History Students from Kennedy High School

Students from an AP World History class at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, IA undertook research projects focused on the 1699 Spanish will that members of the paleography workshop translated over the course of two weeks.  Each day or two, new translations were sent to Kennedy High School and from these pages, students developed their own research questions and methods to answer them.

Congratulations to the following students who submitted work: Amanda Barrett, Gerald Belz, Grace Duffy, Jackson Foley, Hannah Fusselman, Jacob Graves, Alexis Green, Haley Hansen, Madalyn Holmstedt, Kellan Hulet, Matthew Knox, Joyce Lai, Iman Love, Mackinzee Macho, Darby Manternach, Logan McAreavy, Kobe McFadden, Andres Davila, Sarah Nolting, Hannah Ratzer, Benjamin Sarasin, Brianna Shell, Veena Venkatesh, Elise Williams, and Joshua Winters.  Browse through excerpts from their display statements and final projects.

Kellan HuetHistorical Arguments: What’s happening in Cuenca in the 1600’s? Who are they trading with during the time period?

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 8.59.10 AMCuenca was a prosperous town located east of Madrid in the historical governing region of Castile. The Cuencan economy was mainly fueled by a profitable textile trade and the exploitation of livestock. Presumably the livestock in Cuenca were used as a raw material for the manufacturing of textiles as well as for food. The population of Cuenca had recently declined sharply, from about 13,000 in 1597 to only 5,600 in 1644 due to the plague. By the end of the 17th century the population was up to 6,110 but was still considerably lower than the previous century. Cuenca traded with Madrid and the 1699 Spanish will states that the man (Don Francisco Munoz Carrillo) owned multiple houses in Madrid. Textiles were traded across these cities, as well as livestock and other goods. Don Carrillo also owned millions of maravedis (a unit of currency) worth of Segovian livestock, along with his livestock from Cuenca. Segovia is located northeast of Cuenca with Madrid in the middle of the two. Presumably Don Francisco acquired this livestock most likely from Madrid or directly from Segovia. In Cuenca, textile production was the most profitable and common. Spain experienced a profitable period during the seventeenth century but was hindered by ineffective rulers and government. Textile trade increased as Muslim merchants brought new textiles and cloths into Europe and desired to trade. Cuenca during the time period of the life of Don Franciso was prosperous and slowly growing, yet may have been inhibited by weak government.

Benjamin Sarasin – Historical Context: How did the City of Cuenca affect Don Francisco Munoz’s acquisition of wealth?

Geography – Cuenca is the capitol of the province of Cuenca, located in East Central Spain. The location of the city is just over 100 miles Southeast of Madrid, Spain’s capital, and a little over 125 miles Northwest of Valencia, one of Spain’s largest cities. Cuenca is situated in the gorge between the Jucar and Huecar rivers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.06.56 AMHistorically – The city of Cuenca was founded when the Muslim population of what was then called Al-andalus decided to build a fortress called “Kunka” on a strategic location at the gorge of the Jucar and Huecar rivers. Cuenca soon became a prosperous agricultural and textile manufacturing city. In the 12th century, the area was conquered by Christians and Cuenca continued to flourish.

Why Was Cuenca Such a Prosperous City? – Cuenca prospered even into the 19th century, building its economy on agriculture, textile manufacturing, and livestock exploitation. Since Cuenca was situated between the Jucar and Huecar rivers, agriculture flourished, producing commodities such as wheat and barley. Cuenca was also located between Spain’s capital, Madrid, and one of Spain’s largest cities, Valencia. This put Cuenca in position to bring lots of trade through the city as it served as a midpoint between Valencia and Madrid, being approximately 100 miles away from each.

How does this connect to Don Francisco Munoz? –  Don Francisco Munoz was a very wealthy man with considerable power in the city of Cuenca. This can be proven in Don Francisco Munoz’s will as he passes on a considerable amount of wealth on to his children and is valued to have tens of millions of maravedis (a unit of currency) from unpaid debts, land, livestock, and more. The question is, why was Don Francisco Munoz so wealthy? I believe the answer to this question is that Don Francisco was a powerful landowner and employed many people to farm his land. Don Franciso’s land was in high demand for its quality and its ability to yield valuable agricultural commodities and he took advantage of the social structure in Spain to allow peasants to farm his land for him while picking up an impressive profit. Another big contribution to Don Francisco Munoz’s wealth was surely a great inheritance from his parents.

Veena VenkateshHistorical Argument and Evidence: Why do people create wills?

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.31.56 AMAs I was researching the philosophical side to the will, I found out many reasons to why wills are important to have.

  1. One of the main arguments is that people use wills as a source to control and extend the process of separation from people, with the divestment from objects. Wills give people a way to regulate what happens to their things as a way to comfort themselves before death.
  2. Wills also provide people with a chance to make some final decisions. People may have very strong connections to their possessions. When nearing death, people can utilize material culture as the first step to parting from their friends and family. The objects that are given away in a will create a deduction of recollection and interactions.
  3. Wills can also create a sense of influence over an uncontrollable situation to maintain a better overall mentality when nearing death. People’s objects contain a network of important relationships and memories, and people care about where their things go after they die. Wills can create a sort of closure for the person, allowing them to have a little bit of control in a situation where there is not much of a choice.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.40.42 AMIf I could continue researching the 1699 Spanish will, I would probably try to look at what objects Don Francisco gave to which people, and why each person got what he/she did. It would be interesting to see what relationships he had with his possessions and what led him to bestow a specific object or thing to a certain person. There must be reasons to why particular things went to exclusive people, and I would want to know more about that. Learning more about his background would be interesting as well, to aid in the investigation of his relationships with people. When I was exploring the philosophy of wills, I read that it was a moral obligation to leave things to the church, and Don Francisco did this.

Maddy Holmsetdt – Historical Interpretation and Synthesis: Interpreting the Inheritance and understanding Spanish Nobility

Example of the governmental perpetual positions that Don Francisco held:

  1. The office of city councilman of Cuenca for which he received 1,360,000 maravedís. Don Francisco headed this council.
  2. The office of the depositario general of Cuenca for which he received 374,000 maravedís. Don Francisco held this office by right of inheritance.

Synthesis of Spanish Nobility:

The Spanish nobility was divided into six ranks: the Duque (Duke), Marqués (Marquis), Conde (Count), Vizconde (Viscount), Barón (Baron), and Señor (Lord) (as well as the feminine forms of these titles). Nobility descended from the first man of a family who was raised to the nobility (or recognized as belonging to the hereditary nobility) to all his legitimate descendants, male and female. Hereditary titles formerly descended by male-preference primogeniture (the first born child), a woman being eligible to inherit only if she had no brother or if her brothers also inherited titles. However, by Spanish law, all hereditary titles descend by absolute primogeniture.

Darby ManternachHistorical Synthesis: How is the document still here and why has it not degraded?

The Ink – The most likely ink used around 1690 would have been Iron Gall ink. Iron Gall was the standard type of ink used in Europe from the 5th to the 19th centuries. This type of ink is incredibly acidic, with a PH ranging from 2 to 5. The ink sticks to the paper through the process of chemical bonding and penetrates the space between the fibers. This results in a faster decay rate of the paper, usually bringing damage within decades or years. Additionally, this type of ink requires storage in a consistent environment because fluctuating humidity increases the rates of formic acid, acetic acid, and furan derivatives formation on the paper.

The Paper – The sources of fibers and quality of paper varied with the technology of production prior to 1800.  Thus paper had a chemical level of neutral to basic. The oxidation of cellulose with oxygen in the atmosphere causes many chemical reactions and this is the primary mechanism for the degradation of this type of paper. The rates of these chemical reactions vary.  With the absence of a catalyst this type of paper can remain stable.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.14.31 PM

Timothy Barrett, Paper Through Time: European Paper-making Techniques 1300-1800. (http://paper.lib.uiowa.edu/european.php)




Preservation – The acidity in paper is counteracted by introducing bases CaCO3, MgCO3, or any similar basic chemicals. By adding this base, the acidity of the paper will neutralize and create and excess of carbonate to protect against degradation in the future and the absorption of acidic atmospheric acids. This preservation process is also known as deacidification, and is done by hand the majority of the time.

The University of Iowa Preservation – The University of Iowa conservation unit treats all collections of documents. They clean damaged rare books, manuscripts and maps. Additionally, they stabilize, mend and provide enclosures for protection. Lastly, they reinforce circulating books, pamphlets and music for future usage and save items damaged by water or mold.

Conclusion – In conclusion, there is no doubt that this document would still be here and will continue to be here for quite some time. Although the type of ink used may be incredibly acidic and harsh on the paper, the type of paper that was used in the period is extremely stable without a catalyst brought through the environment.

Brianna Shell – Patterns of Continuity and Change over Time: The Ruling Powers in Spain from 1469-1650

In 1469, Ferdinand II created the early modern Spanish state, which guaranteed future rule over certain territories. In 1516, his grandson, Charles I, took over. However, he was not a native Spanish speaker and never completely adjusted into Spanish society. He decided it was too difficult for one person to rule over all of the regions, so Charles gave parts to his younger brother and to his son, Philip II. The Spanish bureaucracy was created to help govern the huge empire during Philip II’s reign in 1555. A viceroy within each territory carried out the Council’s orders. In the New World colonies, judicial law courts called audiencias implemented both legal and political functions like limiting and checking up on the powers of the viceroy. This system was centralized, slow, and reliant on the king to be effective. Although the Spanish Empire was at the peak of its power under Philip II, wars, revolts, and other difficulties led to its decline. Spain was declining throughout Philip III’s reign in the early 1600s due to a plague that killed about one tenth of the Spanish population. Half the silver bullion imports from the Americans decreased by half during Philip III’s reign. Philip IV, who came to power in 1621, was not capable enough to give the direction that Spain needed, so Spain attempted to separate its regions. During Charles II’s rule in 1665, costs drained Spain’s treasury, and the government mainly operated as a distributor of support. Charles II was the last Habsburg ruler because he had no heirs.