The crystallization of a common identity among the people of the border
counties of the southeastern Pyrenean region was a comparatively slow process
that took at least three centuries. The broadly regional term Catalan does
not appear to have been used until the eleventh century. Geography and
Muslim military pressure, as well as aspects of their cultural heritage,
made the population of the nascent Catalonia a part of Christian Hispania.
Other influences, however, reached across the Pyrenees to associate them
with southwestern French society in particular and the Carolingian empire
in general. It was the expansion of Carolingian France that had freed most
of the Pyrenean region from Muslim domination and created the Catalan counties
in the first place. The Catalan language that began to take shape faced
no linguistic barrier at the Pyrenees, closely related as it was to the
Romance vernacular of southwestern France. By the early ninth century the
Carolingian script and Franco-Roman religious rite had replaced the Visigothic
script and Hispano-Visigothic rite in the Catalan region.
During the course of the ninth century Carolingian political power contracted, and local overlords increasingly exercised de facto autonomy. In the Catalan region and southwestern France the old Roman system of direct ownership of land had been in large measure retamed,  so that in many cases local aristocrats and church establishments acquired full juridical title to their properties. A superstructure of personal political relationships in the feudal style of northern France was introduced during the ninth century, but such feudalism was slow to achieve full development in the south. Thus by the late ninth century this region had lapsed into extreme particularism under local counts and overlords and lacked any sort of general political system. Here for nearly two centuries there was neither the nominally strong monarchy found in León nor the overarching structure of rule by personal allegiance that characterized the classic feudalism of northern France.
During the first few generations after the Muslim conquest there had been a current of Visigothic and other Hispanic immigration into the eastern Pyrenees and beyond, reinforced by some slight Frankish emigration to the southwest. By the ninth century the eastern Pyrenean region held a fairly dense population, at least for its slight economic resources. The traditional property system and landlord domination remained comparatively unchanged; if the older form of serfdom tended to die out, stringent economic obligations of most peasants to their overlords remained. With the advance of the Catalan reconquest there was opportunity for peasants emigrating southward to till their own lands. Even newly occupied land, however, sometimes involved recognition of seigneurial obligations or payments, and when the expansion was resumed on a broader scale, some form of dominion by aristocrats or church institutions was established over most newly acquired land.
Formation of a single independent Catalan political entity was a slow and often confused process. The position of count in each of the original Catalan frontier districts was merely an administrative one, to which appointments were made by the Carolingian crown. Nevertheless, noble families were able to establish strong local positions, and they sometimes held offices for several generations. As the tendency toward local sovereignty spread during the latter part of the ninth century, their influence grew. By far the most powerful local dynasty was the house of Barcelona, descendents of Sant Guillem, count of Toulouse, one of Charlemagne's lieutenants. During the early and middle decades of the ninth century, members of this family at one time or another were counts of most of the small Catalan counties.
The roots of de facto Catalan independence have been traced to the time of Guifred el Pilós (Wilfred the Hairy), count of Barcelona from 878 to 897. After the overthrow of the main line of the Carolingian dynasty in 888, royal power was greatly weakened, and the  Catalan counties were farther from central control than any other part of the kingdom. Their relative stability in the tenth century encouraged the trend toward independence from the unstable French crown, as did the direct relations developed with the papacy by the counts of Barcelona. Yet the prestige of the crown was so great that there was no pretense of de jure independence by any of the Catalan counts until the end of the tenth century. Even as the county overlordships settled into semi-independent hereditary dynasties, limitations of sovereignty prevented any of the counts from claiming the title of king, though it became common for the count of Barcelona to refer to himself as count "by the grace of God," in the formula of the French monarchy.
There were entire decades of peace along the Muslim frontier, but such periods of calm were interludes in a long and extremely costly struggle. During the reigns of Abd-al-Rahmann III and al-Hakam II, the count of Barcelona became a client of the caliphate, but this did not prevent a devastating attack by al-Mansur that resulted in the sack of Barcelona in 985. The first major counterattack of the eleventh century was the great Catalan expedition of 1010, which, with the assistance of the Toledo Muslims, briefly occupied Córdoba. After the collapse of the caliphate, the Catalan counties were able to assume the offensive, their impetus strengthened by the population density that had been built up in "Old Catalonia" by the eleventh century.
The hegemony of the county of Barcelona was strengthened during the reign of Ramón Berenguer I "the Old" (1035-1076). Sometimes in conjuction with the count of Urgell and the king of Aragon, he mounted a series of successful expeditions to the west and southwest, expanding and repopulating the borders of the Catalan principalities. Parias from the prosperous Muslim cities to the southwest -- Zaragoza, Lérida, Tortosa - -filled his coffers and helped to create what may have been the first wave of prosperity in Catalan history. At about the same time, Catalan maritime power began to be felt in the west Mediterranean. Ramón Berenguer I established Barcelona's dominion over most of the area southeast of the Pyrenees and began the trans-Pyrenean expansion of the house of Barcelona by acquiring the counties of Carcassonne and Rasés as well, coordinating most of the Catalan territory through the exercise of greater personal sovereignty and through politico-juridical agreements with local overlords, won by negotiation, bribery, or force. This period saw a major achievement in the beginning of the collection and codification of Catalan law and practice in the written Usatges (Usages), the first full compilation of feudal law in any west European state. The church also  contributed to keeping order in Catalonia by developing the institution of the "peace of God," which established a general truce among warring feudal factions over a specific region for a specific time. This was introduced at an earlier date in Catalonia (1027) than anywhere else in western Europe.
Subsequent efforts by Count Ramón Berenguer II to expand westward toward Lérida and Zaragoza, made between 1082 and 1090, were blocked. At the end of the eleventh century the Catalan frontier was temporarily pushed back by the Almoravids, but the advance recommenced under Count Ramón Berenguer III, who took Tarragona on the coast in 1118. This city, once great under the Romans but ruined by the time of its reconquest, was rebuilt and soon made the metropolitan seat of the church in Catalonia, relieving Catalans of ecclesiastical dependency on the archbishopric of Narbonne beyond the Pyrenees. Ramón Berenguer III, with the aid of a Pisan fleet, also reduced most of the Balearic Islands to tributaries, though they were subsequently lost again to Muslim domination for a century more. The marriage of Ramón Berenguer III to the heiress of Provence added significant trans-Pyrenean holdings to the house of Barcelona, which during the next century served as a barrier to the southward expansion of the county of Toulouse, and more fatefully, the crown of France.
At the time of the Muslim conquest, the central Pyrenean region that
later formed the nucleus of upper Aragón made nominal submission
to the invaders. Because of its remoteness and general poverty and because
of the small numbers of Muslim troops, it was left autonomous and was never
occupied by a Muslim garrison. The two Pyrenean districts immediately to
the east were called Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. Lower Sorbrarbe was nominally
occupied directly by the Muslims, but Ribagorza was more remote and merely
paid tribute. Even in the Ebro valley to the south, Arab and Berber immigration
was lighter than in the main regions of Al-Andalus, and the subsequent
Muslim population of the Ebro valley were mostly Hispanic converts.
During the Frankish advance at the close of the eighth century, the south-central districts of the Pyrenees were organized as the counties of Aragón, Sobrarbe, and Ribagorza. The county of Aragón was unique in that it soon became independent; it was only briefly an appanage of the French crown. Moreover, unlike some of the Catalan counties, Aragón was not by- or trans-Pyrenean; it was cut off by a  higher range from the French side of the Pyrenees than the others, more or less isolated from French influence, and consequently directed southward toward the more sophisticated and flourishing regions of Huesca and Zaragoza with their Hispano-Muslim populations. This reinforced a sense of Hispanic identity while reducing Mediterranean and French contacts.
The early society of Aragón was somewhat looser, simpler, and freer than that of the Catalan counties. The region was small, rugged, poor, and sparsely settled, inhabited mainly by shepherds and peasant farmers. By the middle of the ninth century a series of fortified villages had been erected as main points of defense, and many of the peasants took the protection of a señor--that is, a military leader--to defend themselves, but elaborate hierarchic forms and a rigid aristocratic caste were slow to take shape.
As the smallest, poorest, and weakest of Hispanic principalities, the little hill-county of Aragón at first had no hope of expanding southward against the prosperous Muslim cities of the Ebro valley, and for two centuries scarcely tried. The goal of reconquest or expansion was apparently first communicated to the Aragonese from the neighboring state of Navarre to the west, and the county momentarily lost its independence when it was incorporated into the "empire" of the Navarrese Sancho el Mayor early in the eleventh century. Yet Aragón emerged as the first of the Pyrenean counties to establish itself formally as a kingdom, when it was inherited by a bastard of Sancho named Ramiro, who invoked the authority of his late father the "emperor" to claim for himself the title of King Ramiro I (1035-1063). The real substance to back this claim was probably the increased income provided by tribute payments which Ramiro was able to exact from the wealthy taifa of Zaragoza. The Aragonese were rude and poor, but they developed the warlike qualities of their Castilian cousins to the west and by the mid-eleventh century had generated a military force disproportionate to their size or wealth.
The second king, Sancho Ramírez (1063-1094), strengthened his position, as had the counts of Barcelona in the preceding century, by aligning himself with the papacy. Support from Rome fortified Aragonese independence in the face of the imperial claims of the Leonese crown, and in 1063 introduced the first step in the development of the crusade, bringing military assistance from France that enabled the Aragonese crown to seize the key Muslim town of Barbastro in 1064. Sancho Ramírez formally recognized papal suzerainty over the kingdom of Aragón, and subsequently received papal ratification of the Aragonese dynasty's claim to an independent royal title. Sancho also established political and marital alliances with several important families of the feudal aristocracy of southwest France, reinforcing  Aragón's diplomatic position. Meanwhile, Muslim tribute helped build the Pyrenean village of Jaca, Aragón's original capital, into the first true city of the kingdom.
In the latter part of the eleventh century, the Aragonese crown and military leaders became more thoroughly imbued with the crusading ethos than their counterparts in any other Hispanic principality. They won a series of key points in the foothill country during the 1080s, but found it very difficult to break past the barrier of well-fortified cities into the Ebro plain below them. And whenever they seemed about to make a real breakthrough in the direction of wealthy Zaragoza, their more powerful rival, the Castilian crown, helped to prop up the emir of Zaragoza as a political client and tributary of its own. Consequently the ambition of the Aragonese crown shifted briefly to the southeast, in expeditions toward the Mediterranean coast. Conquest was easier there; in conjunction with forces of the count of Barcelona, the distinct around Tarragona was seized in 1095, then lost again. More important and lasting victories were finally gained, however, with the definitive seizure of the foothill towns of Huesca (1096), and for the second and final time, Barbastro (1101).
The great Aragonese reconquest occurred in the first part of the twelfth century during the reign of Alfonso the Battler (1104-1134), a pious crusader who devoted himself primarily to war against the Muslims. With decisive reinforcement from French crusading knights, Alfonso was able to occupy the key Ebro city of Zaragoza and practically all the surrounding Ebro plain. He nearly doubled the size of the kingdom, increasing its natural resources and economic potential several times over.
Before the twelfth century, most of the Aragonese aristocracy were relatively poor and lesser nobles (hidalgos), who sometimes had to work their own land and caused little trouble for the crown. As in León and Castile, but not Catalonia, military and administrative officials in Aragón had at first constituted a service aristocracy. There were few hereditary fiefs, though as early as the tenth century tenencias over land, with the right of jurisdiction as lieutenant of the crown, were held by some nobles in the tierra vieja, the hill country of old Aragón. Originally these were not hereditary, but merely rewards for military service. Already by the eleventh century, however, most nobles were claiming hereditary status for their honors and tenencias. During the expansion of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, the crown had to recruit more heavy cavalry for lowland fighting, as the reconquest descended from the hills. The situation was broadly similar to that of Castile, and a similar solution was adopted. The class of caballeros villanos was expanded by the royal practice of granting  honores of income from land as remuneration for military service. Alfonso the Battler relied primarily on a caballería de honor of petty hidalgos and military commoners, each of whom was normally assigned a certain amount of rent or income for each mounted warrior that he brought to the royal service.
The first kings of Aragón, and particularly Alfonso, were energetic in limiting the privileges of the hereditary aristocracy, while granting liberal terms of resettlement in the new lands and encouraging founding of new towns. Semi-autonomous concejos were established in parts of new Aragón just as in southern Castile and León during the same period. Moreover, better terms had to be granted to peasants in tierra vieja to keep them on the land. In general, there was a somewhat more equitable social balance in much of Aragón than in Catalonia during the twelfth century, though this changed. As early as 1164, representatives of Aragonese towns were invited to a Curia regia (the first clear instance of this in any peninsular kingdom), forming the precursor of the Aragonese Cortes that developed half a century later.
But Aragón was a small kingdom with scanty population, and even after the occupation of the tierra nueva its resources were not great. Most of its "towns" were simply rural village communities akin to those of Castile. The only true cities were the new capital, Zaragoza, Jaca, and Huesca. There were not enough people from the north to inhabit the new territory, and so many more newly conquered Muslims were allowed to remain in the Aragonese tierra nueva than in other reconquered territory of the twelfth century. The most productive rural districts of southern Aragón were inhabited and worked almost exclusively by Muslim peasants.
Thus the most notable development in twelfth-century Aragonese society was not productive new development for most of the population but rather a continued increase in the power of the aristocracy. This foreshadowed a similar pattern that would emerge in Castile at the completion of the major part of Castihan reconquest. Following the death of Alfonso the Battler in 1134, his hard-pressed successor was forced to recognize the right of hereditary seigneurial domain for the landed aristocracy in both the north and south. In old Aragón this amounted to full legal title and sovereignty for the nobility. In new Aragón the granting of large seigneuries worked by Muslim peasants only increased the power of new landlords who did not have to worry about the rights of Christian underlings. The aristocratic fiefs in the south were established on the principle of personal feudal loyalty to the crown, reflecting the growing French influence in the peninsula at that time. Whether or not they held direct title in the  north or did feudal homage in the south, the Aragonese aristocracy was more powerful by the beginning of the thirteenth century than that of any other Hispanic kingdom.
The first Aragonese succession crisis occurred after the death of the
celibate Alfonso the Battler, who willed his crown and patrimony to the
monastic orders of the Temple, the Hospital, and the Holy Sepulchre. This
was blocked by the Aragonese elite. They elected as successor Alfonso's
brother, Ramiro the Monk, who had to renounce holy orders and marry in
an effort to provide an heir to the throne. The Aragonese succession immediately
fell afoul of the strong expansionist ambitions of Alfonso VII "the Emperor"
of Castile-León, who aspired to incorporate the entire Ebro district
down to Valencia and the Mediterranean. Since Zaragoza had been tributary
to Castile, he claimed sovereignty over many of the latest conquests of
the Aragonese crown, seizing Zaragoza at the end of 1134 and forcing Ramiro
to seek refuge in the Pyrenees. An international conclave of jurists, clerics,
and neighboring princes forced Alfonso VII to retire, but not before Ramiro
had been required to recognize the suzerainty of the Leonese-Castilian
crown as well as Castilian occupation of the key fortresses of southwestern
It was to save Aragón from domination by the powerful Leonese-Castilian monarchy that Ramiro turned to the highly capable young count of Barcelona, Ramón Berenguer IV (1131-1162), a strong military leader and the best Hispanic politician of his generation. Ramiro's infant daughter, Petronila, who was to have been betrothed to Alfonso VII, was instead pledged in 1137 to Ramón Berenguer, with the provision that their offspring would reign jointly over the two states of Aragón and Catalonia. In the meantime, the Catalan count was to exercise the powers of the Aragonese crown, and even in the event that the tiny Petronila died before the marriage could be consummated, the house of Barcelona was still to inherit the Aragonese crown.
This arrangement was the political masterstroke of the Hispanic Middle
Ages. It guaranteed the independent succession to the crown of Aragón
and strengthened the military and diplomatic position of both states, while
providing that each would preserve its own laws, institutions, and autonomy
undiminished. The two realms remained legally distinct, but federated under
the rule of a common dynasty.  Such an arrangement would have
been impossible with Castile, whose strong monarchy and centripetal tendencies
were inimical to equal federation. Both Aragón and Catalonia gained
greater strength and security than either would have enjoyed alone, and
Aragón was provided with a badly needed outlet to the Mediterranean.
The measure of the skill of Ramón Berenguer IV was that hc managed the union successfully and extracted Aragón from its pledged submission to Castile. In this he may have been aided by the fact that he was brother to Alfonso's queen, a princess renowned for her beauty and charm. Formation of a strong political entity in the northeast at the same time that the kingdom of Portugal broke away from Castile in the southwest gave greater balance to the principalities of the peninsula. The one left behind was of course Navarre, which found itself hemmed in territorially, had already lost its western and southwestern districts to Castile, and at one point was the object of a partitioning scheme of Alfonso VII and Ramon Berenguer IV.
The new ruler of the united dynasty still called himself count of Barcelona and merely "prince" of Aragón. During the middle years of his reign, he completed the occupation of new Catalonia with the seizure of Lérida (1148) and Tortosa (1149). His son by Petronila, Alfons II (1162-1196), was the first to call himself king of Aragón-Catalonia. Under the aegis of Alfons II, Catalan expansion across the Pyrenees into southwestern France reached its fullest extent, as the crown incorporated most of the territories of Provence and Languedoc, adding them to the small northeast Pyrenean districts of Cerdanya and Rosselló (Cerdagne and Rousillon). Emigration across the Pyrenees into Catalonia continued throughout the twelfth century, and was particularly useful in repopulating towns seized in the new districts of south and west Catalonia, and in expanding Catalan commerce.
Yet the trans-Pyrenean empire of Catalonia was brought to an abrupt end by the downfall of Pere II "the Catholic" (1196-1213). This resulted from the ambition of the French crown to overcome feudal division and reincorporate all territory down to the Pyrenees, but even more from the zeal for orthodoxy of Pope Innocent III. Provence and Languedoc had become the center of the Cathari religion in western Europe. Albigensianism, as the Cathari beliefs were frequently called, was an heretical Manichean type of religion stressing asceticism, moralizing, and the duality of body and spirit. The papacy was determined to extirpate the Cathari doctrine, and the French crown assisted this enterprise in order to seize the southwestern territories once more. Pere II of Aragón-Catalonia was a fully  orthodox prince who pledged his kingdom a feudality of the Holy See (hence his nickname the Catholic) but could not allow French forces to conquer and expropriate the trans-Pyrenean domains. Whereas in 1212 this warrior king had played an heroic role at the great pan-Christian victory of the Navas de Tolosa, in 1213 he led his forces across the Pyrenees to eject the occupying forces summoned by the papacy from northern France. The odds at the battle of Muret were in Pere's favor, but his Languedocian vassals proved feeble allies, and fortune failed him. Pere was slain on the field, his forces fled, and ultimately all Provence and Languedoc were incorporated by the crown of France.
The fateful defeat at Muret had the positive effect of quickly terminating what might have been a long, difficult, and costly rivalry with the crown of France. It set a stable border between France and Aragón-Catalonia, and turned the Hispanic kingdom southward to complete the reconquest of the peninsula's east, and ultimately outward into the Mediterranean in the great Aragonese expansion of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Pere the Catholic left a minor son as heir, Jaume I (1213-1276). During
the minority of the new ruler, the power of the crown declined and the
aristocracy usurped authority in both Catalonia and Aragón. But
after he came of age, Jaume proved himself the first great ruler of the
united dynasty. He seized the opportunity provided by the final decay of
Muslim power to complete the conquest of all the territory assigned to
the Aragonese sphere by the treaty of Cazorla with Castile in 1179. This
coincided with Castile's reconquest of most of the south under Fernando
III and won for the Aragonese ruler the historic sobriquet of Jaume the
Jaume's first step was to seize the Balearic Islands in a series of expeditions between 1229 and 1235. His second was to move into the entire central portion of the eastern coast, beginning with Morella and the Maestrazgo district in 1232, going on to Valencia in 1238, and by 1244 taking the coastal district south of Valencia as far as Játiva. The boundaries between Aragón and Castile were then reaffirmed in a treaty of 1244, and in 1265 Aragonese forces repressed a major Muslim revolt in the new Castilian region of Murcia in the southeast. Finally, the treaty of Corbeil in 1258 between the crown of France and that of Aragón-Catalonia wiped from the slate the old quarrels over the French regions of Provence and Languedoc.
 Jaume's reign was important not merely because it expanded a dual kingdom of approximately 85,000 square kilometers to one of approximately 112,000, but also because of the growth of the Catalan economy during this period and the beginning of the formation of the classic political constitutions of the Aragonese realms. When the veteran Conqueror died at the age of seventy-eight in 1276, the political, economic, and territorial basis had been laid for the expansion of the Aragonese empire in the Mediterranean.
The thirteenth century was the age of consolidation of the political
power of the Aragonese aristocracy. During the minority of Jaume I, the
royal finances were exhausted (in part because of the extravagances of
Pere the Catholic) and the resulting weakness of royal authority was used
by some Aragonese nobles to divide among themselves the landed rents and
other financial perquisites remaining to the crown. The expansionist policy
of the Conqueror in his mature years was designed in part to remedy this
weakness and restore a strong base for royal authority.
So long as the continental reconquest continued, ambitious and aggressive new aristocratic strata could be satisfied with new lands or rewards. After the reconquest ended, the nobility began to vie directly with the crown for control of the public power. The Aragonese nobility had already developed the myth of a pact which had supposedly originated the monarchy five centuries earlier through a compromise or contract between the chief noble, the king, and the leading ricoshombres (high aristocrats) to fight the Moors.
Much of the aggressiveness of the Aragonese nobility came from the fact that their position and power were in many cases of recent origin. Aragón had not been as thoroughly feudalized as Catalonia, where by definition most land was under the domain of the aristocracy or the church. Heading the nobility was a small group of ten or twelve families of ricoshombres, descended from or intermarried with royal bastards and the closest relatives of the crown. Most of their domains were of twelfth- and thirteenth-century creation and were the most productive areas in the Ebro and Jalón valleys and some of the most productive in the Valencia district. Below these few families was a fairly large group of middling-to-petty nobles, catagorized as infanzones and hidalgos. Though most of the landed aristocracy in Aragón exercised de facto civil and criminal jurisdiction over the  people and territory of their domains, this jurisdiction was not fully recognized by law. Furthermore, the bulk of the Aragonese aristocracy remained poorer than that of Castile or even of Catalonia, where some of the petty nobility were involving themselves in commerce. it was clear toward the end of the thirteenth century that Catalonia was the more populous, wealthy, and important of the two principalities. Aragón, one-third of whose population were Muslim underlings (mostly semiserfs), was a social and economic backwater by comparison.
Most of the Aragonese aristocracy joined in a special "Union" of 1283 to press on Jaume's son and successor, Pere el Gran (1276-1285) their status grievances and protests against new taxation and the growing predominance of Catalan interests in royal policy. The opportunity was provided by a quarrel with the French throne over the inheritance of Sicily, leading to a French invasion of Catalonia. The crown's desperate need for help forced it to recognize part of the "General Privilege" demanded by the Union, promising not to arrest, execute, or confiscate the property of any noble without the approval of the Aragonese Cortes and to make no new laws without Cortes approval.
The subsequent Privileges of the Union, imposed on the crown in 1287, forced ratification of the prerogatives of the Justicia (chief judge) of Zaragoza, whom the crown had already recognized as supreme judge of the kingdom, primarily in protection of nobles' rights. The Privileges also established the principle of annual Cortes meetings and the power of the nobles to name several members to the royal council with a veto over royal policy. Though not all these concessions were fully implemented, they had the effect of converting the kingdom of Aragón into a virtual aristocratic republic for the next half century. In the process, the full fiscal, civil, and criminal jurisdiction of the landholding aristocrats over their domains and the peasants thereon was implicitly recognized.
One of the distinctive features of the power of the aristocracy was its place in the Aragonese Cortes, which contained two aristocratic brazos ("arms" or chambers): one for the ricoshombres and one for the infanzones or hidalgos. Decisions in the brazo de ricoshombres required a unanimous vote. The two aristocratic brazos and the brazo popular (which represented twenty-two towns and three rural confederations) were complemented in 1301 by a brazo for the church hierarchy, creating the classic four-chamber Aragonese Cortes.
So long as their domestic social and juridical privileges were respected, the Aragonese aristocracy normally did not contest the crown's policy of overseas expansion. During the fourteenth-century  conquest of Sardinia, the contingent from lightly populated Aragón was as large as that from Catalonia and Mallorca combined.
The constitutional issue in Aragón was finally settled by the strongest king of the fourteenth century, Pere el Ceremoniós, who was determined to assert the authority of the crown in matters of general policy. He defeated forces of the aristocracy in a major battle in 1348 but reconfirmed many of the constitutional privileges granted by predecessors. Moreover, he ratified the authority of the Justicia, henceforth known as Justicia Mayor, to interpret the juridical rights of the aristocracy and safeguard the legitimate prerogatives of the Cortes. The Justicia Mayor was not, however, entirely above royal law; one who abused his authority was subsequently deposed, and another executed, by royal justice.
After 1348, the Aragonese nobility made little further effort to contest the sovereignty of the crown in the general affairs of the kingdom, in part because the crown accepted the social, juridical, and economic authority of the nobility on their local domains. The advance of Roman law gave them more exact legal tools to dominate the peasantry, particularly the lowest stratum of Muslim (and some Christian) peasants who lived in serfdom and were thenceforth treated under the judicial category of slave. New laws of the fourteenth century established the right of the señor to maltratar (punish) and even kill his serfs, if such authority was administered "justly." Thus by the fourteenth century the condition of most of the Aragonese peasantry, whether fully enserfed or simply encomendado, had declined from a hundred years earlier.
The towns and concejos of Aragón clung desperately to their charters under royal domain, to avoid falling under seigneurial control, and were frequently willing to pay large sums to the crown to have their status reconfirmed. Though the few Aragonese towns were small and poor, they were the only alternative under the crown to aristocratic authority. During the troubled twelfth century they had formed several regional juntas to help maintain law and order, but an effort was made from the thirteenth century on to incorporate jurisdiction over roads and royal domain in the royal administration, which appointed special judges and paceros (peacemakers) for policing.
The kingdom remained economically backward throughout the later Middle Ages. Some new irrigation was constructed in the river valleys, but the most productive farmland was for the most part the mudéjar (subject Muslim) regions of the tierra nueva. Sheep-grazing was almost as important as in Castile, and the Casa de Ganaderos of Zaragoza was the Aragonese equivalent of the Castilian Mesta. Compared  with the extraordinary development of Catalan commerce, that of Aragón was insignificant. From about the eleventh century, the most important trade routes were those that led northward through Jaca and Huesca over the Pyrenees into France.
The most important of the new domains was the region of Valencia. The
city itself had been one of the most populous and prosperous of the taifas,
and the surrounding agricultural region, partly irrigated, was one of the
most productive in the peninsula. The Muslim inhabitants of the city and
of other towns in the district were expelled, but most of the Muslim peasants
were allowed to remain, their lands divided to form new domains for Aragonese
(and some Catalan) aristocrats. After a Muslim peasant revolt in 1263,
however, some 100,000 Muslim peasants were expelled from the new kingdom
Jaume the Conqueror had the creative foresight to establish the new region on an independent basis similar to that of Aragón and Catalonia, making constructive use of the federative and constitutional principles behind the Aragonese crown. The Aragonese aristocracy had provided most of the military strength for the conquest of the region, but the crown was eager to avoid adding the whole new territory to the possessions of that domineering caste and so kept it separate and encouraged Catalan immigration. Valencia and most of the other towns were repopulated almost exclusively by Catalan immigrants. The majority of peasant immigrants into some of the better irrigated districts that had been cleared of Muslims were also Catalans. They were mainly from the freer districts of New Catalonia and brought their own furs, or systems of local rights, with them, as well as the technical ability to keep a rather complicated agrarian system operating. The domains of Aragonese aristocrats were restricted to the north and northwest of the new kingdom, adjacent to Aragón itself, and the common language of most of the Valencian Christian population was Catalan, not the Aragonese dialect more akin to Castilian. A three-chamber parliament or Corts on the Catalan pattern was then created to represent the dominant elements in the new Christian population.
Immigration was slow, for the surplus population of Catalonia was not great, that of Aragón even less, and some immigrants were attracted to the Balearics. In 1270 the Christian population of the entire region, including the city of Valencia, was only 30,000, while there  were four times as many subject Muslims in the countryside. By 1500, slow but steady immigration from the north and Muslim emigration to the south had increased the Christian proportion of an expanded population to nearly 50 percent: of a total of approximately 300,000 inhabitants, 140,000 were Christians, including nearly 70,000 in Valencia itself.
The rise of the city of Valencia as an important economic center dates from the height of the Aragonese Mediterranean empire in the fourteenth century. Its Catalan population brought with them the skills and values of Barcelona and other port towns, and ultimately, with the decline of Barcelona in the fifteenth century, Valencia became the leading commercial and financial city of eastern Spain. Its many skilled workers produced an important volume of manufactures, particularly in textiles. The principality's autonomy enabled the Valencians to maintain their own currency and protect it from the devaluations of the fifteenth century.
The two ruling classes in the principality were the urban oligarchy (ciutadans honrats) of the city and the landed aristocracy of the countryside. Early efforts to give artisans equal representation in the administration of Valencia were squelched, and strict sumptuary laws promulgated to keep them in their place; the dominance of the upper classes was maintained throughout. A degree of fusion between the urban oligarchs and the aristocracy occurred, particularly after an agreement of 1329 that allowed the lower aristocracy to hold office in the towns.
Valencia became in some ways the most cosmopolitan city in the peninsula and by the late fifteenth century was its primary center of sensual Renaissance esthetic and humanist culture, strongly influenced by Italian patterns. Yet Valencia remained a culturally bifurcate, religiously divided region, with half its population Muslim, for four hundred years, down to the final expulsion of the Muslims in 1613. Despite its prosperity and urban sophistication, it never developed a completely distinct, independent, and unified cultural personality.
Occupation of the Balearic Islands was a major step in the expansion
of Aragón-Catalonia in the Mediterranean. The largest of the islands,
Mallorca, had supported a Muslim population of between 80,000 and 100,000,
most of them peasant smallholders, but its Muslims were expelled en masse
and the island redivided among the royal domain and members of the occupying
force. Poor peasants from Catalonia  were brought over in significant
numbers to work the empty fields for the new overlords, at first on fairly
The key to Mallorca was its large and prosperous capital city of Palma. Endowed with a fine harbor and strategic position in the west Mediterranean, it became within two generations a new Barcelona and for the next century a rival of that capital. Through the first half of the fourteenth century the bourgeoisie of Palma built one of the strongest commercial and financial centers of the west Mediterranean, operating a large merchant fleet. After the middle of the fourteenth century, however, warfare, increased competition, the plague, and natural disaster combined to reduce sharply the commercial importance of Palma.
During the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, the society of Mallorca had been more or less open: the first positions after the conquest had been taken by petty cavaller and middle class conquerors and emigrants from Catalonia. The only feudal aristocrats were a very small group of nobles from Rosselló and Cerdanya. By the fourteenth century, Mallorca had developed an island parliament, the Consell General of three estates, with a special council for peasants and local councils for each district. Over half the land was originally under royal domain, and most of the original peasant immigrants enjoyed hereditary emphyteutic rights. By the fifteenth century, however, the urban oligarchy of Palma had come to dominate the entire island, buying up most of the land rights and establishing a kind of seigneurial domination over the peasantry, which was placed under growing exactions. Social tensions eventually erupted in several bloody civil wars between town and countryside.
The lesser islands were settled by Christian immigrants more slowly. Ibiza, the third largest, was occupied in 1235 and most of it divided among magnates (high aristocrats) from northeast Catalonia who led the expedition. The fairly dense Muslim population was reduced to serfdom, and in subsequent generations much of it was by degrees either expelled or sold into slavery. At the time of the original conquest the second largest island, Menorca, was merely reduced to vassalage. It was not occupied directly until 1287, after which most of the Muslim population of 40,000 were reduced to slavery and a large number sold throughout the west Mediterranean. Menorca may not have been fully repopulated with Catalan peasant immigrants for a century or more.
In his will, Jaume the Conqueror exercised the customary feudal right of division, and after his death in 1276, the Balearics were split off from the rest of the territories of the Aragonese crown to form a separate kingdom together with the north Pyrenean counties of Rosselló  and Cerdanya. The logic behind this hybrid arrangement was that many of the original conquerors and emigrants to Mallorca had come from Rosselló. Though the separate kingdom of Mallorca, as it was called, was soon forced to recognize once more the suzerainty of Aragón, its territories were not fully reincorporated into the patrimony of the Aragonese crown until 1349.
Aside from the commerce of Mallorca and the rise of Valencia in the
late Middle Ages, the economic history of the Aragonese empire is mainly
the economic history of Catalonia. Without the sea power of the Catalan
ports, overseas expansion would have been impossible. Catalan maritime
activity began to develop significantly in the eleventh century, and displayed
major military importance in the successful expedition to Mallorca in 1229.
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the shipyards of Barcelona
vied with those of Venice and Genoa to build the finest vessels in western
The growth of the Catalan economy was probably stimulated by the flourishing urban economy of southwestern France in the twelfth century, then by the money, enterprise and technical ability of middle class Albigensian refugees who fled to Catalonia after 1213. Simultaneously, the ravages of the papal Albigensian crusade shattered the economic centers of Provence and Languedoc and eliminated much of their competition to the broadly expanding thirteenth-century Catalan economy.
The first great phase of commercial expansion came during the second half of the thirteenth century. It was built especially on the oriental spice trade through Sicily and the traffic in gold, wool, and slaves with northwest Africa. In the early Middle Ages, traffic in slaves--mostly white--may have been the core of Barcelona's commerce. After the middle of the fourteenth century, the slave trade became increasingly important in general Catalan commerce.
By the early fourteenth century, Catalan merchants had established themselves in all the major emporia of the Mediterranean. Barcelona's Consulate of the Sea regulated overseas commerce and supervised the trade of many lesser ports along the Catalan and Valencian littoral. Altogether, Barcelona merchants comprised one of the three largest groups of traders in the centers of Mediterranean and west European commerce. They were the principal European middlemen in the ports of northwest Africa, were second only to the Venetians at Alexandria and in the Flanders trade, and even ranged beyond Byzantium to the Black Sea ports. Traffic in the spices and drugs of  Alexandria was facilitated by a favorable gold balance in trade with northwest Africa and augmented by special tribute paid to the crown of Aragón by several states along the northwest African coast during the fourteenth century.
The Catalan towns became important manufacturing centers and were practically the only exporters of finished goods in any volume in the Hispanic peninsula. At the heart was the domestic textile industry, relying on woolens in Catalonia and silks in Valencia. It began a major phase of development at the start of the fourteenth century with the formation of several large concerns of textile producers, the first of which was established at Barcelona in 1304. Expansion was encouraged by the elimination of French competition during the war that raged intermittently from 1283 to 1313, and by the demands of a growing domestic population and export markets in Castile, the west Mediterranean islands, and northwest Africa. There was also a significant domestic metallurgical industry, whose main achievement, the "Catalan forge," was later copied for iron-working in other parts of western Europe. During the fourteenth century the Catalans held what amounted to control over the technique of extracting Mediterranean coral, and their production of leather goods was also important. At one point, early in the fourteenth century, Catalonia may have had the strongest local manufacturing complex of any one region in western Europe.
Equally significant, Catalonia led in the development of banking and finance. Unlike Castile, which for a long time kept some Muslim monetary standards, Catalonia functioned within the monetary system of the European west Mediterranean. Earlier than 1400, Barcelona's financiers and merchants had developed letters of exchange (the forerunners of checks), insurance, and other banking techniques that were major steps in the evolution of modern finance.
Science was used most impressively in the realms of astronomy, mathematics, and navigation, and it enabled Catalan mariners to make fundamental contributions to the fourteenth-century expansion of Europe into the Atlantic and around the northwest African coast. All told, thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Catalonia was probably the only society within the peninsula in all of Hispanic history to be ahead of most of its European contemporaries in technology and economy.
The economic and territorial expansion of thirteenth-century Catalonia was made possible by, and in turn encouraged, the heaviest  concentration of people in the peninsula. Subsequent investigation has revealed, for example, that Catalan farming plots of the thirteenth century were only 20 to 50 percent as large as those of the sixteenth century because of the denser population in the earlier period. The population of the peninsula as a whole may have nearly doubled in the two centuries preceding the Black Death, between 1140 and 1340, as a result of improved agriculture and expanded commerce, but already by the mid-thirteenth century the population of Catalonia was nearly 500,000, or at least 10 percent of the peninsula's approximately 5,000,000. It is calculated that by the early fourteenth century Catalonia's population may have dropped to about 450,000, mainly because of heavy emigration. Altogether, two-thirds of the people of the home territories of the crown of Aragón were Catalan. The population of Valencia and Aragón combined, around 1300, scarcely exceeded 200,000, and that of the Balearics scarcely reached 50,000. Well over half the people of Valencia and Aragón were Muslims not integrated into the society. The Moorish population of the Valencia region amounted to 70-80 percent of the total of that area, that of Aragón to more than one-third, but it has been estimated at only 3 percent of all of Catalonia. The almost entirely rural population of bleak, landlocked Aragón was of secondary importance in producing food and raw materials (grain, wool, and hides).
Catalonia, however, suffered more heavily from the Black Death than did Aragón (or Castile), because it was more urbanized and the plague tended to follow the trade routes. The crest of the disease was followed by locusts, famine, and then its recrudescence, and according to some estimates nearly half of Catalonia died. By the latter part of the fourteenth century the population had declined to about 350,000.
There were two elements of the Catalan upper class: the feudal military aristocracy, established on the land, and the moneyed bourgeois oligarchies. By the late fourteenth century these two were beginning to merge, as more aristocrats chose to live in the towns and more wealthy merchants and financiers bought country estates. The urban patriciate or upper class were for the most part rentiers and the urban equivalent of the feudal seigneurs. These ciutadans honrats (honored citizens) wielded a disproportionate influence in town government.
Below them were the active middle classes, the ma mitjana, composed of several strata of mercaders (merchants and financiers), ranging from the mercaders honrats (enfranchised merchants), who might rival the oligarchic ciutadans in wealth, down to the ordinary marxants (peddlers). In wealth such categories might overlap with the artistas (professional men and skilled workers), below whom were the ordinary menestrals (artisans). The distribution of public power is  revealed by the social background of the 200 elective members of the ruling Barcelona Concell de Cent in 1257: 89 were ciutadans, 89 were mercaders, and 22 were menestrals.
Despite strong status differences, this was a fairly open society with
great mobility and considerable opportunity. There were definite social
tensions, as demonstrated in an uprising by the poble menut of Barcelona
in 1285, led by one Berenguer Oller and supressed with 200 executions.
But in general the urban society of expanding Catalonia, with all its complexity,
revealed a degree of social cohesion rivaled by few other regions of western
Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The extent of opportunity
is demonstrated by fourteenth-century menestrals who ultimately made so
much money that they were able to buy landed estates in the countryside.
It was only in the fifteenth century, after opportunity and mobility had
decreased, that rebellion by the lower and middle classes against the oligarchy
The condition of the peasantry improved steadily during the Catalan expansion from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. Genuine serfdom did not exist, though much of the peasantry was still liable to various kinds of feudal dues and services. However, after the Black Death reduced their numbers and placed a premium on labor, the upper classes began to tighten exactions and increase requirements, leading eventually to the great Catalan peasant revolts of the late fifteenth century.
The major political distinction of medieval Catalonia was that it developed the most effective parliament of any realm in western Europe. The constitutional structures of Catalonia and Aragón became more fully defined than that of Castile in part because of their more exact feudal separation of jurisdiction and rights. As in other kingdoms, the Catalan Corts that evolved in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were composed of representatives of three distinct braces. The Catalan parliament, like that of Aragón, was able to take advantage of the heavy fiscal and military needs of the crown to establish basic rights. Lacking the large royal domains of its Castilian counterpart, the crown of Catalonia-Aragón was constantly in need of funds, primarily to support military undertakings. Much of what was held in royal domain was sold to meet these needs, yet they were never fully satisfied and the crown was perpetually dependent on further grants, particularly from Catalonia. By the early fourteenth century, the Corts had used this hold over the crown to establish the principle of regular meetings of the Corts and its power of the purse, and it was on the way to achieving an explicit position of judicial and legislative sovereignty as well.
 The Catalan system, unlike that of Aragón, was more than an instrument of aristocratic domination, but developed a broad constitutional structure that represented and protected the middle class as well. The principal reason for this difference was the much greater strength of the Catalan towns and middle classes, requiring that the landed nobility, which was involved in commerce, ally itself with the urban elite rather than merely usurping priority. Thus in Catalonia, as later in England, there developed a functional combination of interests between the aristocracy and the upper level of commoners.
A unique feature of the Catalan system was the establishment of a special institution, the Diputació del General de Catalunya, a committee of representatives of the three estates of the Corts. Its function was to apportion and collect taxes, interpret the laws, and guarantee observance of due constitutional process. The Corts made a rule of never permitting the crown to know the sources of its grants, which were presented in a lump sum after being collected among the population on the basis of periodic censuses. A special Diputació was usually appointed to supervise collection of taxes, and in 1359 the Diputació was summoned to permanent session. In addition to supervising taxes, it began to serve as a superior court, and in 1421 was recognized by the crown as bearing authority to interpret the laws and guarantee their proper observance by other authorities. The Catalan Corts not only established legislative cosovereignty with the crown but institutionalized the means of safeguarding constitutional process, something completely wanting in the Castilian Cortes. The institution of a permanent executive agency--though mainly restricted to fiscal supervision--was afterward adopted by the parliaments of Aragón, Valencia, Navarre, Mallorca, and Aragonese Sicily.
Yet the Corts and its Diputació were used by the dominant elements in late medieval Catalan society primarily as a protective device against the crown. The notion of legislative initiative or a positive economic or fiscal program by the Corts was almost entirely absent. The only programs that ever appeared in the medieval Corts were the annual greuges, usually long lists of juridical and financial complaints against exactions and abuses, designed mainly to hold down the tax bill.
The culture of medieval Catalonia was the most thoroughly "European"
to be found in the peninsula. Its first significant intellectual center
was developed at the monastery of Ripoll in the eleventh century. There
and at several other schools in the northeast, the first  work
was done in transmitting aspects of Muslim science and culture to western
Europe, antedating the more extensive efforts in Castile. In both Castile
and Catalonia the major role in this was played by Jewish intellectuals,
living especially in Barcelona, Huesca in Aragón, and Tudela in
Navarre. Foreign students at the principal Catalan schools as well as the
religious centers at Pamplona and at Tarazona in Aragón helped transmit
Muslim learning across the Pyrenees.
The first major foreign esthetic influences in Catalonia came from Provence and Lombardy, to be followed by the common Romanesque art of western Europe, stronger in Catalan art and architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries than anywhere else in the peninsula. Largely from Provençal influence, formal vernacular poetry developed earlier in Catalonia than in Castile, beginning with such poets as Moncada in the eleventh and Arnau de Vilanova in the twelfth century. By the early thirteenth century, the Provençal mode of courtly lyricism (and topical satire), as spread by the trovadors and jongleurs, was widely practiced, and the poetic contest became an institution.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Catalan remained the language of the Aragonese dynasty and court, which itself produced the first great Catalan narrative in the Crónica of Jaume I. At the end of the thirteenth century, the Catalan theologian and philosopher Ramón Ltull was the first writer in western Europe to compose philosophical and scientific works in the vernacular. The height of the medieval Catalan prose narrative was reached during the fourteenth century in Ramón de Muntaner's chronicles of the Mediterranean expansion.
Philosophical and theological study in Catalonia was the most advanced in the peninsula, and during the fourteenth century there were several teachers of Scotism in the region. The only new Catholic philosophical variant to appear anywhere in the peninsula during the Middle Ages was that of Ramón Lluli. Llull is best known for a grand project to convert the Muslims that eventually led him to a martyr's death. He also developed a body of theology that differed from Thomism in its insistence that there was no function for philosophy aside from theology and that all theological propositions could be understood by reason. Llull was besides a poet, a mystic, and a writer of didactic romance, and was probably the first thinker in western Europe to propound the idea of an international association of states (Christian and non-Christian) to keep the peace.
Though open heresy was extremely rare, Catalonia was more noticeably touched by heterodoxy than other Hispanic realms. The Albigensians who fled into the region in the thirteenth century left few direct traces, but the more open and individualistic structure of  Catalan culture and society created a somewhat more critical-minded and questioning religious ambience than in Castile or Portugal.
During the late-thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Aragonese crown
developed the most clearly defined, conscious, and carefully planned imperial
strategy of any power in western Europe. It first began to take shape during
the reign of the heir of Jaume I, Pere III el Gran (1276-1285), who proposed
active expansion on all fronts, to include restricting aristocratic power
at home (particularly in Aragón) and establishing the indivisibility
of the royal inheritance. Pere's queen was the daughter of Manfred von
Hobenstaufen and heiress to Sicily. He proposed to claim this inheritance
even though the pope had given the island to a branch of the French Angevin
dynasty. An opportunity was provided by the famous "Sicilian vespers" of
1282, in which many of the French supporters of the Angevin claimant were
massacred and the rest driven from the island, opening the way to Aragonese
occupation. The claim to Sicily brought the Aragonese crown into direct
conflict with the two major powers of western Europe in that era: the papacy
and the crown of France. It led immediately to a major French invasion
of Catalonia, under duress of which the Aragonese and Catalan parliaments
exacted fundamental concessions from the crown. The invasion was blessed
by the pope as a crusade but it ended in complete defeat (1285), leaving
rich spoils to be garnered by the victorious Catalans.
Pere el Gran's successor, the weak Alfons III (1285-1291), was handicapped by the resistance of the Aragonese aristocracy. Sicily was given to Pere's second son, Jaume, who was hard-pressed to beat off the assaults of the French and papal forces but was assisted by the excellent Catalan navy of Roger de Lluria that smashed several French fleets. In 1291, Alfons was reconciled with the papacy and agreed to cease aiding the Sicilian branch of his family, but died six months later without a direct heir. The Catalans then offered the throne to Jaume of Sicily, who became Jaume II of Aragón (1291-1327), ignored some of his late brother's concessions to the aristocracy, and continued the struggle with the papacy over Sicily. After five years, however, a compromise was arranged: the Aragonese crown renounced Sicily, was lifted from interdict by the papacy, and was given sovereignty over Sardinia and Corsica (though it would be up to the Aragonese to conquer those islands to make such sovereignty effective). The compromise was not, however, accepted by  Jaume's younger brother, Fadric, the governor of Sicily. who was elected king by a Sicilian parliament in 1296. A settlement was finally reached in 1302, when the French crown agreed to accept Fadric as independent ruler of Sicily after he married a Neapolitan Angevin princess.
Jaume II, like his father, pursued a policy of calculated expansion, both in the west Mediterranean and in the peninsula as well. Royal policy was strongly supported by the Catalans, for it proved a stimulus to manufactures and commerce and offered advantageous new positions. Unlike his grandfather Jaume I, Jaume II did not regard the existing frontiers between Castile and Aragón as final. He took advantage of a Castilian minority crisis in 1296 to occupy the entire Alicante-Murcia region south of Valencia. Though unable to keep Murcia, Jaume did obtain recognition of the Aragonese crown's possession of all the Alicante district, which then became part of the kingdom of Valencia.
The most extraordinary single achievement of the expansion, however,
was accomplished in the east Mediterranean by Catalan forces entirely independent
of the crown. After peace was restored to the Mediterranean for an entire
generation following the compromise of 1302, most of the almogávers,
the mercenary light infantry from Catalonia who had done much of the recent
fighting, were left without employment. The greater share -- a "Grand Company"
of possibly as many as 6,500 under Roger de Flor -- were hired by Byzantium
to protect the eastern empire. Though they quickly established an extraordinary
record in wresting Asia Minor from the Turks, the Byzantine court found
the almogavers potentially dangerous defenders; within two years Roger
de Flor and many of them were tricked and massacred near Constantinople.
The survivors of the Grand Company seized the Gallipoli peninsula, where
they attracted allies, including several thousand Turkish mercenaries,
and laid waste all of Thrace. In 1309, they moved to Thessaly in the employ
of the French Burgundian overlord of central Greece but were soon dismissed.
They turned on the Burgundian-Athenian forces and cut the latter's cavalry
to pieces in battle near Thebes, then took over completely the "Latin"
duchy of Athens. This independent Catalan dominion over central Greece
lasted for three generations, and by 1370, one-third of the population
of Athens was said to be Catalan. Catalan rule was finally overthrown in
The military and commercial power of the lands of the Aragonese crown waxed so strong throughout the west Mediterranean during the reign of Jaume II that at one point, in 1309, the Aragonese ruler was even offered the overlordship of the Italian republic of Pisa by its leading citizens. Given the intense rivalries in Italy, this was impractical,  but during the course of his reign Jaume II prepared the diplomatic and commercial outlines of further territorial expansion, finally launched with the beginning of the Aragonese conquest of Sardinia in 1323. This brought the Aragonese crown into direct conflict with the powerful republic of Genoa, and the subsequent reign of Alfons IV (1327-1336) was full of conflict.
The outstanding Aragonese ruler of the fourteenth century was Pere IV "el Ceremoniós" (the Punctilious), whose long reign extended for half a century, from 1336-1387. He was a conscientious and devoted ruler and an excellent politician. Moreover, like most of the Aragonese kings of this period, he was cultured and well-read. Pere IV was extremely popular in Barcelona and enjoyed general Catalan support throughout his reign. His main accomplishments were to consolidate the constitutional system of Aragón and Catalonia and secure the domination of the Aragonese crown in the west Mediterranean islands. A showdown with the Aragonese aristocracy occurred in 1347-1348 when the leaders of Aragón and Valencia refused to recognize Pere's only child at that time, his daughter, as heiress to the crown. Momentarily in a weak position, Pere was forced to restore the privileges of the Union to the Aragonese aristocracy and to ratify the institution of a justicia mayor for the Valencian Corts. But the balance soon changed. After another outbreak of plague, Pere collected a largely Catalan army and broke the forces of the Aragonese aristocracy in pitched battle, bringing death to the leaders of the opposition. The Union was abolished, but, as explained earlier, Pere kept a respect for the traditional laws and did not try to alter the original prerogatives of the Aragonese Cortes. Moreover, it was during his reign that the executive branch of Catalan parliamentarianism, the Diputació, was permanently established (1359).
After settling the Aragonese constitutional issue, Pere forceably reincorporated the "kingdom" of Mallorca and its appendage of Rosselló under the Aragonese crown. The struggle with Genoa over Sardinia was then pursued more vigorously, but effective control of Sardinia was not achieved until the very end of his reign. Even after that, serious revolts had to be faced. The Catalan position in Sicily had remained strong, with eighteen commercial consulates ringing the island in an economic web, and in the last years of his reign, Pere was successful in regaining control of Sicily for the Aragonese crown. The Aragonese pattern of establishing autonomous local parliaments was also repeated in Sardinia and Sicily.
During the l350s and 60s, many of the resources of the Aragonese crown were tied down in a protracted struggle with Pedro the Cruel of Castile. Aragonese interests emerged unscathed from this long contest with a powerful rival, thanks in large part to the diplomatic  skill of Pere IV in finding allies and playing off Castilian factions against each other.
During the long reign of Pere IV, the Aragonese-Catalan empire reached its zenith, but the symptoms of decline were already apparent by the time of the old king's death in 1387. Earlier, the expansion of the empire and war with France had stimulated commerce and provided new opportunities for Catalan manufactures. By the middle of Pere's reign the effects of the plague, of population decline, and of constant warfare were beginning to tell on Catalan resources. The Barcelona financial collapse of 1381 was a warning of worse to come.
The achievement was nevertheless extraordinary. In the Middle Ages,
only in Venice was there another example of economic development and commercial-military
hegemony resting on so slim an original base. Given the complexity and
difficulty of the problems faced and the elaborate political and technological
developments that were realized in the process, the rise and temporary
splendor of medieval Aragón-Catalonia surpassed the territorial
expansion of militant Castile in scope and intricacy of accomplishment.
 The best one-volume history of Catalonia is Ferran Soldevila's História de Catalunya, rev. ed. (Barcelona, 1962). Soldevila is also the editor of a new multivolume Historia dels catalans (Barcelona, 1966), which is superbly illustrated. The series Biografies Catalanes, published in Barcelona, provides detailed accounts of political and institutional history: see Ramon d'Abadal, Els primers comtes catalans (1958); Santiago Sobrequés, Els grans comtes de Barcelona (1961); P. E. Schramm, J.F. Cabestany, and E. Bagué, Els primers comtes-reis (1960); Ferran Soldevila, Els grans reis del segle XIII (1955); J.E. Martínez Ferrando, S. Sobrequés, and E. Bagué, Els descendents de Pere el Gran (1954); and Rafael Tasis, Pere el Ceremoniós i els seus fills (1957). The most thorough study of Catalonia-Aragón in the period of the expansion is J. L. Shneidman's The Rise of the Aragonese-Catalan Empire 1200-1350, 2 vols. (New York, 1970), which is topical in organization.
The most extensive study of early medieval Catalonia, still uncompleted, is Ramón d'Abadal's Catalunya carolingia, 4 vols. (Barcelona, 1925-55). A. R. Lewis, The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718-1050 (Austin, 1965), provides new understanding of early Catalan society and institutions. See also Emile Cauvet, Etude historique sur l'établissement des espagnols dans la Septimanie au VIlime et IXme siécles (Narbonne, 1877), and Josep M, Guilera, Unitat histórica del Pirineu (Barcelona, 1964). Jordi Ventura has written two useful biographies that deal also with transpyrenean expansion and the question of heterodoxy: Alfons el Cast (Barcelona, 1962), and Pere el Católic i Simó de Montfort (Barcelona, 1960). R. Dalmau's booklet, L'heretgia albigesa i la batalla de Muret (Barcelona, 1960), is also helpful. The principal biographies of the two leading thirteenth-century rulers are by Soldevila: Vida de Jaume I el Conqueridor (Barcelona, 1958), and Pere el Gran, 3 vols. (Barcelona, 1950-1956). Ramon d'Abadal has recently published a new biography, Pere el Cereinoniós (Barcelona, 1972). On the fourteenth-century kings of Mallorca, see J.-E. Martínez Ferrando, La trágica história dels reis de Mallorca (Barcelona, 1960).
Aspects of foreign affairs and expansion are studied in Juan Regla Campistol, Francia, la Corona de Aragón y la frontera pirenaica, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1951); Vicente Salavert y Roca, Cerdeña y la expansión mediterránea de la Corona de Aragón 1297-1314, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1956); Antonio Arribas Palau, La conquista de Cerdeña por Jaime II de Aragón (Madrid, 1952); Francesco Giunta, Aragonesi e catalani nel Mediterraneo, 2 vols. (Palermo, 1953); Ch.-E. Dufourcq, L'Espagne catalane et le Maghrib aux XIIIe et XIVe siécles (Paris, 1966); and Lluis Nicolau d'Olwer, L'expansió de Catalunya en  la Mediterránia oriental (Barcelona, 1926). Two useful brief summaries are I. F. Cabestany, Expansió catalana per la Methterránea (Barcelona, 1967), and Rafael Tasis, L'expedició dels almogavers (Barcelona, 1960).
Political and scientific ideas are treated in Francisco Elias de Tejada,
Historia del pensamiento político catalán, 3 vols. (Seville,
1963-65), and J. Millás Vallicrosa, Assaig d'historia de les
idees fisiques i matemátiques a la Catalunya medieval (Barcelona,
1931). Armand Llinares, Ramon Llull (Barcelona, 1968), presents
an excellent analysis of the leading figure of medieval Catalan religion
and culture. Commercial organization is studied in Jaime Carrera Pujal,
La Lonja de Mar y los cuerpos de comercio de Barcelona (Barcelona,
The best brief history of medieval Aragón is José Ma. Lacarra, Aragón en el pasado (Zaragoza, 1960). On Valencia, see the multivolume História deIs valen cians (Barcelona, 1965), and the first chapters of Joan Fuster, Nosotros íos valencianos (Madrid, 1967). Thomas F. Glick, Irrigation and Society in Medieval Valencia (Cambridge, 1970), is an important new work. The basic new reference on Mallorca is J. Mascaró Pasarius, História de Mallorca, 4 vols. (Palma de Mallorca, 1970).