Siete Partidas

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Siete Partidas

Siete Partidas, Castilian legal code influenced by principles of Roman law. The Siete Partidas (Seven Divisions of Law) (1265) was the greatest achievement of Alfonso X of Castile and León. Produced by jurists well-versed in Roman law, the compendium was meant to provide the Castilian monarch with a universal system of royal justice and absolute authority that would replace the jurisdictional privileges of the towns and noble estates of the realm. Because of strong opposition, the law was never put into effect and the Siete Partidas, written in the Castilian vernacular, merely served as a textbook or legal reference work to supplement previously existing laws.

Yet the Siete Partidas clearly influenced the outline and administration of the legal system in the Americas. For instance, scribes, escribanos, observed and recorded many steps of the judicial process in New Spain, introducing the idea of recording the judicial process. Also, the code provided a legal personality for slaves, a status that was implemented to varying degrees in the colonies. Furthermore, the Siete Partidas reserved town land for public use; this provision, as well, was implemented. Thus, more than a legal reference, the Siete Partidas affected many facets of life in Spanish American society.

See alsoJudicial Systems: Spanish America .


Evelyn Stefanos Procter, Alfonso X of Castile: Patron of Literature and Learning (1951).

José Antonio Maravall, Estudios de historia del pensamiento español (1967).

Colin M. MacLachlan, Criminal Justice in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (1974).

Additional Bibliography

Aguirre, Carlos A., and Robert Buffington, eds. Reconstructing Criminality in Latin America. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000.

Burns, Robert I., ed. Las siete partidas. Translated by Samuel Parsons Scott. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Cutter, Charles R. The Legal Culture of Northern New Spain, 1700–1810. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

Klein, Herbert S. African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Mijares Ramírez, Ivonne. Escribanos y escrituras pú blicas en el siglo XVI: El caso de la Cuidad de México. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1997.

Scardaville, Michael C. "Justice by Paperwork: A Day in the Life of a Court Scribe in Bourbon Mexico City." Journal of Social History 36, no. 4 (Summer 2003): 979–1007.

                               Suzanne Hiles Burkholder