The presence of Spain in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood might appear quite marginal and original at the same time: marginal because the Spanish consulate was founded in 1854, later than other European countries, but also original thanks to the presence of Spanish Franciscans in Jerusalem since the 13th century, the specific history of Spain with Jewish and Muslim people (Vilar, 2003) or with the figure of the Spanish diplomat Count of Ballobar who became the guardian of various nations’ interests during the First World War (Mazza, 2010).
Therefore, it appeared opportune, in the framework of ERC Open Jerusalem project, to take a closer look at the historical records of Spanish entities in Jerusalem. Between the 17th and the 24th of January 2016, Anne Leblay-Kinoshita, archivist at the French National Archives, went to Madrid to study those records.
A first visit was paid to “Archivo general de la administración” (AGA) in Alcalá de Henares, a city located 30 km from Madrid, best known for its historical precinct and university inscribed on World Heritage List and for being the place of birth of Miguel de Cervantes.
Less known, the AGA are nevertheless one of the biggest archive in the world, after US and French National Archives. Officially created in 1969, the AGA hold records of State administrations, mainly from the 20th century but also the second half of 19th century. In this place 427 boxes and registers of records from the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem dated from 1852 until 1976 are preserved.
A visit was also paid to the “Archivo histórico nacional” (AHN) in Madrid. Created in 1866, the AHN has been located in the complex of the Spanish Research National Council since 1952. The AHN holds records from Old Regime and Contemporary Institutions (until the Spanish Civil War), Ecclesiastical Institutions, Private archives and specific collections.
Since 2013 and the closing of the Archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the AHN holds its records prior to the Civil War like those of the “Obra Pía de los Santos Lugares en Jerusalén”. The “Obra Pía” is a religious institution, at first dedicated to the administration and preservation of sacred heritage in Holy Places. It became a State institution in 1772 with Carlos III. Around 435 “packets” and more than 20 registers dated from the 16th century until 1936 are now preserved in the AHN.
During those visits, some inventories were collected and it is now possible to have an idea of the content of each box, packet or register.
Amongst the records of the Spanish Consulate, some series appear quite interesting for the history of the city of Jerusalem and the Spanish presence in that place: there is a chronological series, more or less continuous since the creation of the consulate, a series dedicated to the relation between the consulate and the administration of the “Obra Pía” in Madrid, a fascinating series about the protection of foreign interests – especially during First World War for the Russians, French, Italians and, above all, the Greeks – or various series of records for the accountancy and juridical matters which can give an idea of the everyday life of the different communities living in Jerusalem. A first research in the records also showed the importance of the Consulate in Jerusalem during Spanish Civil War.
With regard to the “Obra Pía”, the interest of the records seemed moderate for Open Jerusalem project. First, this institution was established in Spain, so the documents describe mainly the organization there. Secondly, the inventory lacks of precision, e.g. the content of the first 169 packets is described as various correspondence and budgets produced between 1500 and… 1900. However, the continuity of the fonds is indeed outstanding and showss the importance of the institution for the relationship between Spain and the Holy Places.
Those first steps in Spanish archives are quite promising and an exciting research might go on in the records of the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem. In short: highly encouraging, to be continued!
María José Vilar (2003), “Una percepción desde España de la cuestión Palestina. Aproximación a sus fuentes documentales y bibliográfica en español”, Anales de Historia Contemporánea, 19. pp. 285-312.
Mazza, Roberto (2010), “Antonio de la Cierva y Lewita: the Spanish Consul in Jerusalem 1914-1920”, The Jerusalem Quarterly, 40. pp. 36-44.
Spanish archive portal: