The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 544
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
American settlers moving into Texas during the 182os and 183os agreed
to follow Mexican law. Despite their greater familiarity with Anglo-
American law, Texans, upon achieving independence, realized that cer-
tain aspects of traditional Spanish law, especially those regarding mar-
ried women and the family, were better suited to the frontier experience
than was the English common law. As a result, some remnants of
Spanish law regarding married women and the family survive today,
both in Texas law and United States law. The evolution of these laws can
be traced back over a thousand years and across the Atlantic to the era
of the Spanish Reconquest.
Spanish law, like much of Spanish society, took shape during the
Reconquest, the eight-century long struggle of Spanish Christians to
reclaim their country from the Moors, who invaded and conquered
most of Spain in 711 A.D. By the thirteenth century, Christians had
reclaimed the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula, and the Spanish
kingdoms experienced an interlude of peace during which learning and
culture flourished. King Alfonso X of Castile, known as "el sabio" or "the
learned," ordered a compilation of Castilian laws. This compilation,
called Las Siete Partidas because it was divided into seven parts, was com-
pleted in 1256, though it did not attain authority for another century.
Its compilers drew from several legal traditions-Roman, canonical, and
Visigothic-as well as Castilian customs that had developed over the first
four hundred years of the Reconquest.2
The customary law that developed on the frontiers of the Reconquest
made the greatest impact on the legal rights of married women. The
frontier advanced southward over the centuries, the fighting mainly con-
sisting of Spanish and Moorish raids into one another's territory to cap-
ture livestock and booty. When Castilian warriors reclaimed an area
Texas, 15x9-r821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992), 101-113, 120-121, 127-129,
135-137. The concept of homestead exemption has been the subject of scholarly attention. Its
origins can be traced to medieval Spain, when the Spanish government could not force a man to
sell the tools of his trade in order to pay his taxes. The reasoning for this was that he needed his
tools to make the money with which he would, in time, pay his debt. This tradition was carried to
the New World. Under both the Republic and State of Texas, the legislatures expanded this
right by increasing the amounts of property exempt from creditors. After Texas became a state,
most other states in the United States adopted the concept of homestead exemptions as a way to
secure property against the vagaries of the market economy. See Paul Goodman, "The
Emergence of Homestead Exemption in the United States: Accommodation and Resistance to
the Market Revolution, 1840-1880," Journal of American Hzstory, 80 (Sept., 1993), 470-498;
Michael Denham, "A Call for Bankruptcy Reform: The Fifth Circuit Limits the Texas Homestead
Exemption and Further Complicates the Exemption Controversy," Texas Tech Law Review, 30
(1999), 269-296 The Denham article includes a chart of homestead exemptions from bank-
ruptcy for all states on pp. 286-290.
2 Stanley G. Payne, A Hzstory of Spain and Portugal (2 vols., Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1973), I, 77-80; Juan Beneyto Perez, "The Science of Law in the Spain of the Catholic
Kings," in Spain in the Fifteenth Century, z369-1z5z6 Essays and Extracts by Historans of Spain, ed.
Roger Highfield, trans. Frances M. L6pez-Morillas (New York- Harper and Row, 1972), 29o,
Evelyn S. Proctor, Alfonso X of Castile: Patron of Literature and Learning (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/622/: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.