Catalonia’s political autonomy within the Spanish state rests not only on the present-day will of its people and current laws, but also a long historical process, and more specifically, on a medieval precedent- the Diputació del General de Catalunya (Commission of Deputies) – which the 1931 legislators felt was appropriate for invoking as a legitimising base for contemporary self-government.
Catalonia’s political past as a territorially differentiated community having its own representative and autonomous institutions, with respect to the sovereign power of the combined Catalan-Aragonese monarchies (1283-1516) and Spanish monarchies (1516-1808) and of the Spanish constitutional state (since 1812), can be divided into four stages, separated by three great ruptures in the legal/public order:
- the military triumph of the absolute monarchy over Catalonia’s autonomous institutions in 1714, at the end of the War of Succession, which brought the Generalitat’s long period of existence to an end and installed the Nueva Planta system;
- the collapse of absolute monarchy and the constitutional re-founding of Spain carried out by the Courts of Cadiz in 1812, in which the figure of the Generalitat was redesigned as the Province’s representative consistory within a uniformist ordering of the Spanish territory and a progressively centralised model of the exercising of power, constructed (in theory , and above all in practice) based on a hierarchic chain of one-person appointments;
- the substitution of the constitutional Spanish monarchy for the Republican regime in 1931, which satisfied the Catalan demands for autonomy that had been developing throughout the previous stage, and established the modern Generalitat.