La Mesta | Historia de España

Cereals were the most important crops cultivated in Castile as well as they produced wine and oil to export.  However, livestock farming was a more lucrative activity, specially sheep raised to produce high quality wool. Mos of the livestock was owned by the nobles which created La Mesta in 1237.

La Mesta protected the interests of the livestock farmers, It also regulated the seasonal movement of the sheep along routes called cañadas.  Most of the wool produced in Catstile was exported pasing through Burgos to the Cantabrian ports. The wool was exported from the Cantabrian and Basque ports to Flanders, France and England. Other exports from Casile were iron and oil importing high quality


The most powerful groups in Castilian society were the nobles and the high clergy. They owned extensive land and very wealthy because of the sale of the wool. As the nobles were only interested in trading wool, they did not allow artisan industry to develop. This meant that there was no class of bourgeoisie traders in Castile.

Alfonso "el Sabio", miniatura. siglo XIII


The  structure of Castile was based on three institutions: 

  • The monarchy.
  • The municipal councils.
  • The Cortes.

The Cortes were created when the monarchs allowed municipal representatives into the extraordinary Curia, an assembly of nobles and clergy. The cortes advised the king and sometimes approved law, but it coul not legislate. The first Cortes in the Peninsula were created in the Kingdom of Leon in 1188. In the 13th century, the Kingdom of Castile and the territories of the Crown of Aragon as well as the Kingdom of Navarre also created Cortes.

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