A Unique History
Publication Year: 2011
From bloodthirsty conquest to exotic romance, stereotypes of Spain abound. This new volume by distinguished historian Stanley G. Payne draws on his half-century of experience to offer a balanced, broadly chronological survey of Spanish history from the Visigoths to the present. Who were the first “Spaniards”? Is Spain a fully Western country? Was Spanish liberalism a failure? Examining Spain’s unique role in the larger history of Western Europe, Payne reinterprets key aspects of the country’s history.
Topics include Muslim culture in the peninsula, the Spanish monarchy, the empire, and the relationship between Spain and Portugal. Turning to the twentieth century, Payne discusses the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War. The book’s final chapters focus on the Franco regime, the nature of Spanish fascism, and the special role of the military. Analyzing the figure of Franco himself, Payne seeks to explain why some Spaniards still regard him with respect, while many others view the late dictator with profound loathing.
Framed by reflections on the author’s own formation as a Hispanist and his evaluation of the controversy about “historical memory” in contemporary Spain, this volume offers deeply informed insights into both the history and the historiography of a unique country.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Introduction: The Image of Spain
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All history is specific and singular, and therefore in key respects unique. Though certain similarities may be observed, all history is also in some sense “different,” just as all human beings have many things in common yet in every case remain different individuals. At a certain level of comparison and abstraction many common factors and characteristics may be identified in the histories of diverse countries, yet the history of every land...
Part I: The Formation of a Hispanist
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The study of Spain is rather unique among scholarly enterprises in having become an “ism”—“Hispanism.” Scholarly activity is normally recognized as an “ism” only when it pertains to a very broad field of study, as in “classicism” and “orientalism,” not with regard to a single country. Foreign scholars who study Germany or Russia are sometimes described as Germanists or Russianists, but the term “Germanism” or “Russianism”...
Part II: A Reading of the History of Spain
Chapter 1: Visigoths and Asturians: “Spaniards”?
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The Iberian Peninsula entered recorded history with the Roman conquest, after which it became an integral part of the empire. Language, culture, and economic structure all stemmed from Rome, as well as the name “Hispania,” a geographic term for the entire peninsula (which became a distinct “diocese” of the empire after the Diocletian reforms of the fourth century).1 Its society passed through each of the major phases and vicissitudes of...
Chapter 2: Spain and Islam: The Myth of Al-Andalus
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During the late twentieth century, Western multiculturalists began to imagine utopias of cultural and ethnic “diversity,” as they liked to put it, in which distinct cultures and civilizations would coexist harmoniously.1 This ideal became a prominent feature of cultural and educational institutions in western Europe and, especially, North America. It was difficult, not to say impossible, to find an historical precedent for such...
Chapter 3: Reconquest and Crusade: A “Spanish Ideolog y”?
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The Spanish Reconquest was a process unique in European and in world history. In no other case was the greater share of a sizable kingdom conquered by Islam or any other foreign civilization, then not merely subjected but thoroughly transformed and acculturated into the alien civilization. Only centuries later was it fully regained by the remnants of the conquered kingdom, which not merely conquered the invaders but...
Chapter 4: Spain and the West
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Whereas “identity” has become a matter of controversy for Spaniards only comparatively recently, the identity, character, or image of Spain has been a polemical issue outside of Spain for nearly half a millennium. The Black Legend found its earliest expression in Italy at the close of the fifteenth century and would later be cultivated with especial fervor by the Dutch and the English. Italian detractors liked to denounce the Spanish as...
Chapter 5: Identity, Monarchy, Empire
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The crisis of identity that overtook the Western world in the late twentieth century had a particularly severe impact on Spain. The long dictatorship of Franco had stressed unity, centralism, and Spanish nationalism, but its consequence was to discredit the very idea of Spanish nationalism, and to some extent even of the Spanish nation, in the succeeding generation of democracy, individualism, and hedonism. During the final...
Chapter 6: Spain and Portugal
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The capacity of Spain and Portugal to turn their backs on each other in modern times has been extraordinary. Given its size, Portugal has never been able to ignore Spain to the same extent that the latter ignores Portugal, but this difference is only relative. In earlier centuries, despite difficulty in communications, the Spanish kingdoms always had much more to do with Portugal, and vice versa, restricted to a large degree, to their...
Chapter 7: Decline and Recovery
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Spain is the only western European country for whom “decline” became an obsessive theme, first for foreign writers and then for Spanish historians and commentators. It is sometimes observed that the seventeenth century was a time of crisis and decline for the greater part of Europe—most of the south and east, and also much of the center. This is true enough, but the case of Spain has seemed more extensive and spectacular than...
Chapter 8: The Problem of Spanish Liberalism
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Historic Spanish liberalism has not enjoyed a good press, and among Left and Right alike has often been judged a failure. Yet it dominated Spanish affairs and governed for approximately a century, so that, if a failure, it was certainly a long surviving failure, implying that the standard caricature, like so many of the caricatures and stereotypes in Spanish history, may be something of an exaggeration. It would be excessive to say that liberalism truly governed Spain between 1810...
Part III: Dilemmas of Contemporary History
Chapter 9: A Republic . . . without Democrats?
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Had anyone reading this book been in Madrid or Barcelona on the evening of April 14, 1931, or the day following, the scenes of jubilation, accompanied by the general absence of violence, would have convinced him that the new Republic was welcomed by the vast majority of Spanish society. A logical corollary might be that the latter possessed the civic maturity and responsibility to enable a twentieth-century democracy to...
Chapter 10: Who Was Responsible? Origins of the Civil War of 1936
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Historians can agree that the Spanish Civil War began on the weekend of July 17–20, 1936, when in a variety of poorly coordinated actions various garrisons and units of the Spanish army rebelled against the Republican regime. Ever since that time, supporters of the Left have held that the cause and origin of the Civil War are perfectly clear—it was the military revolt. No military revolt, no civil war. In the most immediate sense, this...
Chapter 11: Moscow and Madrid: A Controversial Relationship
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When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Franco’s brother-in-law and foreign minister, Ramón Serrano Suñer, delivered a dramatic speech from the balcony of the Falangist headquarters in Madrid: “Russia is guilty! Guilty of having caused our Civil War! Guilty of the death of José Antonio, our founder, and of the deaths of so many comrades and soldiers fallen in that war provoked by Russian Communist aggression! . . . The...
Chapter 12: The Spanish Civil War: Last Episode of World War I or Opening Round of World War II?
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During the Civil War the Republicans developed a discourse that identified Italy and Germany as the real source of the conflict, which they often called an international struggle against fascism. The Nacionales, in turn, called their effort part of an international struggle against Communism. In 1938 the negrinista slogan “Resistir es vencer” (To resist is to win) was predicated on continuing the war in Spain until it became part of a...
Chapter 13: Spanish Fascism . . .a Strange Case?
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In 1997, when I published a new history of the fascist movement in Spain, I added to the Spanish edition the subtitle “The Strange Case of Spanish Fascism.” At the presentation of the book, one journalist asked, “Why strange?”—a perfectly reasonable question. In history, of course, every case is in some sense unique. Moreover, fascist movements were more “national” and idiosyncratic in almost every instance than were the different...
Chapter 14: Francisco Franco: Fascist Monster or Savior of the Fatherland?
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For nearly forty years Francisco Franco was, for better or worse, the most dominant figure to have appeared in the history of Spain. None of the kings of earlier centuries wielded proportionately as much power or so drastically changed the course of the country. Every preceding ruler operated to a greater or lesser degree within established laws and traditions, while Franco led a victorious counterrevolution that, to a much greater...
Chapter 15: In the Shadow of the Military
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In the twenty-first century the Spanish army weakens steadily both as a national institution and also as a combat force, to the extent that one wonders if any longer it can be considered as either of these. From this vantage point it is instructive to survey the role played by the military during the era of modernization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Spanish army probably passed more years engaged in some form of...
Chapter 16: Controversies over History in Contemporary Spain
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A common complaint about contemporary Western society is that it suffers from amnesia and has little knowledge of, or interest in, history. Growing addiction to the Internet atomizes reading, so that information is obtained in snippets or packets without sustained study or broader understanding, and without criteria concerning accuracy or reliability. This results in vast amounts of information, much more so than in any...
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011