Precursors of Costumbrismo
: The creation of a genre at the end of the Spanish Enlightenment

  • Ciaran Harty

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Spanish costumbrismo has traditionally been understood as an early nineteenth-century literary genre associated primarily with the artículos de costumbres of the canonical costumbrista writers Ramón de Mesonero Romanos and Mariano José de Larra in the context of 1830s Madrid. However, critics widely agree that costumbrista literature began to emerge in Spain in the second half of the eighteenth century in Spectator-style periodicals such as El Duende Especulativo sobre la Vida Civil (1761), El Pensador (1762-67) and El Censor (1781-87). These Madrid-based newspapers helped cultivate a nascent costumbrista prose and published articles penned by reform-minded collaborators who offered critical representations of local customs with the aim of improving Spanish society in accordance with enlightened, reformist values. Whilst the significance of these periodicals to the development of costumbrismo has been widely explored, early costumbrista literature published during the reign of Carlos IV (1788-1808) has received little critical attention.

This thesis provides an original insight into the late eighteenth-century precursors of 1830s costumbrismo, focusing on its development as a literary genre during the reign of Carlos IV in costumbrista-style prose articles published in different issues of the Diario de Madrid between 1788 and 1808, and in an assorted collection of six main costumbrista works that appeared during these two decades. It identifies these articles and texts as a coherent and important costumbrista corpus for examining the genre’s cultivation and acquiring a fuller understanding of its eighteenth-century antecedents, arguing that they accelerated the development of a new costumbrista prose set consistently in a well-defined urban context that closely anticipated the consolidated artículo de costumbres of the late 1820s and 1830s.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2023.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorIsabel Torres (Supervisor) & Gabriel Sanchez Espinosa (Supervisor)


  • Costumbrismo
  • enlightenment
  • Diario de Madrid
  • Costumbrista
  • eighteenth century
  • Madrid

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