Connected Histories of Spain

Till Kössler, Universität Halle-Wittenberg; Korinna Schönhärl / Christin Hansen, Universität Paderborn
Heisenberg-Programm der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
22.09.2022 - 23.09.2022
José Luis López-Barajas, Historisches Institut, Friedrich Schiller University Jena

The University of Paderborn hosted a workshop that gathered researchers from Spain and Germany with diverse backgrounds and projects and aimed to look at Spanish history from different angles, including comparative, transnational, and entangled approaches.
In his opening remarks, Till Kössler highlighted the continuity of the workshop with the historiographical interest in Spain – which started in the 1970s with Hans-Jürgen Puhle – and reflected on the scope, problems, limits, and perspectives of transnational and comparative approaches to Spanish history. The workshop was structured as follows: draft versions of the papers had been distributed beforehand so that the presentations could focus on the theoretical and methodological aspects, followed by commentators' remarks and open discussion. The sessions were organized according to topics, which favored coherent and period-based discussions.

The first session on art started with FLORIAN GRAFL’s (Heidelberg) presentation on national sketch collections in the Iberian world during the mid-19th century. Grafl commented on the value of social sketches as a source for historians, which are not sufficiently utilized. Likewise, he analyzed the suitability of the transnational perspective to investigate how drawing models migrate from one country to another. Social sketch collections in Spain and later in Latin America drew on a tradition initiated in countries such as France and Germany. Initially, social sketches came from scientific interest, as doctors such as the German Franz Joseph Gall thought the representation of the body, and specifically the head and its measurement, contributed to determining people’s characters. The national collections under the motto ‘painted by themselves’ were spread from Europe to Latin America via literary journals and this cultural circulation contributed to the global popularization of this genre. Grafl presented the case study of the water carrier and analyzed how the drawing model was not only exported but adapted to the national circumstances and presented significant variations.

VERONIKA MÜNSTERMANN (Frankfurt am Main) presented the National Opera as an instrument of the Catalan independence movement, from the late 19th century up to the Civil War. She pointed out the suitability of music as a topic to investigate nationalism and the necessity of paying attention to the transnational networks that nourished the development of specific nationalist patterns in Catalonia. Münstermann analyzed how Richard Wagner’s operas were received in catalanist circles, which rapidly aimed at producing a Catalan type of opera that clearly distinguished itself from the rest of Spain. The Madrid-Barcelona rivalry triggered a Catalan self-assertion, namely the proclamation of the superiority of Catalan opera over operas produced in Madrid, and provoked a further “catalanisation” of the opera. In this context, Münstermann related links between business and politics and reflected on how music and nationalization were intertwined processes and how the debates on opera helped build the Catalan Kulturnation.

Patricia Hertel (Berlin) provided the comments to this session and insightfully highlighted the necessity of further contextualization and reflection on transnational arguments. The subsequent discussion stressed the importance of integrating economic perspectives into the picture and reflecting on concepts such as independence or separatism.

The second session on ideas was initiated with a presentation by ÓSCAR MARTÍN GARCÍA (Valencia) on the Fulbright exchange program in Spain, from the late 1950s until the early 1980s. Martín García provided a reflection on methodological problems and diverse perspectives of analysis. The Fulbright program was an element of foreign policy, part of the American soft power, but also a way to look at the internationalization of Spanish science. Heike Jöns’ work on transnational knowledge networks was outlined as a methodological reference, which was to be complemented by other methods, such as oral interviews, aiming at investigating a broad and complete picture of the multiple facets of the Fulbright program. One of the facets, which underscores the importance of the project, lies in the fact that many of the beneficiaries of the program during the 1960s and 1970s would become after the transition to democracy leading figures in Spanish politics and science, some of them even ministers. Martín García commented on the selection criteria, stressing some inconsistencies and arbitrariness that make it elusive to get a one-sided picture of it; though, at the same time, the pattern of a moderate, highly skilled modernization-theory champion coincides with some of the individuals who profited from the Fulbright program.

KORINNA SCHÖNHÄRL (Paderborn) spoke about tax education in Spain from a transnational perspective. She traced the evolution of tax education from the late-Franco dictatorship to the consolidation of democracy and identified some transnational patterns that influenced Spanish development. She advocated for tax education as a connected history whose inception was in the US in the New Deal epoch. In the 1960s, the Instituto de Estudios Fiscales, well connected to the US, imported some features of the US tax education model with the additional aim of implementing a tax reform that reverted the inherent regressive Spanish tax model. So, tax education started in the last years of Franco, but transformed over time. In the transition to democracy, the message changed: as the government was then elected by the people, the message became “The treasury is now for all of us. Let’s not fool ourselves.” As the socialists took over in 1982, tax education evolved into a sort of social contract which was even a step forward. Schönhärl presented the evolution of tax education through a rich tapestry of diverse media materials that conveyed the importance of paying taxes for the country’s future.

Sören Brinkmann (Wrocław) devoted his remarks to reflecting on the role of the US and other foreign agents in the evolution of Spanish history. The ensuing discussion followed the inquiries about the compatibility or incompatibility of the US and the Franco dictatorship, what the US aimed to achieve in Spain and what Spain got in return.

The third session on Francoism began with a presentation by JONAS BRESSLER (Mainz) on the European right-wing supporters of the Franco side during the Civil War. Bressler addressed the trajectory of Franco’s ambassadors in France, Belgium, and Britain and traced the local networks that organized to provide Franco with aid, which depending on the country meant different things. The work combined interesting biographical remarks with a broader analysis of networks, media, and places where Franco’s foreign supporters met. The presentation reflected on what tied all these networks together, what they embodied, and what they opposed. Authoritarianism, anticommunism, the re-emergence of religion, and the reinstatement of the monarchy were elements all these conservative politicians shared. As Bressler pointed out, in the context of the Civil War, what united them was stronger than what separated them, and despite the internal evolution of the war and the rapid adoption of fascist policies and gestures – a political ideology some of them rejected – there were no open fractures and they continued to support Franco till the end.

TILL KÖSSLER (Halle) discussed the question of how to write a biography of Franco in the 21st century for a German-speaking audience. He sketched the Franco biographies and divided them into two types: hagiographic and myth-breakers. The former being self-evident to avoid, he focused on the flaws of the latter. Franco’s myth has already been sufficiently debunked, so we no longer need a myth-breaker biography tout court. Nor do we need a person-based old-fashioned biography analyzing the psychology of the character. Rather, the task lies in inserting Franco into a larger historical development, but without losing sight of his persona. Here lies the main challenge according to Kössler: to show all the historical forces at stake but avoid the trap of blurring Franco who, indeed, was not a passive but a driving force. Kössler suggested two pragmatic things. Firstly, as the period up to 1945 has been thoroughly explored, he would rather concentrate on the final three decades, which are more ignored by scholarship. Secondly, as addressing personal, national and transnational aspects would entail writing a massive volume, it would perhaps be sensible to present significant historical excerpts and through them explain different facets such as Franco’s beginnings in the colonial wars, the appeal of authoritarianism, or the unbalanced Spanish modernization.

In her comments, ANNA CATHARINA HOFMANN (Halle/Saale) reflected on the concepts used to describe Franco’s foreign supporters and the limits and problems of writing a Franco biography. Both in her comments and in the further discussion, it was highlighted how important it would be to aggregate transnational factors into the biography of the dictator; not in the quest for writing a more accurate depiction of him, but with the aim of unveiling all the national and international factors that marked the dictatorship he led for forty years.

The fourth session on Civil War Anti-francoism commenced with a presentation by CHRISTIN HANSEN (Paderborn) on the conception and depiction of Spanish women during the Civil War. Conservative foreign press, especially British and German, portrayed archetypical leftist women, the Red Carmens, as ruthless church-burners. Media sympathetic to the Spanish Republic supported working women; nevertheless, they showed more caution when addressing the fighting women. War did not cease to be a male space, and in that sense, the stereotypes were perpetuated even in progressive publications. Fighting women were thus represented as exotic and, by the conservative press, as a threat to society. As Hansen demonstrated, the depiction of women at war was used differently depending on the country: while in Spain it was a form of mobilization, in foreign countries it was inwardly discussed in the context of the negotiation of gender roles. Neither of them, though, were able to fully overcome certain stereotypizations of women.

DANIEL CANALES (Zaragoza) explored the transnational networks of antifrancoism in the context of the Long Sixties. He elaborated on methodological and theoretical schemes outlined by Timothy Scott Brown aiming at uncovering the history of transnational political spaces. The imagined communities revolving around antifrancoism, the circulation of ideas and the practical political experiences were three entangled elements that contribute to our understanding of the platforms of protests achieved by the spreading transnational antifrancoism. Canales proposed analyzing a wide array of sources: political journals, international protests against Spain’s integration into UNESCO, the experience of exiles both in Europe and Latin America, or even zooming in on case studies such as the debates sparked by the publication of Hugh Thomas’ book on the Spanish Civil War. The general goal was twofold. Firstly, to break the insularity of antifrancoism, by showing how it profited from international support which, also, shaped some of the features and forms of protests, and secondly, to see how 1960s antifrancoism turned into a Europewide transnational phenomenon that also inspired protest movements elsewhere. By approaching antifrancoism in that latter sense, the alleged peripheral character of Spain is nuanced, if not sidelined.

Xosé Manoel Nuñez-Seixas (Santiago de Compostela) provided detailed comments and suggested an ample set of further connections that both presentations could engage with. In the case of Hansen, looking at specific figures such as Pasionaria or investigating how mass demonstrations were treated by the press; in the case of Canales, aggregating new actors that shaped antifrancoism, like the influence of the Kibbutz model, the experience of the Fulbright beneficiaries abroad or the Gastarbeiter in Germany, plus adding a gaze “from below” and stressing on the intergenerational links.

The final session consisted of an open exchange of ideas and possible future investigation lines to expand the history of Spain and look at it from transnational and global angles. That would help both to better integrate Spain into European and world history and to break with the alleged “exceptionalism” that haunted a good deal of scholarship of Spanish history for a while, but which is fortunately fading away. The transnational glimpse, besides, can question traditional distributions of center-periphery categories: phenomena such as tourism, ubiquitous in the second half of the 1960s, show Spain not as a periphery, or even a semi-periphery, but as a central country that sets the tone. However, the transnational perspective has to be calibrated accurately to avoid falling into conceptual traps that underscore the international scope and neglect the internal developments. Then, a balanced glimpse into Spanish history should include cultural and economic factors, internal and transnational perspectives, and also classic comparative history.

The workshop left a positive and fruitful impression. The atmosphere and the structure, with short presentations and long discussions, favored exchanges in multiple directions and vivid debates that enriched the case studies and provided the basis for a general reflection on how to think about Spanish history from the 21st century.

Conference overview:

Panel I: Connected Histories of Art

Chair: Christin Hansen (Universität Paderborn)
Comments: Patricia Hertel (Centre Marc Bloch Berlin)

Florian Grafl (Universität Heidelberg): “Pintados por sí mismos”? National Sketch Collections and the Transnational Formation of Cultural Knowledge in the Iberian World

Veronika Münstermann (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main): The “National Opera” as a Medium of Catalan Independence Movements since the End of the 19th Century

Panel II: Connected Histories of Ideas

Chair: Peter Fäßler (Universität Paderborn)
Comments: Sören Brinkmann (Willy Brandt Zentrum, Uniwersytet Wrocławksi)

Óscar J. Martín García Ingenio (CSIC-Universitat Politècnica de València): The Fulbright Exchange Program in Spain, 1958–1982. A Transnational Tool of Scientific Diplomacy

Korinna Schönhärl (Universität Paderborn): “Hacienda somos todos” or “Hacienda somos (los) tontos”? The Development of Spanish Tax Education as Connected History

Panel III: Connected Histories of Francoism

Chair: Stefan Schreckenberg (Universität Paderborn)
Comments: Anna Catharina Hofmann (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)

Jonas Breßler (Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz): Francoism without Borders – The Western European Right and the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)

Till Kössler (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg): Writing a Biography of Franco. Challenges and Perspectives

Panel III: Connected Histories of the Spanish Civil War and Anti-Francoism

Chair: Till Kössler (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)
Comments: Xosé-Manoel Nuñez-Seixas (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela)

Christin Hansen (Universität Paderborn): Women in Action. The Perception of Women
Combatants in the International Press on the Spanish Civil War

Daniel Canales Ciudad (Universidad de Zaragoza): Globalizing Antifrancoism. Spain as a Peripheral Space and a Political Issue throughout the Sixties

Closing discussion