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Carlos Martínez Shaw

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811) URL:

Jovellanos is one of the greatest figures of the Spanish Enlightenment, quite possibly the person that best and most completely incarnated the ideals and illusions of its phase of maturity during the reign of Carlos III, as it is evidenced by his acts and writings. His vital trajectory can be divided in a first period as judicial officer in Sevilla, where he had contact with another of the key representatives of Enlightenment movement, Pablo Olavide, and where he accomplished his first intellectual activities, both in the field of thought and the field of literature. A second period takes place in Madrid in contact with the Academias Reales and the Sociedad Económica Matritense de Amigos del País, until he is sent on a mission to Asturias. There, a third period around the Instituto Asturiano de Minas will take place in two sub-periods divided by a short stay working as the Secretary of Grace and Justice between 1797 and 1798. The following period corresponds with the exile ordered by Godoy in the island of Mallorca, a very rich one in terms of personal reflexions. And finally, the last period makes Jovellanos face the events that would precipitate the end of the Old Regime in Spain and with the difficult dilemma of all the enlightened: collaboration with the government of José I or supporting the Junta Central, fidelity to the constitutional tradition or support to the Courts of Cádiz.

What is important is all of his rich thinking, from which we know enough due to his numerous writings, many of them key pieces of the economic, political, and social thinking of the Spanish Enlightenment. Through them, Jovellanos appears as the quintessential theorist of the Enlightenment reformism in its most elaborated shape and most generous dimension. He also appears as a man always contained within the limits of this Enlightenment reformism, this is, always loyal to the preservation of the Old Regime. His educative proposals accepted social inequality, his economic proposals did not dare for a radical reformation of the structural obstacles opposing the development of the country, his political proposals did not put in doubt the organization estates of the Kingdom, nor did the go beyond the traditional constitution of the Monarchy. Due to this, Jovellanos was a noble figure in a period of transition, who theorized a coherent political reformism, but who could not or did not want to speak out in favour of a liberal solution for the future organization of Spain.

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