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Family Conflictivity: Social, Cultural and Legal Practices in Spaces of Mobility (Barcelona, 16th-18th Centuries)

Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades / Agencia Estatal de Investigación - MCIN/AEI/ 10.13039/501100011033
Research projects
Principal Investigator(s)
Mariela Fargas Peñarrocha
(Universitat de Barcelona)
Research Team
Santiago Bueno Salinas
(Universitat de Barcelona)
Marta Bueno Salinas
(Universitat de Barcelona)
Marie Costa
(Université Sorbonne Nouvelle–Paris 3)
M. Ángeles Pérez Samper
(Universitat de Barcelona)
Magalí Riera Rica
(Universidad Rey Juan Carlos)
Josep Serrano Daura
(Universitat Internacional de Catalunya)

This project is inscribed within a history of family, of marriage, from the multidisciplinary perspective of conflict. The consolidation of this line of study toward Barcelona must be based on the stage of knowledge reached in the framework of family history and in the area of international-European historiography. Following these advances, the starting point of our research calls for a diverse consideration of family conflictivity, its social, cultural, and legal foundations, its causes and impact, its typology, its agents and its agencies, always from a gender perspective which is in itself a sociocultural perspective. We delimit the conceptual space of conflictivity within those cycles in which family mobilizes, that is, transmits both material and cultural/symbolic capital, without leaving its social priorities aside. They are moments with social and legal relevance. Consequently, they are marriage, from its formation, its patrimonial and succession regime. Bearing in mind that family conflictivity reveals the complexity of social workings, we approach the analysis of this conflictivity as a structure inherent to social relations within families and not as an episode of family life. Conflictivity is a part of the social and cultural scene, it has effects more far-reaching than affecting family cycles –no matter how long or consecutive they may be–, and it is structural. Thus, the motivation behind our research consists in working upon this structure so as to better understand how conflict has been dealt with in the family, from its inception to its implication in consensus and decisions. And how this could have an impact on the creation of social cultural changes inherent to the private order –the passage from lineage to the nucleum– and to the public orde –the neutralization of the communitarian, competition for power, for the control of social relations associated to social aclimbing– which develop as of the modern era.


General Aims

  1. To compare, contrast and update the diverse advances identified by modernist European historiography about this subject, family conflictivity from a multidisciplinar perspective and its impact on the changes in modern families in Barcelona during that era. To contribute to the knowledge of the history of family and marriage from a multidisciplinar approach to conflict in one of the most important cities during Modernity, which proves is required for a comparative vision. At this point it is also important to note that we conceive the study of families as a laboratory in which to reach a better understanding of other processes of change in the social, political and cultural domains. It is also important to fill a currently evident gap. 
  2. To contribute to the study of family conflictivity in modern Barcelona from the multidisciplinar perspective of social and cultural dynamics, as well as of the legal system –marriage and succession–. We therefore aim to bridge gaps between law and history, to understand the consistencies of law in the family area, its real impact, the interpretation of its sources, its uses, its strategies, and its traffic. Moreover, we also aim to obtain a deeper understanding of social and cultural practices within families which reflect interests and needs adscribable to gender, to kinship, to group-lineage, or even to individuals, starting from the possibilities that law and its ambiguities produce. 


Specific Aims

  1. To develop a better understanding of the history of family conflictivity in the context of Barcelona, from a legal perspective, in its framework of social, cultural and power relations. We inquire about changes in families from matrimonial conflictivity to lineage wars; from conviviality struggle to patriarchal power, to the difficulties to legitimate marraige, to the fight against such clandestinity; the dowry system, universal succession, inheritance consolidation as opposed to the freedom to write a will. We do not yet know, in our context, not only the outreach and characteristics of such a portrait, but also the agencies and the experiences of subjects. To update the area of study about legal practices in the context of comparative sources. To dig deeper into the sources and institutions of law interacting in the processes around which this project revolves. To consider the social construction of law as illuminated by conflict. 
  2. To diagnose the impact of private-public family conflictivity in change processes within the family unit as well as in its desegregation from the public-communitarian. All in all, to approach family conflict from within as well as from without. We wonder about the real impact of the conflict factor, in itself, that is, tendencies, intensities and its strength in the evolution of the family model. We consider both cultural models and reproductive models (the family as a core, a kernel, within the patriarchal system, birthright and exclusion). Families used to constitute an integrating body, a mobile body, subjected to and resulting from the integration of a multiplicity of agencies both private and communitarian, as well as beyond the public sphere. In this sense, we can ask ourselves: how did that small and idealized family unit evolve into the domestic family? How would daily conflictivity affect the construction and the memory of genealogies, hierarchical relations and authoritarian rules? Which role does the family have in the solving of conflict? What about in juridical conflict? That is, in the construction of a culture of reconciliation, of the construction of spaces in common, of the denial of authority and obedience? And, more specifically within the chosen context of a modern city, under the coordenates of social mobility, the fluid stages of massive competitiveness, what does conflict mean to the competition for social mobility, for the process of division between the private and the public?


Imagen: © C. de Passe, el Vell, Discordia, 1589, Anvers (?), Biblioteca de Reserva, Universitat de Barcelona.