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Roots of empire: State formation and the politics of timber access in early modern Spain, 1556--1759

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Author: John Thomas Wing
During the early modern period, Spain's empire extended into parts of five continents, separated by vast stretches of water. Spain depended on wooden ocean-going vessels to connect and defend its imperial holdings. Timber supplies, therefore, were essential to the continued functioning of one of the largest empires in history. However, Spain had a very limited timber resource base on which various sectors of society depended. Beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century, the Spanish state set in motion a process of territorialization to control access to forest resources for naval shipbuilding, affecting state and local relations, the politics of resource accessibility, and forest management practices all over Spain. This dissertation analyzes this process over the course of two centuries, explores how the Spanish crown met the challenges of local resistance and environmental scarcity to maintain its naval power, and it ends with an analysis of the creation and implementation of Spain's first national forestry code in 1748.

Table of Contents Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………………….i Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………..ii List of Figures………………………………………………….………………………..iv 1 – Introduction………………………………………………………………………..…1 2 – A New State Forestry for a New Global Age…………………………………….…26 3 – Growth and Persistence of Habsburg State Forestry in the Seventeenth Century..…71 4 – Internal Expansion, Forest Reconnaissance, and Dynastic State Territoriality under the First Bourbon…………………………………………………………….....124 5 – State Forestry Reforms during the Reign of Fernando VI, 1746-1759……….…....166 General Conclusion…………………………………………………………………….215 Bibliography………………………………………………………………………....…221

iv List of Figures Figure 1: Jorge Setara’s map of the forest inspection in Catalonia and Valencia, 1589...67 Figure 2: Partial view of the map of Juan Valdés y Castro’s reconnaissance mission in the Ebro River network, 1740………………………………………………….…..168 Figure 3: Demonstration of pruning methods, 1773………………………………...…180

1 Chapter 1 – Introduction

Early Modern State Formation and Territoriality After comparing data from Japan, Burma, Siam, Vietnam, France, and Russia, historian Victor Lieberman observed a “little noted Eurasian pattern between c.1450 and 1830 whereby localized societies in widely separated regions coalesced into larger units – politically, culturally, and commercially.” 1 In each case, he found that they “sought to strengthen their extractive, judicial, and military functions, and systems of provincial control.” If one also considers states in other continents, such as the Sa’did state of Morocco and the Aztec and Incan empires in the Western Hemisphere, this coalescence occurred in different states from all over the globe. Population growth and increased international trade helped provide a dynamic economic base for such states, which also helped create greater military strength. During the early modern era, “in every world region, centralizing states building their military strength attained new territorial extent and new capabilities.” 2 As the scale of operations of these states grew, the costs of obtaining and maintaining weaponry, fortifications, armies, and navies grew as well, favoring the largest and wealthiest states. The similarities between these and other powerful early modern states can only be discussed in very broad terms, since early modern states came in many different forms. The size and organization of the Netherlands, for example, differed dramatically from that of Mughal India, but the fact that such processes of state consolidation really were

1 Cited from John F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 23. Also see Victor Lieberman, Beyond Binary Histories: Re-Imagining Eurasia to c. 1830 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999). 2 Richards, 24.

2 global in scope has helped to refine the narrative of the rise of the West. Europe was not the only world region to develop devastating gunpowder technology or ocean-going sailing ships, for example. It was not the only world region that produced expansionist, colonizing states. In the early modern era, the Ottoman Empire, the Muscovy Empire, the Mughal Empire, Morocco’s Sa’did dawla (state), the Qing Empire, the Safavid Empire under Shah Abbas, and Tokugawa Japan expanded centralized power and consolidated new territories under their authority with the help of artillery. 3

Studies on the rise of state power around the globe have focused on instruments of finance, war technologies, and techniques for mobilizing personnel. 4 These states depended on armies to defend it, and they paid their armies by utilizing increasingly effective methods of tax collection. The proliferation of bureaucracies helped to extend state power by organizing the collection of taxes and the recruitment of soldiers. Other typical institutional indicators of early modern state formation include “the codification of laws, the transition from a government based on personal ties and clientage networks to one based on impersonal, centralized power, and the development of territorial states with precisely defined borders, jurisdictions, and political objectives.” 5 These have been the traditional subjects of state formation.

3 S.E. Finer, The History of Government from the Earliest Times, Vol. 3 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1065. 4 David Abernethy, The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires, 1415-1980 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); Michael W. Doyle, Empires (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986); Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 (2 nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); James D. Tracy, Emperor Charles V, Impresario of War: Campaign Strategy, International Finance, and Domestic Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). 5 Karl Appuhn, “Inventing Nature: Forests, Forestry, and State Power in Renaissance Venice,” The Journal of Modern History, v. 72, n. 4 (Dec., 2000), 863.

3 The ways in which these states exploited the natural resources of their territory to maintain or enhance state power has received less attention. In a recent study, John Richards analyzed the impacts that early modern states had on the natural environment, and drew some early conclusions. He identified four historical processes at work, including “intensified human land use along settlement frontiers, biological invasions, intensified commercial hunting or the ‘world hunt,’ and energy and resource scarcities in core areas.” 6 His basic premise for this book was, “If more capable and effective states sustained and encouraged economic production in the early modern world, this meant in turn that human impact on the natural environment would be felt at a level and at a global scale never seen before.” 7 The case studies that he included indicate that early modern scholars have already done some very important work, 8 but Richards also left room for many more questions and much more research. Modern day concerns with environmental degradation have led many people to seek historical origins of such crises. Environmental historians have focused most of their attention on problems associated with industrialization and global capitalism, that is, on human and environment relations after about 1750. Important subjects include some of the more visible problems in society, such as pollution, desertification, and deforestation. 9 The success of such studies has helped sustain environmental history as a

6 Richards, 4. 7 Ibid., 57. 8 Examples are from Taiwan, China, Japan, the British Isles, Russia, South Africa, the West Indies, Mexico, Brazil, the Antilles, Eastern North America, Siberia, and the northern oceans. 9 J.R. McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000); Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930’s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979); Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1962).

4 small but actively growing historical subfield of its own. 10 Some historians look back further, not necessarily to understand the immediate causes of modern environmental crises, but to understand deeper historical trends such as changing perceptions of nature over time, the role of human activity on historical landscape change, and historical deforestation, for a few examples. 11

More recently, scholars in geography, anthropology, and the environmental sciences have explored the intersection of state power, resource access, and territorial control, the dynamics of which have had tremendous impacts on environmental decision- making, on the allocation of vital natural resources, and even on the ways that people identify and define environmental problems. 12 This approach to environmental studies is still relatively new in the social sciences, and has not attracted much attention from historians of the pre-industrial, or early modern environment. However, the fact that most of this scholarship has taken state power as its main source of analysis bodes well for early modern historians interested in similar questions regarding resource accessibility and state formation. Such questions are crucial to understanding more about state goals

10 The American Society for Environmental (ASEH) history was formed in 1977. It holds annual conferences and publishes the journal Environmental History. Environmental history panels appear regularly in several other history organizations’ conferences such as the American Historical Association. There are several international environmental history organizations as well, including the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH), which was founded in 1999. 11 Gerhard Jaritz and Verena Winiwarter, “On the Perception of Nature in a Renaissance Society,” in Mikulas Teich, Roy Porter and Bo Gustafsson, eds. Nature and Society in Historical Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 91-111; Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1995); Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: A History of the Modern Sensibility (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983); Clarence Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967). 12 Ramachandra Guha, The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Nancy Lee Peluso, Rich Forests, Poor People: Resource Control and Resistance in Java (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); Peter Vandergeest, "Mapping Nature: Territorialization of Forest Rights in Thailand," Society & Natural Resources (1996); Mahesh Rangarajan, Fencing the Forest: Conservation and Ecological Change in India’s Central Provinces 1860-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

5 and motivations, territorial control, natural resource management, and environmental change. The dynamic process of state formation in the early modern world, as pointed out by Lieberman, presents many opportunities for this new research and for future comparisons based on issues of environmental management within these states. One theoretical foundation for the study of the intersection of state power and natural resources is human territoriality, defined by geographer Robert David Sack as “the attempt by an individual or a group to affect, influence, or control people, phenomena, and relationships, by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area.” 13 The broad definition purposefully allows for studying territoriality in a wide variety of contexts and scales. In his study of human territoriality, Sack draws examples from parenting, office work, primitive societies, the United States government, and the Catholic Church. Territoriality operates by proscribing or prescribing specific behavior and activities within spatial boundaries. Sack argues that territoriality occurs through three interdependent relationships. First, it must involve a form of classification by area. Second, its conditions, such as its territorial boundaries and its restrictions on activities, must be communicated somehow. Third, it must “involve an attempt at enforcing control over access to the area and to things within it, or to things outside of it by restraining those within.” 14

13 Robert David Sack, Human Territoriality: Its Theory and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 19. 14 Ibid., 21-22.

6 Studies of territoriality in early modern states appear most often in the scholarship of international relations. 15 Hannes Lacher, for example, studies the historical formation of state systems. He challenges the widely accepted idea that the state system that resulted from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is essentially the modern one still in operation today. He argues for a distinction between territorial state formation in the early modern era, or “absolutist territoriality,” and “capitalist territoriality.” The two operated using fundamentally different “forms of organizing the relations of domination and exploitation – or what may be called the social relations of sovereignty.” 16 Capitalism exists today in a system of distinct sovereign states not because of anything inherent in capitalism, “but because capitalism came to exist in and through the system of territorial sovereignties created through the process of political accumulation.” 17 While identifying a territoriality particular to the early modern era, Lacher maintains inter-state and inter- dynastic relations as the basis of his analysis. Peter Vandergeest and Nancy Lee Peluso, adapting Sack’s theory of human territoriality to their study of forest management in the modern state of Thailand, coined the term territorialization to describe the political process that established control of forests as well as of the people who used them. While state territoriality is linked frequently to the demarcation of external boundaries and modern international relations, Vandergeest and Peluso are concerned with “the internal territorialization of state power

15 Michael Burgess and Hans Vollaard, eds., State Territoriality and European Integration (New York: Routledge, 2006); Hannes Lacher, Beyond Globalization: Capitalism, Territoriality, and the International Relations of Modernity (London: Routledge, 2006). 16 Lacher, 80. 17 Ibid., 98.

7 and its relation to the allocation and realization of resource access rights.” 18 By focusing on the process of internal territorialization, they analyze state-society relations regarding natural resource accessibility, and connect political actions and the rise of state power. Since they study modern state power, territoriality is based on abstract (Cartesian) space, divisible into discrete units of measurement and visible through modern mapping technologies. Certainly, internal territorialization of a modern state operates somewhat differently than one did during a period of state formation in an early modern and pre- industrial context, but such differences have not been explored explicitly. The theoretical approaches of Sack, Lacher, Vandergeest, and Peluso allow historians of early modern states to take a new approach to studying state motivations and goals by focusing on issues of gaining and maintaining access to natural resources. The operations of early modern states were heavily restricted in their activity by geographical realities, technological limitations of the time, and traditional social structures. Any study of territorialization must consider these factors.

Introducing Territoriality and State Forestry in Early Modern Spain I incorporate the theories of territoriality and internal territorialization into my study of early modern Spanish state forestry. The Spanish state’s need for timber, primarily for shipbuilding, led to closer involvement in forest management and forest conservation beginning in the sixteenth century. Its ability to gain and maintain access to forest resources was conditioned by the geography of Spain and its geo-political position vis-à-vis other states, continents, and oceans. Just as importantly, the crown (a term I use

18 Peter Vandergeest and Nancy Lee Peluso, “Territorialization and State Power in Thailand,” Theory and Society, v. 24, n. 3 (Jun., 1995), 387.

8 synonymously with “the state”) had to maintain the social order, and not drastically alter traditional forest management systems. Therefore, the crown’s efforts to control its forests faced social as well as geographic restrictions. At times, such restrictions forced the crown to look to foreign sources of timber, particularly for masts, but the crown continued to prefer and promote domestic self-sufficiency. The combined goals and practices of the crown that aimed to conserve trees for naval use in this period are what I refer to as state forestry. At times, I use the phrase “dynastic state forestry,” since Spain’s foreign policies often formed in relation to dynastic rivalries, and its foreign policy heavily influenced its forestry policy. Initially, state forestry operated in a small fraction of Spanish woodlands. Naval timber had to be easily accessible, and the crown could not afford to transport wood much farther than a few leagues from the sea or a navigable river, since overland transport could be costly. 19 The crown managed forests for specifically naval interests, so certain tree species received special consideration. For example, oak trees were the most valuable species, since they provided sturdy and durable timber, suitable for the construction of hulls. As a result, coastal forests became the spaces in which state forestry operated, altering the social and political relations regarding forest access and use in these areas. The timber needs of the state and the environmental conditions at the local level, therefore, shaped the territoriality of Spanish state forestry. Antonio Ortega Santos discusses how forest management models may undergo a series of transitions over time, changing the basic function that forests serve in society. An example of a change in forest functionality includes a transition from an integrated

19 A league was a unit of distance that a person or a horse could walk in about 1 hour, approximately 3.5 miles or 5.5 kilometers.

9 agrarian (agrosilvopastoral) system that serves a variety of local interests to a commercial management system that transfers surplus to a wider national or international market. Ortega says, “Consequently, changes in the functionality of woodlands are decisive for understanding their [biological and economic] evolution.” 20 I argue that the political imposition of state forestry in the early modern period altered the functionality of Spain’s coastal woodlands. With the presence of royal oversight beginning in the sixteenth century, forest management concerns shifted from local, mostly domestic supply needs to mostly naval shipbuilding needs, which included privileging the forest spaces and tree species best suited for naval access and use. The goal of state forestry was to gain and maintain primary access to all suitable forests within economical range of Spanish shipyards. To gain primacy over the trees, and over what people could do to them in the forests, resulted in a process of internal territorialization that slowly enhanced state power and altered the functionality of coastal woodlands. This dissertation is an examination of this process.

Guernica Oak and Galleon Hull During act one, scene one of playwright Tirso de Molina’s (1571-1648) La prudencia en la mujer (1633), set in the fourteenth century, three nobles each discuss their desire to marry the queen-regent, making their case against the other two. At one point, don Enrique, the brother of the deceased king, Alfonso X, attacks another noble’s Basque heritage, calling the region rustic and poor, and its people vulgar. He even insults

20 Antonio Ortega Santos, “Commons and Rural Communities: An Environmental History of Conflicts in [a] Mediterranean Ecosystem,” presented at Common Ground, Converging Gazes: Integrating the Social and the Environmental in History, International Conference held at l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, September 11-13, 2008, 4.

10 the symbol of Basque identity – the Guernica oak tree. The Basque under attack, don Diego López de Haro, the Conde de Bermeo, responds by defending his land and people, saying the Guernica oak itself protects his people from the tyranny of royal authority, implying that the tree is more than just a symbol. 21 Historically, the oak of Guernica had been the assembly point in Vizcaya where the local elders insisted that, as soon as a new monarch ascended the throne of Castile, he or she or a representative had to swear to uphold Vizcaya’s traditional laws, or fueros. This practice is what gave the tree its symbolic power, and is the reason why don Diego would not allow a Castilian noble like don Enrique to disparage it. Another playwright and poet, Lope de Vega (1562-1635), called the Armada Invencible a “forest of the sea” in a sonnet that glorified the “enterprise of England” of 1588. 22 In the poetry and artwork of the time, the vessels of Spain’s maritime Golden Age, particularly the galleons, symbolized the wealth and power of the monarchy. They were floating fortresses and symbols of defense against hostile and heretical enemies. They served as Spain’s commercial and military lifeline in this period, and even as the galleon gave way to other types of vessels in the eighteenth century, naval power still

21 Tirso de Molina, La Prudencia en la Mujer (1633), retrieved on May 3, 2009 from http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/12149419729037162098435/p0000001.htm#1. “Don Enrique: Vos, caballero pobre, cuyo / Estado cuatro silvestres son, toscos y rudos, / montes de hierro, para el vil arado, / hidalgos por Adán, como él desnudos. / Adonde en vez de Baco sazonado, / manzanos llenos de groseros nudos dan / mosto insulso, siendo silla rica, / en vez de trono, el árbol de Garnica….Don Diego: Infantes, de mi Estado la aspereza / Conserva limpia la primera gloria / que la dio, en vez del Rey, naturaleza / sin que sus rayas pase la vitoria. / Cuatro bárbaros tengo por vasallos, / a quien Roma jamás conquistar pudo, / que sin armas, sin muros, sin caballos, / libres conservan su valor desnudo. / El árbol de Garnica ha conservado / la antigüedad que ilustra a sus señores, / sin que tiranos le hayan deshojado, / ni haga sombra a confesos ni a traidores. / En su tronco, no en silla real sentado, / nobles, puesto que pobres electores / tan sólo un señor juran, cuyas leyes / libres conservan de tiranos reyes.” 22 Lope de Vega, “A la Jornada de Inglaterra, Soneto XLVI,” Rimas (1602), retrieved on May 3, 2009 from http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/13527274323929275754491/p0000001.htm?marca=A %20la%20jornada%20de%20inglaterra#238.

11 depended on Spanish timber. Galleons’ hulls were made of Spanish oak trees. Forests, by extension, became important and valuable sites for the preservation of Spanish power. The Guernica oak and the galleon hull were two political symbols made of the same material, but they represent two very different forms of territoriality. Guernica’s oak tree represented the interests of the local scale. As the Basque lawmakers’ assembly point, it represented the importance of the local decision-making process in determining regulations of resource use. 23 On the other hand, the galleon symbolized interests on a national or international scale. As the vessel that protected kingdom and empire, it represented the might of the Spanish state. However, rather than a simple dichotomy, these two symbols also point to the overlapping and complicated relationship that existed between the crown and the forest communities of Spain. Guernica is in the Basque province Vizcaya, which is near the coast and is well forested. Many of its people made their living by fishing and, at times, by serving the crown in the navy. Likewise, the crown continued to reconfirm the fueros of Vizcaya each reign, in part because it needed vizcaínos to serve in its navy and to build its vessels. 24 The crown also knew it could not completely restrict forest communities

23 The oak tree remains a symbol of Basque identity to the present day; it is the subject of its unofficial anthem, it is depicted at the center of several Basque coats of arms, and it is an emblem of the Basque nationalist party. In 1810, William Wordsworth wrote a poem about the tree where “those lofty lawgivers meet, Peasant and lord in their appointed seat, Guardian’s of Biscay’s ancient liberty.” There have been four “Guernica oak” trees since the fourteenth century. After one tree dies, another one, grown from the old one’s acorns, is transplanted to the location where the old one once stood. The first one, “el Padre” lived until the middle of the eighteenth century. Then, “el Viejo” stood from 1742 until 1892. The third tree survived the bombing of Guernica in 1937, but died after a 2004 heat wave. Currently, a tree that had been sown in 1986 and planted at the traditional assembly site in 2005 now stands. 24 In addition to Vizcaya, the Basque region consisted of two other provinces, Guipúzcoa and Álava. All three were part of the Kingdom of Castile. Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa are strongly maritime, whereas Álava is more inland and terrestrial.

12 from using forest resources; to prevent a population from gaining access to its primary fuel and building supplies would have generated unwanted social unrest. The Basque region was not the only region in Spain that was well forested and well protected with local privileges. Catalonia, for example, contained many of the forests used to build the galleys of the Mediterranean. The crown and Catalonia struck a similar balance of interests as in the Basque region. Municipalities in other provinces in the forested regions of northern Spain, such as Galicia, Asturias, and Cantabria, traditionally managed their forests without much involvement from the crown. Also, forest management goals on the local and state levels were not uniform. At the local level, farmers and shepherds competed for land. Church and mill construction projects competed for timber. Pig farmers, tanners, coopers, and all sorts of craftsmen sought a wide range of forest products to earn their livelihood. Likewise, officials in the central government disagreed often about allocating resources for the navy. They had to balance the expenses and interests of the army, the court, and the bureaucracy at the same time. So, rather than serving as an indication of two sides that faced off in direct competition over control of forests, the Guernica oak and galleon hull together represent a range of interests that coexisted and struggled over scarce resources in early modern Spain. I aim to examine the internal territorialization of Spanish state forestry within this context of forests as sites of multiples uses. There are no exhaustive studies of early modern Spanish state forestry, but Spain’s historical position as one of Europe’s first trans-oceanic empires and the largest and most powerful European state in the sixteenth century warrants a closer look at the ways in which the crown gained access to and

13 utilized its natural resources. Spanish naval power waned in the seventeenth century, especially in relation to the rising powers of France and England. Due in large part to this transition, scholars continue to overlook the recovery and reassertion of Spanish naval power in the second half of the eighteenth century. The historical background to that resurgence remains an obscure topic, but has its roots in forest conservation techniques that developed in the sixteenth century and persisted in the seventeenth.

Geographic Information in the Age of Exploration The Iberian Peninsula has a diverse topography and climate, which creates a variety of forest environments. The northern coastal region has the wettest climate of Spain, providing a suitable climate for common, often called English, oak and beech trees. In the Pyrenees Mountains, oak, beech, and black pine are common. The Mediterranean climate zone in eastern Spain contains a wider variety of vegetation, including pine, holm oak, ash, walnut, chestnut and beech trees. Southern Spain can be hot and dry, but the sierras of Andalusia contain pine, poplar, holm oak, and cork oak species. The sierras of the interior are well forested, but they were largely out of the range of naval interests. Spain’s environment posed numerous challenges to the crown’s ability to exploit forest resources. Formidable mountains and seasonal climate extremes limited the places and times of year people could extract timber from the forests and transport it to the nearest marina. While abundant forests existed throughout Spain in ancient times, settled agriculture had deforested much of the lowlands by the time the Castilian language developed in the Middle Ages, resulting in the use of the word monte for both mountain

14 and forest. The Iberian Peninsula’s rugged terrain made transportation in and out of the montes very difficult. The preferred mode of transportation was by river. However, Spain contains relatively few rivers large enough for dependable transport of timber. Some of the largest rivers, such as the Duero, Tajo and Guadiana, flow through Portugal before reaching the sea, and Portugal was an enemy of Spain for periods during the early modern era. Other important rivers included the Ebro, Turia, Júcar, and Segura, which all flow into the Mediterranean, and the Guadalquivir, which reaches the sea on Spain’s southern Atlantic coast. The pattern of rainfall in much of Spain made many of its rivers only seasonably capable of transporting timber. During the hot months of summer, they would become too dry, and seasonal rains had the potential of causing flash flooding. It is difficult to generalize about rainfall in Spain, however, since the total number of days of measurable precipitation in a typical year can range from 140-180 days in the northern regions to fewer than 20 days in the desert of the southeast. 25 The mountains of the Mediterranean endured harsh winters, and in parts of Spain, such as in the Pyrenees, periods of heavy snowfall made many forests in the montes inaccessible. 26

Full document contains 235 pages
Abstract: During the early modern period, Spain's empire extended into parts of five continents, separated by vast stretches of water. Spain depended on wooden ocean-going vessels to connect and defend its imperial holdings. Timber supplies, therefore, were essential to the continued functioning of one of the largest empires in history. However, Spain had a very limited timber resource base on which various sectors of society depended. Beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century, the Spanish state set in motion a process of territorialization to control access to forest resources for naval shipbuilding, affecting state and local relations, the politics of resource accessibility, and forest management practices all over Spain. This dissertation analyzes this process over the course of two centuries, explores how the Spanish crown met the challenges of local resistance and environmental scarcity to maintain its naval power, and it ends with an analysis of the creation and implementation of Spain's first national forestry code in 1748.