The Compilation of the Laws of the Kings of the Indies

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The Compilation of the Laws of the Kings of the Indies

First volume of the Compilation /

First volume of the Compilation /

This was published in four volumes in 1681 in Madrid; the title in Spanish is Recopilación de las leyes de los Reinos de las Indias, rather a mouthful, but it was a worthy attempt to put together all the orders and laws pertaining to each section of the (royal) Spanish government, dealing with Spain’s overseas dominions. Given that the Spanish Empire (q.v.) was at this time the greatest in the world, another empire on which the sun never set, this was a courageous and painstaking enterprise.

The publication set an example to others; the Portuguese crown soon brought out its Ordenaçòes Filipinas for the Portuguese dominions. In fact the Compilations became a general point of reference while making laws in the successor states in the Empire business.

Iberian laws did not however shape events, or comment on them; as it turned out, laws and regulations were better developed in some parts of South and Central America than others. They tended also to be different in substance, and timing.

It is a matter for conjecture whether or not Spain might produce a similar volume dealing exclusively with Spain herself and her islands and colonies. To foreign observers, especially those employed by the European Union, modern Spain is almost a police state, with the ‘Authorities’ poking an inquisitive nose into every part of human existence in the country. For a bad start, there are no less than three official police forces. One is the Guardia Civil, not so feared as they were in the time of Franco, but still awesome to the Spanish population. They deal with everything from control of the road system to investigation of corruption. The second is the National Police Force, present everywhere, controlling immigration and mountains of paperwork such as the giving or replacing of identity cards, and foreigners’ permissions to live and work in Spain. The third is the local Municipal Police, responsible for order in the streets, acting as parking wardens, and generally keeping a beady eye on things. The Guardia Civil, being an integral part of the Army, is armed to the teeth, but so also are the other two. Arming a traffic warden is a giddy thought.

A new Compilation might help sort out the chaotic state of Spanish Justice too. At the present moment a politician is accused almost every day of stealing in some way or other, but it takes six, eight or even twelve years to put the guilty ones behind bars. In Andalucía the infamous case of the ‘Eres’ stumbles on year after year, while its main protagonists, two ex-Presidents of the region, appear to be untouchable. But while they are affably in control, thousands of millions of European money, intended to help the unemployed, was allegedly distributed piecemeal to friends and colleagues of the two ex-Presidents.

By | 2014-12-04T09:50:30+00:00 December 4th, 2014|History of Portugal, Spanish History|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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