These two manuscripts are among the most important documents of Early Modern Spain. One of them, commonly known as the "Capitulations of Santa Fe" and signed by the Catholic Monarchs on 17 April 1492, contains the agreements between the Catholic Monarchs and Christopher Columbus to navigate the Atlantic westward to the Indies; and the other one is the decree issued on 31 March 1492 by Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon ordering the expulsion of practicing Jews from their territories.
These documents are a fundamental source for studying the history of the modern world, and their importance in the history of humanity is undeniable; in fact, the documents were included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2009.
Among the Documents That Made Modern Spain
These documents are a part of a manuscript book of the series Diversorum Sigili Secreti, which comprises documents stamped with the secret seal of the Crown. It is held in the General Archive of the Crown of Aragon under the shelfmark Real Cancillería 3569. Given the importance both of the capitulations and the edict, it is worth analyzing them separately.
Capitulations of Santa Fe
The letter, penned by the royal secretary Juan de Coloma, is on fols. 135v-136v of the book. It contains the agreements between Christopher Columbus and the Catholic Monarchs on 17 April 1492 in the town of Santa Fe, near Granada, regarding the first navigation into the Atlantic in search of the Indies that would lead to the discovery of the New World on 12 October 1492.
According to these capitulations, Columbus was granted the title of admiral, viceroy, and governor of the lands he would discover during the following years, as well as one tenth of the goods he would find. This document has been the subject of controversy for centuries, both in legal and historical terms.
During the lawsuits between Columbus’ heirs and the Crown of Castile regarding Columbus’ privileges obtained from the discovery of the New World, his sons used this document to prove their right to keep those privileges, while the Crown alleged that the capitulations were a revocable document.
At the head of the document we can read that Columbus "has discovered" certain lands. This has been used as an argument by those who defend the theory according to which the New World was already discovered before 1492.
Edict of Expulsion of the Jews
This other document is written on paper, and measures 43.6 x 30.6 cm. It is on fº 130v-132r of the book. Signed by Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon on 31 March 1492 and written by Juan de Coloma, the edict entailed the expulsion of the Jews from the territories of those sovereigns. This was the final stage of widespread persecution of the Jewish community in Spain for centuries, and caused the conversion of many Spanish Jews to Catholicism.
This manuscript, along with the Santa Fe Capitulations, is a key document for understanding the modern origins of Spain.
The Archive of the Crown of Aragon: Home of the Documents Almost Since Their Creation
Both documents are held in the same place almost since the moment they were written: the General Archive of the Crown of Aragon. One of the most important archives in Spain, it was created in Barcelona in 1318, and holds a superb collection of historical documents and primary sources.
The Capitulations of Santa Fe remained almost unnoticed in the archive until 1862, when the German researcher Gustav Adolf Bergenroth published an English translation in his work Calendar of Letters, Despatches and State Papers Relating to the Negotiations between England and Spain.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Documents from Ferdinand II's Secret Archives": Orígenes de la España Moderna 1492: Annus Mirabilis facsimile edition, published by Millennium Liber, 2020Request Info / Price