Segadores, War of the

Segadores, War of the


(Spanish, Guerra de los Segadores, “War of the Reapers”), an uprising in Catalonia that lasted from 1640 to 1652. The War of the Segadores was fought to liberate Catalonia from Spanish absolutism and restore Catalan autonomy. The uprising, which broke out during Spain’s war with France (1635–59), was sparked by demands made on Catalonia by Spain. Catalonia was forced to pay increased taxes; quarter royal troops, consisting mostly of soldiers from other provinces and foreign mercenaries; and supply men to the Spanish army stationed in Italy.

The uprising was begun by peasants, who were joined by the lower urban strata. In May 1640 clashes between peasants and soldiers broke out throughout Catalonia and on May 22 several thousand armed peasants entered Barcelona. The city’s common people joined them, sparking open rebellion. The duke of Santa Coloma, the notoriously cruel viceroy of Catalonia, was murdered. From Barcelona the revolt spread to all parts of Catalonia. The insurgents were joined by some members of the urban aristocracy and bourgeoisie, as well as by nobles who had been hurt by the Spanish government’s violation of Catalonia’s privileges and who desired the secession of the region from Spain.

The insurgents concluded a temporary agreement with France in August 1640 and a permanent alliance was arranged in December 1640. French troops entered Catalonia in late 1640. In January 1641 the Catalan Cortes deposed the Spanish king Philip IV as ruler of Catalonia and recognized the sovereignty of France, proclaiming the French king Louis XIII count of Barcelona. In September, Louis finally accepted the offer and promised to observe Catalan privileges. In January 1641 French troops helped Barcelona repel an assault by Spanish royal forces that had come to Catalonia in order to suppress the rebels. A long, bitter war ensued. Eventually, in 1651, Spanish troops laid siege to Barcelona.

Several factors contributed to the success of the Spaniards. First, the French troops had aroused anti-French feeling among Catalans by their plundering and brutality. Second, France had reduced its assistance to the insurgents because of its complex domestic situation at the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign. Finally, the Spanish government promised to observe Catalonia’s rights. In October 1652, Barcelona capitulated. In January 1653, Philip IV was forced to acknowledge Catalan privileges, with certain exceptions.

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