Patronage and bribery in sixteenth-century Peru : the government of Viceroy Conde del Villar and the visita of licentiate Alonso Fernández de Bonilla

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Noble David Cook

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Victor M. Uribe

Third Advisor's Name

Joseph F. Patrouch

Fourth Advisor's Name

Eduardo Gamarra

Date of Defense



This dissertation deals with the nature of the political system in sixteenth- century colonial Spanish America through an analysis of the administration of Viceroy Fernando de Torres y Portugal, Conde del Villar, in Peru (1585-1590). The political conflicts surrounding his government and the accusations of bribery leveled against him and members of his household provide the documentation for a case study in a system in which prestige and authority were defined through a complex network of patronage and personal relationships with the Spanish monarch, the ultimate source of legitimate power.

This dissertation is conceptualized using categories presented in Max Weber’s theory on the nature of political order and authority in the history of human societies and the definition of the patrimonial system as one in which the power of he king confers legitimacy and authority on the whole political structure.

The documentary base for this dissertation is an exceptionally detailed and complete record related to the official administrative review (visita) ordered by Philip II in 1588 to assess the government of Viceroy Torres y Portugal. Additionally, letters as well as other primary and secondary sources are scattered in repositories on both sides of the Atlantic.

The study of this particular case offers an excellent opportunity to gain an understanding o f a political order in which jurisdictional boundaries between institutions and authorities were not clearly defined. The legal system operating in the viceroyalty was subordinated to the personal decisions of the king, and order and equilibrium were maintained through the interaction of patronage networks that were reproduced at all levels of the colonial society.

The final charges against Viceroy Conde del Villar, as well as their impact on the political career of those involved in the accusations, reveal that situations today understood to constitute bribery had a different meaning in the context o f a patrimonial order.



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