Martín Antonio Del Río: Die Chronik über Don Juan de Austria und den Krieg in den Niederlanden (1576-1578). La crónica sobre don Juan de Austria y la Guerra en los Países Bajos (1576-1578). Hrsg. von Miguel Ángel Echevarría Bacigalupe unter Mitarbeit von Friedrich Edelmayer (= Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur der Iberischen und Iberoamerikanischen Länder / Estudios sobre Historia y Cultura de los Países Ibéricos e Iberoamericanos; Bd. 8), München: Oldenbourg 2003, 300 S., ISBN 978-3-486-56750-2, EUR 39,80
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This Spanish edition of a chronicle covering two years when the Dutch Revolt was at its height, along with its brilliant introduction in Spanish and German, is deserving of the widest possible circulation. This is because its author, Martín Antonio Del Río, himself was a true son of La Monarquía. His parents were from Cantabria and Old Castile, yet he was born in Antwerp in May 1551 as the offspring of the many Spanish families who settled in Northern Europe and who were engaged in the rapidly growing economy of the Atlantic Seaboard. After a brilliant university career in, inter al., Liege, Louvain, Paris, and Salamanca, this multilingual scholar was offered a post in Madrid on the Council of Brabant and put in charge of crown property in Louvain. He was commonly credited with saving the library of Justus Lipsius and attracting him back into supporting the Spanish cause. When his protector, Don Juan de Austria died, Del Río saw little chance of further preferment. In 1580 he joined the Society of Jesus.
The importance of the chronicle surpasses the mere historical; it has a historiographical importance all of its own. Del Río is one of the earlier writers to air what the king's councils had privately debated for years, if not decades, the futility or otherwise of fighting the Netherlandish rebels. Sensing the lack of enthusiasm in Spain for Philip II's endless wars, and seeing it spread into an attack on a life of arms instead of letters, Del Río's account seeks to confront the war-weariness of Spain by both idiolising great warriors but also by firmly labelling the Dutch Revolt as a direct attack on Catholicism, rather than any form of proto-nationalism. He has many heroes, quite apart from Don Juan. For instance, he is an admirer of the duke of Alva, and he underlines his own "neo-conservative" belief in the righteousness of superior military force when he describes the duke's arrival in the Low Countries: King Philip "embió con un gruesso exército a don Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, duque de Alva, con la fama de cuya llegada los conjurados perdieron el ánimo" ("King Philip sent the duke of Alva with a huge army, and when they heard of his arrival the conspirators lost heart"). Del Río then went on to lament - as is often the case - how military success was let down by an inability to find local politicians worthy of the task of constructing peace.
Based on the 1601 version of the chronicle, this edition authoritatively and succinctly deals with the major variants. The introduction quietly reveals how important Del Río was in many aspects of Flamenco-Spanish relations, pointing out that he was responsible for royal decrees on witchcraft in both Spain and the Netherlands. The biographical index which ends the volume provides brief but precise summaries of the careers of even the middle-ranking characters who appear in the chronicle. In sum, Echevarría and Edelmayer have provided us with an exemplary example of international scholarship. If the chronicle illuminates only a brief period, then it nonetheless casts such a power light on these two years that one cannot help wondering how much we are missing for those years for which we have no Martín Antonio Del Río.