The least understood aspect of the punishment of crime in pre-nineteenth-century Spanish society is trial procedure. This is not surprising. Our misapprehensions and misinterpretations of the past are principally the product of eighteenth-century reality being sieved through an uncritical acceptance of nineteenth-century political criticism. The West inherits much of its modern paradigm from the Spain of 1808 to 1834, from Romantic images of Goya as the enlightened individual fighting obscurantism to portrayals of heroic guerrilla patriots seeking to wrest political reform from a reactionary central government. It also inherits, although less consciously, the political rubrics of liberal and conservative (and absolutist) from nationalist polemics during the 1808–1814 French occupation. When looking back half a century later, Spaniards wanted to distinguish themselves clearly from the past.
Fabio López-Lázaro is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary and an adjunct assistant professor in its History Department.