June 25, 2010

Conversi on Jacobson's Catalonia's Advocates

Daniele Conversi, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Bilbao, Spain, has published Law and Nation: The Rise of the Juristes Class and Legal Nationalism in Catalonia, which is an H-Urban review of Stephen Jacobson’s Catalonia's Advocates: Lawyers, Society, and Politics in Barcelona, 1759-1900 (Chapel Hill University of North Carolina Press, 2009), which appeared in the ASLH’s book series, Studies in Legal History. It commences:
The expansion of industrialization throughout modern Europe led to the collapse of several professions, from the local doctor to the urban artisan and entire peasant communities. But one profession stood to gain most from the modernist ordeal, reaping the rewards of new sweeping changes. As the expansion of state bureaucracy and capitalist accumulation was accompanied by the proliferation of litigations, legal professions became increasingly influential in local and state-level politics. The lawyers' weight was noticeably felt in those countries, like France and Germany, where nationalism expanded in tandem with state centralization. Within the "professional classes" (often named as the "intelligentsia"), lawyers, barristers, solicitors and other codifiers played a pivotal role in the formation of several nationalist movements throughout Europe, both in support of state centralization and in opposition to it.

Lawyers and constitutionalists played an even more central role in the formation of Catalan nationalism. Here, the abolition of regional institutions ensuing after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) failed to eradicate the primacy of the dret català (Catalan law) dating back to the seventh century. After a period of decline, its autonomy within the kingdom of Spain was brought to an end by Philip V (r. 1700-46): a royal decree (Nueva Planta, 1716) banned most Catalan institutions, laws, and customs, including the language, and imposed a uniform centralized administration. Although lawyers had reached their professional nadir under absolutism, Philip V's overhaul could not eliminate overnight the vast baggage of expertise accumulated by Catalan juristes during centuries of law-making and institution-building.

Their central role in modern Catalan politics has been assessed for the first time in English by Stephen Jacobson in his Catalonia's Advocates: Lawyers, Society, and Politics in Barcelona,
Hat tip: H-Law