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JEWS and THE UNIFICATION OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL, 1580-1640

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The death of Sebastian I in 1578 saw a dynastic crisis that was resolved in 1580 when Spain’s Phillip II invaded Portugal. Ultimately, Philip III tried to make Portugal a Spanish province, and Portuguese nobles stood to lose all of their power. This led to the revolution in 1640 so that sixty years after its creation Portugal and Spain were again split. 

About twenty thousand Portuguese New Christians left Portugal for Spain as the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were separate and no extradition provision existed. They would have a 'clean record' and be in one of the largest economies in Europe which was beginning to realise the efect of the 1492 expulsion  Even the Spanish Inquisition concentrated on earlier, 'veteran' conversos. This resulted in a ‘Spanish problem’

Any lingering Jewish identity among the fourty thousand New Christians who stayed in Spain after the 1492 expulsion had virtually vanished.  With a substantial New Christian population Spain became obsessed with a 'new' Jewish problem and the word 'Portuguese' became virtually synonymous with 'Jew'.  The Spanish Inquisition operated with renewed activity. with the total backing of Felipe II. The Counter-Reformation was in full swing, and as its leader and champion in zealotry the Spanish ruler was not prepared to tolerate even the faintest deviation from his empire’s religious homogeneity. As before, it relied on many secret informers.

LINKS

The Age-Old Iberian Rivalry and the Jews, Norman Berdichevsky, Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2004

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