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Valencia Under the Bourbons
War of Succession and "Enlightened Despotism"
18th century

 The Age of Enlightenment - History of ValenciaIn 1701 the last Habsburg King of Spain Charles II died, sparking off a succession conflict between the Bourbons of France and the Habsburgs of Austria. Valencia sided with the French at first but when the Austrian forces arrived in 1705 they switched allegiance. Unfortunately for Valencia, the Austrians were defeated in 1707.

As soon as he was in power, Philip V issued a decree of Nueva Planta - the New Beginning, boldly justifying it with "right of conquest". Valencia was stripped of all its autonomy, the Furs (Valencia's own laws on which the city was resting) were annulated and all municipal affairs were placed into hands of herediatry noble lineages, appointed by the King. Much of the Valencian nobility was exiled and replaced by King-appointed nobility from Castilla. Valencia was occupied by a large military contingent. A citadel was built by the Convento Santo Domingo, with cannons turned to face the city, and even La Lonja was turned into barracks for half a century.

It wasn't as much a punitary act against Valencia for her betrayal during the War of Succession. Rather, it was a policy Phillip V implemented throughout Spain, forging his rule of "enlightened despotism".

This was the end of Valencian Autonomous Community. Valencia remained just another Spanish city until the second half of XX century.

 The Age of Enlightenment - History of ValenciaThe XVIII century was the Age of Enlightenment under the francophilia of the Bourbons and once again, just like in Rennaisance, Valencia found itself on the forefront as one of the outposts of the modern thought. However, the Inquisition was still strong and the diffusion of new ideas took place mainly through high society salons.

The Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Region of Valencia, founded in 1776, was, for example, the most energetic of all Enlightenment institutions of Spain, tirelessly introducing new ideas of agriculture, sicence and indsutry, through an effective system of commisions and competitions. Science and culture boomed in the universities of Valencia, echoing all across Spain. Particularly flourishing were the arts and Valencia, once again, became one of the art capitals of the Iberic Peninsula.

The economy boomed with a newly found industry in Valencia - the silk production. Silk rapidly became a huge enterprise for the whole city, even promting the creation of the Royal Academy of Art dedicated totally to silk art. This trade in luxuries brought much wealth to the middle classes, expanding further the strong layer of the bourgeoisie.

Paseo Alameda became the embodiment of the XVIII flourish of Valencia. It was a high society promenade, where the nobles and the upper middle classes would mingle.

It is no wonder, then, that such a forward-looking city was the one who felt the shockwave of the French Revolution the most, out of all Spanish cities. The pillars of the city trembled with agitation, but all in all the status quo was preserved.

 The Age of Enlightenment - History of Valencia  The Age of Enlightenment - History of Valencia  The Age of Enlightenment - History of Valencia

Sights from the period: Ceramics Museum | Sta Catalina Tower | Paseo Alameda | Viveros Gardens | Botanic Gardens
Map: Location of 18th century Valencia


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