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Review: Catalonia Since The Spanish Civil War – Reconstructing the Nation – by Andrew Dowling

This book focuses on the study of the important Spanish region of Catalonia in the modern age. Catalonia has a strong claim to being an independent state, dating back to its time as the Kingdom of Aragon. There is a unique Catalan language and the region has a culture of its own, independent to that of the main Castilian Spanish national one. In wake of recent events in Catalonia, that occurred after this book was released, this book becomes ever more important to study in order for us to fully understand the political processes that are now occurring in Catalonia and their causes. Catalonia was a key thorn in the foot of Franco and the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War and during the ensuing Franco dictatorship, he never forgot the Catalan betrayal. Inherent to Francoism was oppression of regionalist identities within Spain. Under Franco, Catalanism went underground. There was suppression of the language and I found it strange how the main thrust of survival of Catalanism was to found within the Catholic church, an institution that, in particular, during the Spanish Civil War, encountered a fierce enemy in the Catalan people and experienced one of the most excessive repressions of the church by any area during its history, with many churches burnt and priests killed. Catalan liturgies and church literature ensured the survival of the language and the culture was empowered by Vatican support. Montserrat and its role in society in terms of Catalan national identity became intertwined. In the post-Franco era, there has been a resurgence in Catalanism. A degree of autonomy has been granted and widespread recovery of culture has developed, with Catalan being taught again and used in schools and an alternative centre of power to the central Madrid government has emerged in the Generalitat, its key figure in its foundation being long term president, Jordi Pujol. In the modern age, immigration of initially non-Catalan speakers from other areas of Spain, and then non-Spaniards, has created issues for integration within wider Catalan society. Catalonia is a powerful and wealthy industrial region that gives away about 10% of its GDP to Madrid with no return. Politically it tends to lean towards bourgeois values although working class organisation and unionisation has played an important role. There has been an ongoing rally for votes within Catalan politics between middle-right Nationalists and Socialists / Communists. The book’s epilogue explores the…

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Review: Catalonia Since The Spanish Civil War – Reconstructing the Nation – by Andrew Dowling

catalonia

This book focuses on the study of the important Spanish region of Catalonia in the modern age. Catalonia has a strong claim to being an independent state, dating back to its time as the Kingdom of Aragon. There is a unique Catalan language and the region has a culture of its own, independent to that of the main Castilian Spanish national one. In wake of recent events in Catalonia, that occurred after this book was released, this book becomes ever more important to study in order for us to fully understand the political processes that are now occurring in Catalonia and their causes. Catalonia was a key thorn in the foot of Franco and the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War and during the ensuing Franco dictatorship, he never forgot the Catalan betrayal. Inherent to Francoism was oppression of regionalist identities within Spain. Under Franco, Catalanism went underground. There was suppression of the language and I found it strange how the main thrust of survival of Catalanism was to found within the Catholic church, an institution that, in particular, during the Spanish Civil War, encountered a fierce enemy in the Catalan people and experienced one of the most excessive repressions of the church by any area during its history, with many churches burnt and priests killed. Catalan liturgies and church literature ensured the survival of the language and the culture was empowered by Vatican support. Montserrat and its role in society in terms of Catalan national identity became intertwined. In the post-Franco era, there has been a resurgence in Catalanism. A degree of autonomy has been granted and widespread recovery of culture has developed, with Catalan being taught again and used in schools and an alternative centre of power to the central Madrid government has emerged in the Generalitat, its key figure in its foundation being long term president, Jordi Pujol. In the modern age, immigration of initially non-Catalan speakers from other areas of Spain, and then non-Spaniards, has created issues for integration within wider Catalan society. Catalonia is a powerful and wealthy industrial region that gives away about 10% of its GDP to Madrid with no return. Politically it tends to lean towards bourgeois values although working class organisation and unionisation has played an important role. There has been an ongoing rally for votes within Catalan politics between middle-right Nationalists and Socialists / Communists. The book’s epilogue explores the…

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Spain’s Catalan Crisis / Catalonia’s Spanish Crisis – Lecture by Dr Andrew Dowling at Cardiff University, 18.10.17

Che Guevara

In light of recent developments in Catalonia that have grabbed international attentions, this lecture was convened by Cardiff University’s Catalan specialist, Dr Andrew Dowling, in order to enlighten us on the subject. It was recognized that the audience was comprised of people with a mixture of knowledge on Catalonia and its crisis. The lecture was aimed to appeal to the different strands therein, with enough basic knowledge on the background of the situation to allow for understanding of the deeper layers of the composition of this global political event.   Andrew started off by revealing that the turning point and key date in the development of this crisis is the Global Economic crisis of 2008. This had a profound impact on European societies. It affected the internal dynamics of Spain and its semi-federal system. As the independence movement grew, class conflicts declined. The Catalan secession became a major crisis to the Spanish government. Catalonia was the epicenter. There is a profound psychological need to protect one’s own. Identity and the National identity comes to the forefront of people’s thinking. What was the Spanish state and the situation in Catalonia like before 2008? Catalonia in essence was the role model for a successful devolution. It had spent 120 years of consolidating its autonomy. In Spain, in other regions where nationalist separatist thinking had been prevalent, there was calm The Basque country was in a post-violent scenario. However, in the approach to 2008, Catalan society became less content. Challenger political parties began to emerge. In the late 1990s salaries for the middle classes started to stagnate. Throughout Spain there was a new generation of voters and the principal political parties – both Nationalist and Social Democrats, struggled to get the backing of new voters. The Partido Popular (PP), the Spanish Conservatives, reigned in Spain between 1996-2004 and had a policy of increased centralization, thus reducing the power of the regions’ autonomy. The periphery was controlled by the centre and this led to a Catalan existential crisis. There has been political Catalanism since the 1880s. Within the Catalan political class there was a renewal of Catalan politics. Between 2003 and 2006 there was a reform of the Regional government system. There was two sides of the divide: asymmetrical regionalism against increased centralisation. The PP and its allies mobilised against any moves from the regions that might lead to the breakup of Spain. It…

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Review: Spain 1812-2004 – by Christopher J Ross

spain 1812-2004

I have read this book as I am doing a university course next year on Spanish History in the Modern Period. The book is devised for language students and at the end of each chapter excerpts in Spanish are provided, with translations, which are really useful. The book has some great side notes, detailing often Spanish phrases for the various political bodies, organisations and specialist terms one encounters in the text. If I was to be critical of the book it is to say that it focuses very much on politics and maybe goes into too much depth at the expense of wider cultural issues. Certainly the last few chapters make tough reading and are perhaps more intrinsically focussed than say the wider world knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and enduring Franco régime. Spain is often an international anomaly in its history, from Empire to international isolationism through to its modern period of more fiercer European integration. There was a lot of detail on regionalism that I found most intriguing, in particular the cases of Catalonia and the Basque country. I feel that the book is well worth reading and now feel suitably historically enlightened about the state and home of the Spanish language. I am sure that I will find plenty of future use of the book as a reference tool.

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