Historical Memory of the Spanish Civil War

The historical memory of the Spanish Civil War is being contested regularly in modern Spanish society and in the European Union.

Historians such as Jay Winter and Pierre Nora have been studying the construction of historical memory through memorial, commemorations, and museums for several decades. War and historical memory studies have often focused on the First World War and the Second World War, but scholars such as Michael Richards and Aurora Morcillo have also been investigating the memory of the Spanish Civil War. Basque and Catalan separatist politics have gradually pushed the Spanish government and society to confront the historical memory of the Civil War.

The New York Times explores these issues by focusing on the wartime experience of José Moreno, a Basque teenager who fought in Republican forces against General Francisco Franco’s Fascist army during the Spanish Civil War.

The New York Times reports that “Mr. Sánchez wants to give greater recognition to the victims of Franco, in accordance with a law of historical memory. That measure was approved in 2007, under a previous Socialist government, but was shelved and deprived of government funding under a conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy. One of the main goals of the 2007 law was to facilitate the opening of over 2,000 mass graves to identify the remains of those inside, most of whom died during the civil war.”

The iconic status of Franco and the emplacement of his tomb has been a contentious political issue for some time. “For now, Mr. Sánchez has made it a priority to remove Franco’s remains from the basilica of the Valley of the Fallen, which the general had built to honor those who ‘fell for God and Spain’ in the civil war. But the plan has been stalled by a legal dispute with Franco’s relatives, who argue he can be reburied only in Madrid’s cathedral. Politicians are also feuding over what to do with Franco’s current burial site once his remains are moved. For Mr. Moreno, Franco not only needs to be physically removed from the Valley of the Fallen but also reinterpreted in Spanish history books, so as to get “the same treatment as Hitler and Mussolini, the other fascist war criminals.”

The issues of war, political culture, and historical memory have become entangled in far right politics, anti-immigration politics, Brexit, and European Union politics. The debates over the memory of the Spanish Civil War are therefore not contained within Spain, but relate to broader political questions and historical issues across Europe.

There is a growing historiography on the historical memory of the Spanish Civil War. For an entry into this historical literature, see: Michael Richards, After the Civil War: Making Memory and Re-Making Spain since 1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Aurora G. Morcillo, ed., Memory and Cultural History of the Spanish Civil War: Realms of Oblivion (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

For a general history of the Spanish Civil War, see: Michael Seidman, Republic of Egos: A Social History of the Spanish Civil War (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002).

The New York Times reports on José Moreno and the Spanish Civil War.

Posted in Civil Conflict, European History, European Union, History of Violence, Human Rights, Italian History, Political Culture, Revolts and Revolutions, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society | Leave a comment

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Awards

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowships

The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship Program provides opportunities to doctoral candidates to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies. The program is designed to deepen research knowledge and increase the study of modern foreign languages, cultural engagement, and area studies not generally included in U.S. curricula.

Program Features

The institutional project period is 18 months. Students may request funding for a period of no less than six months and no more than 12 months. Funds support travel expenses to and from the residence of the fellow and the country or countries of research; maintenance and dependent allowances based on the location of research for the fellow and his or her dependent(s); an allowance for research related expenses overseas; and health and accident insurance premiums. Projects may focus on one or more of the following geographic areas: Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, South Asia, the Near East, Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and the Western Hemisphere (excluding the United States and its territories).


Eligible Applicants

Institutions of higher education (IHEs) in the United States are eligible to apply for grants under this program. As part of the application process, students submit individual applications to the IHE. The IHE then submits all eligible individual student applications with its grant application to the U.S. Department of Education. A student is eligible to receive a DDRA fellowship from their IHE if he or she

  • is a citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States;
  • is a graduate student in good standing at an IHE;
  • is admitted to candidacy in a doctoral degree program in modern foreign languages and area studies at that institution when the fellowship period begins;
  • is planning a teaching career in the United States upon completion of his or her doctoral program; or
  • possesses sufficient foreign language skills to carry out the dissertation research project.

Please refer to the official Federal Register notice for detailed information about the FY 2019 competition.

Deadline: March 25

Apply here

Source: US Department of Education

Posted in Archival Research, Graduate Work in History, Grants and Fellowships, World History | Leave a comment

A Rehearsal for a Government Shutdown

Daily headlines relate the grim details of the current U.S. federal government shutdown of December 2018 to January 2019, now the longest in the history of the United States.  Detailed news reports analyze the growing economic and social impact of the shutdown on federal workers, their families, and American society.

Federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay are most directly affected by the government shutdown, but many American citizens are learning (once again) that the federal government shapes many aspects of their daily lives.

The State of Illinois experienced a prolonged partial state government shutdown from 2015-2017 that seems to have been a rehearsal for the federal government shutdown.

Curiously, national news media did not pay much attention to the two-year Illinois state shutdown and have not focused on the comparisons between the Illinois shutdown and the current federal government shutdown. The local and state reporters who did cover the shutdown repeatedly labelled it as a “budget impasse” rather than as a “government shutdown.”

Governor Bruce Rauner (R), a billionaire business leader, presented himself as a political outsider who was unbeholden to the Illinois political machine and would “shake up Springfield” and disrupt state politics.

When Governor Rauner issued his first budget proposal in February 2015, he claimed that “for far too long we have been living beyond our means—spending money that Illinois taxpayers could not afford.” Rauner’s proposed solution was to slash the state budget by $6 Billion—cutting state workers’ benefits, higher education funding, and state support to local governments in order to instill budget “discipline” on the state. Rauner simultaneously sought to cut state income taxes and undermine union operations in the state.

The Democratic-controlled Illinois Senate and House naturally refused to pass such massive budget cuts and anti-union “reforms”. The result was a partial state government shutdown that lasted two years.

Rauner had actually long planned to engineer a government shutdown in Illinois.

NPR reported that “on September 18, 2012, the year before Bruce Rauner declared his candidacy for governor, he shared his vision for a crisis that could help reshape state government.” Rauner intended to use a government shutdown to provoke a political crisis that would divide the Democratic party between union workers and non-unionized workers.

Rauner argued that “In Illinois there’s been a long-time history of what I would call social service, social justice, a bigger role for government in the safety net than in many other states,” speaking at a tax policy conference sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute. Social services, he claimed, simply cost too much money for Illinois citizens.

Rauner proposed a political strategy to create a crisis that would allow cuts to social services: “I think we can drive a wedge issue in the Democratic Party on that topic and bring the folks who say, ‘You know what? For our tax dollars, I’d rather help the disadvantaged, the handicapped, the elderly, the children in poverty. I’d rather have my tax dollars going to that than the SEIU or Af-scammy (AFSCME), who are out there for their own interests.’” NPR reported in October 2015 on Rauner’s political strategy.

Although Rauner’s communication style and media presence was very different from President Trump’s, the two leaders’ billionaire backgrounds and “disruptive” agendas were similar.

President Trump has bragged that he “owns” this federal government shutdown. In December, just prior to the beginning of the shutdown, Trump threatened: “I’ll be the one to shut it down. I will take the mantle. And I will shut it down for border security.” NPR reported at the time on Trump’s comments and the breakdown of negotiations.

Trump’s willingness to engage shutdowns reflects a long-standing Republican approach to federal budgetary policy. Government shutdowns have actually been part of stated Republican political strategy ever since Newt Gingrich’s days as Speaker of the House in the 1990s. NPR provides a brief history of federal government shutdowns.

President Trump and his administration are attempting to follow former Governor Rauner’s and former Speaker Gingrich’s political strategies. As Rauner attempted to engineer a fiscal crisis in Illinois, Trump is creating a crisis over a border “wall.” Both politicians aimed to utilize a government shutdown to ram through their policy agendas, while damaging government agencies and trimming social services in the process.

The current federal government shutdown is affecting many of the same Illinois agencies, state universities, local governments, and non-governmental organizations (food banks, mental health clinics, rape crisis centers) that were severely impacted during the Illinois state government shutdown of 2015-2017. WILL reports on effects of the federal government shutdown on rape crisis centers in Illinois. WILL also has reported on how food banks are responding to the federal government shutdown.

Newly-installed Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who has replaced former Governor Rauner, has offered financial assistance to federal workers in Illinois who are affected by the U.S. government shutdown. WQAD reports on this development.

I had a front-row seat to the Illinois government shutdown’s impact on higher education, since I served as Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Northern Illinois University during most of the Illinois government shutdown of 2015-2017. So, I am focusing here largely on the government shutdown’s impact on higher education.

State legislatures have been cutting their direct support to state universities for decades, so state universities now rely heavily on student tuition and cost-sharing between local, state, and federal governments for their core teaching and research missions.

When state or federal governments shutdown (even partially), higher education institutions suffer directly and immediately as universities cannot pay part or all of the salaries to professors, instructors, researchers, technicians, office staff, and other individuals who engage in instruction, research, and student services at public universities.

If a shutdown lasts very long, academic studies are suspended, field missions are halted, and scientific equipment is dormant. Shutdowns have the potential to disrupt research in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, law, medicine, and other fields—however news media seem to report more frequently on disruptions to scientific research. Science Magazine and Nature have both reported on the federal government shutdown’s impact on scientific research. The Daily Illini, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reports on how the federal government shutdown is affecting the research supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Research offices at all research universities are closely tracking the federal government shutdown. My own university, Northern Illinois University, has posted information about the shutdown for professors, researchers, and graduate students who may deal with disruptions to their research activities.

News media across Illinois reported on the state “budget impasse” of 2015-2017 and its impact on higher education, but I would argue that the reporters really never effectively represented how the lack of state budget was affecting Illinois state universities. Nonetheless, articles such as this one from 2016 by WPSD are a good reminder of the severe scars left by the lengthy government shutdown on Illinois higher education.

These are merely preliminary reflections on the comparisons between the Illinois government shutdown of 2015-2017 and the federal government shutdown of 2018-2019. I will need to write many more posts to develop these comparisons further.  We’ll see how long the current shutdown lasts and how much time I find to write….

UPDATE: Several hours after I published this piece, President Trump has announced a temporary end of the federal government shutdown. The New York Times reports on Trump’s announcement.

Posted in Current Research, Education Policy, Graduate Work in History, Humanities Education, Northern Illinois University, Political Culture | Leave a comment

French Revolution and the Let Them Eat Cake Shutdown

Welcome to the “Let Them Eat Cake Shutdown.”

The French Revolution has now entered into the current federal government shutdown in the United States.

The BBC reports that “US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has attracted scorn for suggesting workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown should take out bank loans. … Mr Ross also downplayed the number of people affected by the prolonged shutdown, saying it is ‘not like it’s a gigantic number overall.'”

The New York Times sums up the United States Secretary of Commerce’s advice to furloughed federal workers: “The latest advice the Trump administration is giving government employees who are missing their paychecks: Just borrow some money.”

Commerce Secretary Ross, a Republican and Trump appointee, is a multimillionaire former investment banker, so his comments seem especially callous. Memes are already appearing to portray Ross as an indifferent Marie Antoinette.

“It was Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Mr. Trump’s most visible shutdown adversary, who invoked the French Revolution,” the New York Times reports.

“Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude,” Speaker Pelosi said, “or call your father for money?”

Pelosi’s last comment is allegedly “a reference to an earlier taunt of the president after a shutdown meeting,” according to the New York Times.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, also responded to Ross’s comments with an allusion to the French Revolution.  According to the BBC, “Schumer called the comments ‘appalling,’ and said they were ‘the 21st Century equivalent of ‘let them eat cake.'”

The BBC explains that “Marie Antoinette, wife of French King Louis XVI and the last queen before the French Revolution in 1789, is apocryphally thought to have used the phrase when she learnt that people had no bread. Social media users quickly picked up on Mr Ross’s comments, deriding the commerce secretary for being ‘out of touch.'”

Politicians’ rather facile reference to the comments that Marie Antoinette almost certainly did not actually make nonetheless are recognizable and effective, precisely because the apocryphal statement “let them eat cake” captured the French royal family’s detachment and indifference to ordinary people’s suffering during the French Revolution.

So, unsurprisingly, news media are picking up on the allusion to the French Revolution and referring to the shutdown as the “Let Them Eat Cake Shutdown.”

Political cartoonists like Dave Whamond (distributed on CagleCartoons) are already exploiting Ross’s tone-deaf comments:

The New York Times reports on the “Let Them Eat Cake Shutdown.” Washington Monthly published an article on “The ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ Administration.”

The New York Times reports on Ross’s advice. The BBC reports on Ross’s interview and Schumer’s comments. NPR also reports on Ross’s comments and Democratic reactions.

Posted in Comparative Revolutions, French History, French Revolution and Napoleon, History in the Media, Political Culture, Revolts and Revolutions | Leave a comment

The Atlantic World before Jamestown

Professor Peter Mancall will be presenting a lecture on the sixteenth-century Atlantic World at the Newberry Library on Saturday, 2 February 2019 at 10 AM – 11:30 AM.

“In the 16th-century Atlantic world, nature and culture swirled in people’s minds to produce fantastic images. In the South of France, a cloister’s painted wooden panels greeted parishioners with vivid depictions of unicorns, dragons, and centaurs, while Mayans in the Yucatan created openings to buildings that resembled a fierce animal’s jaws, known to archaeologists as serpent-column portals. Throughout the 16th century, the borders between the natural world and the supernatural remained more porous than modern readers may realize. Native Americans and Europeans alike thought about monsters, spirits, and insects in considerable depth.”

“Historian Peter Mancall reveals how Europeans and Native Americans thought about a natural world undergoing rapid change in the century following the historic voyages of Christopher Columbus. Drawing on oral history and folklore maintained for centuries by Native Americans, as well as spectacular manuscript atlases, paintings that depict on-the-spot European representations of nature, and texts that circulated imperfectly across the ocean, Dr. Mancall will explore how the encounter between the old world and the new changed the fate of millions of individuals.”

“After the talk, Dr. Mancall will sign copies of his new book, Nature and Culture in the Early Modern Atlantic, which will be available for purchase in the Newberry Rosenberg Bookshop.”

For more information, and to register, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/before-jamestown-the-real-origins-of-america-tickets-50805959994

Posted in Atlantic World, Cultural History, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, Empires and Imperialism, Environmental History, European History, Globalization, Lectures and Seminars, Maritime History, Renaissance Art and History | Leave a comment

Cultural Exchange in Renaissance Europe Summer School

Warwick’s Centre for the Study of the Renaissance has announced a joint Summer School in Venice with the Charles S. Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe (Johns Hopkins University) and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti.

The Summer School (27 May-7 June 2019) will have as its theme Cultural Exchange in Renaissance Europe: Texts and Objects, and will be largely taught by academic staff at Warwick and JHU. It will include lectures, seminars, and many site visits, both in Venice and in Padua and Bologna. It will treat Venice as an instance of the intense cultural exchanges that took place across Europe in the period.

Doctoral students from across the world are invited to take part in this interdisciplinary summer school, where the main language of teaching will be English. Preference may be given to students who are already working on their dissertations.

Further information and instructions on how to apply are available at https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/jhu/summerschool2019 . The deadline for applications is Monday 18 February. Questions about the programme may be directed to Mrs Jayne Sweet (renaissance@warwick.ac.uk), the administrator of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of the Renaissance.

Posted in Art History, Cultural History, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, European History, Graduate Work in History, Italian History, Maritime History, Mediterranean World, Renaissance Art and History | 1 Comment

Painting from Louis XIV’s Reign Discovered in Paris

A large seventeenth-century oil painting (measuring 10-by-20-foot) has been discovered behind a wall in a building that is currently being restored for an Oscar de la Renta boutique in Paris.

After workers discovered the painting, Oscar de la Renta brought in art historian Stephane Pinta to examine the artwork.

Pinta was able to make an attribution: “Mr. Pinta determined that the painting was an oil on canvas created in 1674 by Arnould de Vuez, a painter who worked with Charles Le Brun, the first painter to Louis XIV and designer of interiors of the Château de Versailles. After working with Le Brun, de Vuez, who was known for getting involved in duels of honor, was forced to flee France and ended up in Constantinople.”

Pinta investigated art history sources and “traced the painting to a plate that was reproduced in the 1900 book “Odyssey of an Ambassador: The Travels of the Marquis de Nointel, 1670-1680” by Albert Vandal, which told the story of the travels of Charles-Marie-François Olier, Marquis de Nointel et d’Angervilliers, Louis XIV’s ambassador to the Ottoman Court. On Page 129, there is a rotogravure of an artwork depicting the Marquis de Nointel arriving in Jerusalem with great pomp and circumstance — the painting on the wall.”

The painting is now being restored.  The New York Times reports on the discovery of the Vuez painting.

Posted in Art History, Court Studies, Cultural History, Early Modern Europe, European History, French History, Mediterranean World, Noble Culture and History of Elites, Paris History, Religious History, Religious Politics, Strategy and International Politics, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society, Warfare in the Early Modern World | Leave a comment