Power and Cultural Representations in the Early Modern Age (Poder y Representaciones Culturales en la Época Moderna, PyRCEM) is a research group formed by two sub-projects, “The Spanish Monarchy as a cultural field” and “Diplomatic agents as cultural mediators in the Spanish Monarchy”, led by Joan-Lluís Palos and Diana Carrió-Invernizzi respectively.
The group is constituted by 28 researchers, among which PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, lecturers and full professors, from different universities and research centres in Spain, Europe and America. There are PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, lecturers and full professors.
Our project will examine the role of culture in enhancing the cohesion of complex political systems, taking the Spanish Monarchy between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries as our case study. We consider complex political systems those resulting from the association and aggregation of territories with very different governmental institutions, social and economic practices and political, cultural and religious traditions.
The Spanish and the Portuguese Monarchies were not the first or the only ones of these systems. However, they were the first ones to reach a global scale that had been seen until then. We therefore consider that it constitutes a particularly interesting example for analyzing similar systems and, ultimately, a precedent for contextualizing certain situations occurring in the European Union today.
The rulers of Early Modern Spain and Portugal relied on the Catholic religion to legitimize their territorial possessions and unite territories often divided by a long history of disagreement and clashes. They soon realized however that in order to achieve a basic level of integration – necessary for the government of such domains – they would require certain cultural resources and a language comprehensible to those diverse communities.
Our working hypothesis is that Italian artistic traditions offered a system of communication that enabled painters, sculptors, architects, set designers, writers, musicians and others to create some extremely effective tools for transmitting political messages under the rule of the established power.
In the same way that certain modern visual and musical languages can nowadays reach a global audience, becoming subtle mechanisms of cultural control – often at the expense of eroding local cultural ecosystems – the visual grammar created in Italy allowed the Spanish Monarchy to establish a common cultural ground in which messages circulated with astonishing effectiveness.
Keywords: Spanish Monarchy, Early Modern Age, complex political systems, cultural field, cultural circulation, cultural mediation, Soft Power.