Siluetas de cambioexperiencias de transformación social de la élite naval (siglos XVIII-XIX)

  1. Pablo Ortega del Cerro
Supervised by:
  1. Raffaela Sarti Director
  2. Juan Hernández Franco Director

Defence university: Universidad de Murcia

Year of defence: 2017

  1. Francisco Chacón Jiménez Chair
  2. Margareth Lanzinger Secretary
  3. José Cepeda Gómez Committee member

Type: Thesis


ABSTRACT. The main target of this work is to examine, analyze and review social change in Spain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, through what we have referred to as 'silhouettes of change'. By using this term, I am rejecting finalist, linear, absolute and holistic analyses, and proposing instead the consideration of social mutations as polymorphic, contingent and complex phenomena. By recourse to the nominative method, I adopt a historical approach threaded by the 'experience of change'. This research approach facilitates reducing social change to its smallest denomination, thus offering a concept of change that grows out of from the most basic layer of social life. The chosen case study will be known collectively as the 'naval elite', a group formed by a set of naval officers and cadets who entered the Spanish Navy between 1717 and 1868. These officers and cadets embodied the process of professionalization of the institution, and went on to occupy the main positions in the naval hierarchy, after receiving exhaustive training as midshipmen. The Spanish naval elite has been largely neglected by the Spanish historiography, despite having a series of features that makes it an ideal proxy for the analysis of social change. Therefore, the aim of this PhD thesis is to be able to highlight the particular silhouettes of change that are reflected on the experiences of change within the Spanish naval elite from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries. The naval elite has been examined in different social contexts, and the thesis is divided into four major sections. The first part of the thesis deals with the formative stage of the members of the naval elite; in particular, the long path that led from midshipmanship to officer graduation. The issues discussed in this first section are: the concept of naval cadet, the social origins of midshipmen, the process of negotiation between families and the naval institution, and, finally, promotions. The second part deals with the professional experience of the members of the naval elite in the exercise of their duties as naval officers. It begins with an analysis of the features and nature of the naval officers' work in the period under consideration, and, especially, the continuous debate about access and promotion criteria. Other issues to be examined are marriage, since officers had to request permission to marry until 1870, and the pension system for widows and other relatives - Monte Pío Militar -. A third part focuses on the family life of the naval elite, including the conjugal, fraternal, and father-son relationships, but also those with third and fourth degree relatives. Finally, the role of the naval elite in society is examined, which means studying their experiences of change through their social relationships with others. In particular, I shall focus on the social environment of the naval elite in the main naval cities - Cadiz, San Fernando, Ferrol, Cartagena and Madrid ? and also on their economic links. The conclusions do not take the shape of an eloquent formulation of social change, because our understanding of this process is, ultimately, incomplete and imperfect. Our approach seeks to emphasize that social transformations are polymorphic and change depending on the position of the observer; they are made up of small brushstrokes and somewhat equivocal contours which come together to form impressionistic portraits.