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Knowledge, Oblivion, and Concealment in Early Modern Spain: The Ambiguous Agenda of the Archive of Simancas

Knowledge, Oblivion, and Concealment in Early Modern Spain: The Ambiguous Agenda of the Archive of Simancas

Chapter:
(p.131) 6 Knowledge, Oblivion, and Concealment in Early Modern Spain: The Ambiguous Agenda of the Archive of Simancas
Source:
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World
Author(s):
Arndt Brendecke
Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.003.0006

As early as 1540, Spain established a central archive within the walls of the castle of Simancas. This archive would seem an ideal case of early and systematic accumulation of documents. A closer look, however, shows that the archive of Simancas had little impact on political decision-making in practice. This chapter argues that this should not be mistaken as simply a lack of efficiency: Simancas served conflicting purposes from its very beginning. It was used to organise knowledge, but at the same time pursued hidden agendas of oblivion and concealment. To shed light on these contradictions, the article discusses the archive’s peripheral location in Spain’s topography of knowledge; it explains the reasons of its rather limited functionality in terms of providing politically useful knowledge and concludes by discussing opposing functions of Simancas such as obstructing the circulation of papers.

Keywords:   empire, secrecy, Habsburg Spain, Simancas, political knowledge, archives, libraries

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