From Catalans and Aragonese to Valencians: The Role of Politics in the Making of the Medieval Valencian Identity

From Catalans and Aragonese to Valencians: The Role of Politics in the Making of the Medieval Valencian Identity

Vicent Baydal Sala
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6614-5.ch002
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The medieval Kingdom of Valencia was created in 1238, after the conquest of Islamic lands in the Eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula by Catalan and Aragonese people. New Christian settlers arrived from Catalonia and Aragon with distinct identity feelings, but after a century a new identity was formed, whose first expression was the creation of a gentilic, “Valencian,” for all the inhabitants of the new kingdom, regardless of their Catalan or Aragonese origins. As this chapter explains, this process was closely linked to the development of the political and fiscal structures of the kingdom, based primarily on the Valencian Parliament, where subsides and laws were negotiated between the king and the community of the realm.
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Balearic and Valencian variants of Catalan are consecutive dialects. In other words, they resulted from the movement of settlers from the parts of Catalonia where the language had originally been formed (Ferrando & Nicolás, 2005, pp. 101-107). The movement occurred following the Christian occupation of the Balearic Islands and the eastern part of al-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula, which had been Muslim territory until the 1220s–1240s, when they were conquered and colonized by Catalans and Aragonese during the reign of James I, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona. Two new Christian political territories were founded during that period: the Kingdom of Majorca in 1230 and the Kingdom of Valencia in 1238. It was generally acknowledged during most of the Late Middle Ages that the majority of the population in both of these kingdoms came from Catalonia. In 1334, for example, a Majorcan merchant stated that he had seen another Majorcan merchant in Seville “dressed like a Catalan, behaving like a Catalan, and residing in the Catalan corn exchange”1 (Mas, 2005, p. 95). Meanwhile, with regard to Valencia, the theologian Francesc Eiximenis said in 1383 that “Our Lord God has willed that the Valencian people be a special people chosen from amongst those of all Spain, as, although they have come mainly from Catalonia and live nearby, they are not called the Catalan people, but, by special privilege, they have their own name and they are called the Valencian people” (Hauf, 1983, p. 201).

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