Edexcel A2 History coursework - it's about Spain but I just need help with structure

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Report Thread starter 7 years ago
The task I'm doing is:

Assess the short term significance of the accession of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Apparently this is not up to standard. I apparently need to work on my structure and include more phrases such as 'This is another significant factor...' I counted quite a few, but not enough apparently.

Anyone who has done this coursework, I would like to know your opinions (this is only section A). I don't care if you know nothing about Spain, it's not the content I'm worried about, but the structure and style.


The event that led to Ferdinand and Isabella actually becoming joint monarchs is one aspect that demonstrates clearly the short term significance of their accession. The Castilian war of succession in 1474 was the first time Ferdinand and Isabella demonstrated their collective skill and co-operation to lead them to success. As Alfonso V backed Joanna, Isabella's fight would have been futile without Ferdinand's assistance. Their success here in fact mirrored their success later in Granada, and serves as further evidence of the mutual benevolence to one another that they felt. In a relief on the gilded silver shrine of St Isidore, Ferdinand is depicted in a full suit of armour, a military king.
This military skill complimented Isabella's forces to lead them to victory at Toro in 1476 and the fact that Isabella was accepted as queen despite the fact that Joanna may have been the rightful heir, and the lack of opposition she faced, give an idea that the couple's victory was more than a mere success on the battlefield. One might say that, as Joanna was considered mad, Isabella was a more welcome choice of queen, but it is clear from accounts of her that she was a strong and capable choice for a monarch and this is most probably what led to her being welcomed to the throne of Castile. Ultimately, the victory in the civil war was a step towards the restoration of full authority in Castile, and the first step towards unification on a grander scale.
Ferdinand notably never became 'Ferdinand of Aragon' and his wife remained total sovereign over Castile. That this led to faction but Ferdinand stood by his wife is another significant element in their success and devotion to each other. In not becoming the sovereign, Ferdinand gained little from the war, which underlines that he was simply assisting his wife.
And it is notable that in the time following the civil war Ferdinand and Isabella brought increased stability across both kingdoms. Joanna never managed to gather enough support to provide another threat, and, in terms of Aragon, as Colin Pendrill puts it, 'Ferdinand's absence in Castile, assisting his wife, may have helped to pacify his realms.' This is supported by the fact that the Catalonian revolt came to an end as the Castilian war of succession began.
However, other historians have viewed the war as having a negative effect on the kingdoms. Notable scientific historian and Hispanist William Hickling Prescott, describes the aftermath of the war as visible in the 'general devastation and distress of the country.' As a scientific historian, Prescott puts large emphasis on evidence and sources, and his opinion suggests that much damage done to the country may be overlooked, with focus being on political triumph. Prescott does acknowledge that the war 'terminated most triumphantly for Isabella, whose wise and vigorous administration, seconded by her husband's vigilance, had dispelled the storm which threatened to overwhelm her.'
The monarchs' joint efforts of travelling their realms after the war and promoted loyalty together highlights the beginning of a successful era of law and order in modern day Spain.

Another short term significance of their succession is the success of their policies where law and order are concerned.
It would be irrational to say that Ferdinand and Isabella had brought immediate overall unity, in terms of law and order, in the merging of their kingdoms. It is worth noting that Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia were all distinct political entities and therefore this shows that the addition of Castile would only add to the differences felt between the peoples of these entities.
It is clear from Ferdinand's education and persona that the king was an experienced diplomat who was greatly admired by Niccolo Machiavelli, who said of him 'he has risen, by fame and glory, from being an insignificant king to be the foremost king in Christendom; and if you will consider his deeds you will find them all great and some of them extraordinary.' Machiavelli's reputation as an expert on the consolidation of power and diplomacy only adds to history's portrait of Ferdinand as one of the 15th century's most capable leaders.
A notable point that supports Machiavelli's view is Ferdinand's tackling of the problem he faced of differences in legislative and judicial systems in the different areas, in the instigation of respect for local fueros across his kingdom, a proposition which was met with respect and caused an increased feeling of unity between the peoples. However, the importance of tradition may not have always proven positive, as the Aragonese oath of loyalty stated that the people 'accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our liberties and laws; but if not, not.' So although Ferdinand could bring unity, this brought limitations to the power of the crown. But though the power of the crown may well have decreased, the respect for the monarchs increased considerably.
By bringing the fueros to Castile also, Ferdinand made a worthy attempt to bring law, order and respect across both kingdoms. Although one could again argue that this ultimately led to great limitations in the power of the sovereigns, it is impossible to overlook the unity that Ferdinand subsequently brought with his decisions. The fact that he and Isabella never even considered trying to form one government for all their kingdom only emphasises the success of the fueros.
Another initiative that increased law and order was the widespread utilization of the Santa Hermandad. Although originating in Castile, the Hermandad became a key part in the centralisation of power and acted as a symbol of the very collective royal control of the husband and wife, which is only emphasised in their collaboration when it came to the conquest of Granada. One could argue that they instigated a rule of fear, but the respect shown for the Hermandad implies that they instead emphasise the power they had in an aspect other than physical. There was a great amount of respect for the monarchs.
However, respect cannot account for a lack of physical power across both kingdoms, and the nobility held a great amount of this leading to what could almost be referred to as ******* feudalism, especially as the nobles were exempt from taxation, numerous, and independent, many retaining armies. But the Archbishop of Toledo's private army, for example, was a great assistance to Isabella's victory against Joanna, and the monarchs faced no real threat from the nobility during their reign. It is notable also that, as such men were exempt from tax, the distribution of wealth was unfair, and socio-economic problems arose for poor people as well, meaning there was risk of revolt from those across the socio-economic triangle that was in effect, not to mention the use of tax farmers leading to corruption on a large scale. There was considerable danger, therefore, but the fact that they faced no major revolts underlines the success of their policies that clearly foregrounded respect for the crown.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of what Ferdinand and Isabella brought was unity, even without unification. Many would indeed argue that there was no unification, that the kingdoms were completely separate, but as has been highlighted, Ferdinand and Isabella were respected across both kingdoms, and they did not face threats, through the instigation of similar policies and through common aims. This also came in their notably shared foreign policy, which included vast amounts of gain from the financing of Columbus in 1492, and the religious success that earned them the title of 'Catholic monarchs' and brought those across their kingdoms under one united religion. There is, however, other ways to look at these policies.

Another way Ferdinand and Isabella's succession can be seen to have short-term significance is in their policies towards religion. It was an assumption in 16th century Europe that religious unity was necessary for political unity, and if this is the way the Spanish Inquisition is assessed, then it was a success beyond a doubt. The Inquisition of 1478 allowed for the necessity for the conversion of the Moorish peoples to Catholic Christianity. In the context, the attempt to unify her kingdom under one religion is understandable, for it was realistic, rational and acceptable at the time, but one may also point out that it could only serve to stir relations with the Moorish people, to which it can in turn be argued, in Isabella's favour, that no attempt to unify the Moorish people would lead to them to revolt and cause ever more tensions between Granada and Castile, of which there were many prior even to the conquest.
However, the Inquisition grew into one of the most deadly religious genocides in history. The murder of thousands of people cannot be viewed in today's standards as a way to unify a kingdom. In the words of historian JH Elliott, it was 'a ruthless, ultimately self-defeating quest for an unattainable purity.' As a socialist historian belonging to the Annales School of thought, Elliott assesses events based on their impact on society, as opposed to political impact. This is relevant when discussing the effects of religious policies such as these and Elliott implies that the Inquisition did more harm to the kingdom than good and that its objective was futile anyway.
A poem by the Moriscos asking for aid from Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II describes some of the atrocities committed against them during the Inquisition, describing the conversion process as '[they] made us convert to Christianity by force, with harshness and cruelty' as well as numerous other atrocities 'If it became known that someone fasted, or prayed, This person would end up in the flames' and the poem also talks of treachery, as a letter written by the Catholic Monarchs to the Moorish King in 1491 states 'all Moors wishing to leave for Barbary [Africa] or other lands shall be given free and safe passage by Their Highnesses,' but in the poem, it is revealed that, with referral to this promise, 'Treachery soon became evident' and the Catholic Monarchs exerted great cruelty upon the Moorish people. This evidence supports Elliott's point that the Inquisition was extremely harmful and ultimately did more harm than good.
Conversely, historian Thomas F. Madden describes the Inquisition as 'staffed by well-educated legal professionals, it was one of the most efficient and compassionate judicial bodies in Europe.' The context of his comment is an attempt to dispel negative myths about the Inquisition, which would undoubtedly lead to bias, but it does bring to light the fact that, especially given the context, the Inquisition had some positive outcomes. One could argue that the Inquisition did lead to a completely Catholic Spain, and in the context of early modern Europe, this meant a great deal in terms of unification, and Ferdinand and Isabella were now 'Catholic monarchs' which was a well-respected title and emphasises the importance of a single dominant religion, and it was this policy that increased their respect on the international scale, and earned more respect from the powerful papacy.

Religious motivations aside, the conquest of Granada is another positive aspect in terms of Ferdinand and Isabella's short term significance. It gave the whole kingdom a common cause to fight for, unifying them in the object and ultimately in the result as the Spanish kingdom was unified more still literally and the foundations for modern Spain became more evident. Many historians talk of the inclusion of Granada in their kingdom as Ferdinand and Isabella's first step to making Spain a central power in Europe. The fact that the kingdom that becomes the central power in Europe is referred to as 'Spain' emphasises the importance of the inclusion of Granada and overall unification of the kingdom.
However, it could be said that there was a risk of the hunter becoming the hunted, as the Moors could seek assistance from allies in North Africa, notably Egypt. It could even be argued that luck won the monarchs the war as the only reason Egypt could provide such little assistance was that they had their own war with the Ottoman Turks. But it is also notable that Castile's trade relations with north Africa remained wholly positive throughout the war, making it appear that North Africa's support for the Moors may not have been so strong after all.
Divisions and weak leadership amongst the moors also made the conquest easier, but in Ferdinand and Isabella's favour, their military capabilities were far superior, as combination of Castile's troops and Ferdinand's military skill, Isabella's devout Catholicism led to the church's support and the Santa Hermandad, which have already signified the joint success of the monarchs, provided a great deal of money and men.
Ultimately, the conquest put Spain on the map, and later led to the buildings of a Spanish empire, not to mention the huge economic success it brought to the monarchs, an area where they had notably fallen short prior to the conquest.

In conclusion, it is clear that Ferdinand and Isabella found huge short term success. This came from their ability to work together towards common aims, seen through their approach to law and order across both realms, such as bringing the fueros to Castile and the Santa Hermandad to Aragon, and their military and religious success in Granada.
The monarchs worked towards policies that suited their needs and abilities. The War of Succession highlights this most clearly, especially as they worked together and Ferdinand assisted his wife out of mere dedication. It is clear from the lack of opposition they faced, contemporary support and the increase in Spain's power, that they were respected across the peninsula and this led to a unity which brought power more so than any unification.
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Report 7 years ago
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Report 7 years ago
Given that you're talking about short term significances, I assume you're doing the Part A essay. Something I was told by my teacher was to include different sources (e.g. something from a contemporary picture). However, given that you are writing about 15th Century (?) Spain and I am writing about the 1832 Great Reform Act, I can see how that may be more difficult for you. Just out of pure curiosity, what is the overall subject you are doing? Also, do you know what you're doing for the Part B essay?
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Report 6 years ago
I'm actually doing the same question as you, about ferdinand and isabella's accession , but we've just started ours, so cant help you much. But would you be kind enough to suggest some books I can use as sources
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Report 1 year ago
You say that Joanna was mad. There is one queen of Castile who was known as Joanna the Mad. She was one of Isabella's daughters. The Joanna who faced Isabella in the war of succession was not known as

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