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What a game that ended up to death in the house of a barber in 1799 tells us about the history of Spain

The All Saints ' day, 1799, John Spears, a day labourer, 22 years of age, was playing with the money to the cards with his partner, John Cord, against Jose Campos and Miguel Square. They were in the back of the barber shop of Sunday from Light, in the small town of cordoba of Rute. Perhaps they had just arrived or maybe you were playing all night, the case is that about nine in the morning the thing was heated, Fields, and Cord they rolled to get to duke it out, and, Spears, who got in the way to defend his partner, he ended up taking a stab in the chest that left him wounded.

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This brawl might seem like little more than a event of for 219 years, but the young historian Miguel Mohedano has bothered to recreate the story —and the other eight games of cards which ended up in the courts at the end of the EIGHTEENTH century— from the documentation of the Local Justice of Rute conserved in the Historic archives of the province of Cordoba, because it ensures that it gives many clues about how it was that society, what were the relations of the individuals of the era, among them and with the powers and the laws. “The first conclusion is that all over the world play cards despite the fact that it was forbidden to play by betting,” says Mohedano, a student now in Salamanca with a master in Advanced Studies of History, which has published its end-of-degree —card games: resistance day-to-day in Rute (Cordoba) in the second half of the EIGHTEENTH century— in the magazine Areas of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Mohedano describes a social context which sailed between appearances, represented by such legal prohibition, and the daily reality, with an extension of the practice so great that there had to be a certain permissiveness: “In a rural context such as that dominated the popular classes, the laborers, the people needed an escape valve, as the festivities or the game, to compensate for a low salary and a miserable life,” explains the historian. And it also highlights another of the cases that have been studied, in which two merchants were playing in a tavern against two “ordinary ministers”, something as well as police officers of the time. “It emphasizes that everyone played cards and everyone was betting and around Youwin the world engaged in crime. That is to say, that the crime itself was absurd, but as it was a tradition...”.

A tradition that dates back to the Roman Law and that, as in medieval times, vetaba the game of craps at many points of the iberian peninsula. “Already in the Modern Age that the legislation on games of cards shall expand and evolve” and, with the arrival of the dynasty of the Bourbons to the Spanish throne, in the EIGHTEENTH century, would come the most important changes. Above all, in 1771, with a pragmatic sanctioned by Carlos III in which he insisted on the problems of the game —ruin of many families, distracting from the subjects, conflicts and slopes to mingle with the alcohol— and supported “the ineffectiveness of all these preceding regulations”.

'Bohemians playing cards', by J. Rougeron. J. Laurent y Cía Library of the Historical Heritage, Ambiguity of the legal text

however, this rule neither came to fix things, as it has been able to verify Mohedano in the file Local Justice of Rute, whose background also includes the villages of Benamejí, Iznajar, Palenciana and other municipalities, attached as malaga Cuevas de San Marcos and Cuevas Bajas. To begin with, by the very ambiguity of the legal text. “In the law banning certain games in particular (banking, pharaoh, the gazette...), but then I added ‘other qualesquiera of naypes that are of luck and chance, or gambling bet [bet], even though they are of another class and are not specified here’. That is to say, in principle, any card game in which apostase was prohibited, but later it was said that it was forbidden to bet more than two reals, which was absolutely contradictory,” he explains.

they also were Not allowed establishments that acogieran the game, with penalties —which, not to be paid, meant jail— over to the owners of the local watering holes for players. In one case, a man admits that he left to play in their house, in exchange for payment of a “bribe”, by pure necessity.

however, Mohedano we call attention to two processes, probably the most clear, in that the alleged gariteros “hardly mentioned them, or they will take a statement, or they are punished”. Are the of Pablo Valbuena —at whose house Juan Antonio Campos, Pedro Sleeves and Juan Pulido were playing cane in September of 1791— and the barber, the Sunday of Light. “We suppose, knowing the Modern Age and the rural justice of that time, that the sheriff or someone linked to court could have a relationship with him, that it was important people —maybe simply because he was the only barber of the town, and he would have some pre-eminence in social and economic. We will, that it was not desirable nor to take statements or to punish you”, adventure the researcher.

In your case, what follows from all the statements, is that he was in the barbershop, it is assumed that shaving many customers in a day as hectic as that of All the Saints. While, in the back, in one of the rooms of the house, were the players, any person more of miranda, as well as the wife of Domingo of the Light, and his son, “that seems to be that they were those who carried the business hidden to accommodate the games of cards”. At that time, around nine in the morning, it's when they start yelling, insults —the court record speaks of “dirty words”— the fight and the stab to John Spears, who was expelled from the house by the woman and the barber's son, according to some witnesses. The wound, in any case, you shouldn't have to be terrible, because according to others, the young man had the energy to throw a few stones at the house before retiring.

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