Herzog (Latin American Affairs/Harvard Univ.; Defining Nations: Immigrants and Citizens in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America, 2003) examines the border disputes between Spain and Portugal, comparing the players and difficulties of the two widely distant and differing situations.
Readers will need a background in the history of the area, including the original formation of Portugal and the union of the two countries from 1580 to 1640. In the South American holdings, discovery was not necessarily sufficient to claim territory. The Treaty of Tordesillas in 1506 was designed to divide the New World and Africa between the two states, but even that created more confusion. Spain discovered, but Portugal settled. Then it was a question of whether the Spanish Jesuits or the Portuguese Carmelites had achieved civic allegiance of the natives after converting them. The author poses questions of jurisdiction and cites Roman law, bulls, treaties and natural law, but she never expounds on the details, only briefly citing the interlocutors. In the second half of the book, Herzog deals with border conflicts on the Iberian Peninsula, which have raged for hundreds of years. For the most part, these were small disputes over grazing land, agriculture or fishing rights that were generally ignored by the kings, with local resolutions lasting for decades or centuries but conflict always popping up again. “They occurred spontaneously when the situation so required…yet their persistence and change over time ended up restructuring both territories and rights.” The author presents readers with a variety of parallel situations that were dealt with using entirely different, not always efficient methods. If the kings of Portugal and Spain couldn’t be bothered with these small property disputes, one might ask why readers should.
This book is for those with a legal bent who enjoy the question more than the solution. While certainly erudite, the text is long and confusing, and many readers will wonder where the author is heading.