Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3 more down, many more to go

After an insanely large amount of time actually reading today - I started around 9:30 this morning and am only now done - I finished three books today:

Gabriel Jackson, The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939
* Yet another in a long list of older treatments of the war, Jackson argues that the Republic should have been able to solve most of their problems (except agrarian reform) democratically until 1934. Like Malefakis, Brenan, and a few others, he argues that land reform was probably the biggest problem the Republic faced. According to Jackson, the Republic failed because the civil servants weren't loyal to the Republic, but were to the King; political discipline was hard to come by; the people had not been schooled in the democratic process thanks to a long history of anti-democratic practices; the anarchist uprisings were threatening the stability of the Republic; and the army still saw itself as the protector of the people.

Carmen Martin Gaite, Usos amorosos de la postguerra espanola
*Ugh. This was supposed to be the "easy read" that would be "fun." Ha. I'm not sure if it's a matter of colloquialisms and/or dialect, but I cannot understand this woman's writings. It took me over 6 hours, and I'm going to check tomorrow or Thursday with the English-language translation to see if I've gotten anything right - but I think her basic discussion is about the ways by which the Francoist redefinition of male/female relationships not only repressed sexuality, but demanded a culture of ignorance about the opposite sex. Through a redefinition of femininity (exemplified by Pilar Primo de Rivera and the Seccion Femenina), gender segregation in schools, a cultural taboo against both overt sexuality and singlehood, young men and women often only began to learn about each other during the engagement period. If she said anything more, I was too frustrated to catch it...

Sandie Holguin, Creating Spaniards: Culture and National Identity in Republican Spain
* One of the best books on the Republic in a long time, Holguin talks about how the Republican-Socialist coalition, anarchists, and (at times) the conservatives (eventually the Nationalist leaders under Franco) tried to create a unified populace via cultural programs - theater, literacy campaigns, film, and literature. Even during the war, groups with competing hegemonic projects sent travelling culture troops to educate, entertain, and try to unify. They were all trying to "invent traditions," but the Republic was unable to prevail, partly due to time, partly due to their own internal debates over how exactly to proceed.

Me terribly sleepy now. I've read 20 books, most of them for my major field, in 11 days. *curls up in ball on couch and sleeps for a week*

Monday, November 17, 2008

Comps, comps, comps!

I have been suddenly back to working on comps, and working hard, at that.  In the last 10 days, I've read 17 books, most of them for my dissertation adviser's list.  Three were on environmental history, but the rest have been about Spain, generally between 1875 and 1940. To keep things straight for me (and maybe even help later on), I'm going to list them and provide my own quick summary.  So feel free to stop reading if you are not interested in a bunch of Spanish history book summaries!

Stephen Pyne, Vestal Fire - shoot me now. While I'm sure there are interesting arguments here, this 600+ page book bored me to tears. Literally. I ended up reading a few reviews and the section on the Mediterranean and giving up after about 3 hours. Blah.

William A. Christian, Jr., Visionaries: The Spanish Republic and the Reign of Christ - unfortunately, like Pyne, this book is far too long (around 500 pages) and has no real argument. After I got through part of it, I read some reviews by three of the giants in the field (Lannon, Ringrose, and Payne), and none of them could find the argument. Lannon, in particular, ended his review with something along the lines of, "So, the retelling of the story is great, but I'm still left wondering - what does it mean?" Not a good sign when the giant who focuses on Catholicism and religion in Spain has no idea why your 500-page book on visions of Mary in 1931 in the Basque regions matters.

Diana K. Davis, Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa - Excellent work on the French use of a declensionist environmental narrative as a means of justifying the imposition of imperial rule over the Berbers and Arabs of the Maghreb.

Walter Rodney, How the West Underdeveloped Africa - I swear, he could have saved me a lot of time by just saying, "Read Marx. Now apply it to Africa and Europe and their relationship. The End." -.-

Temma Kaplan, Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso's Barcelona - Excellent book that shows how, in Barcelona, festivals and street performances of various kinds were used both to express solidarity and to challenge the central authority in Madrid. These festivals and rituals were coopted and transformed over time by various groups (unions, women, the Church, the regionalist league, etc.) and together they helped shape Barcelona's unique identity in the early twentieth century.

Sheelagh Ellwood, Spanish Fascism in the Franco Era: Falange Espanola de las Jons, 1936-76 - I'm sure this is a good narrative history of the institution of the Falange Espanola, but it bored me. A lot. I got to where I didn't care what was happening to the FE at any point. Again, she's a good writer, and her work on Franco is always well-supported. But I don't like the Franco era. It bores me.

Michael Richards, A Time of Silence: Civil War and the Culture of Repression in Franco's Spain, 1936-1945 - Interesting idea - that the focus on "autarky" in the immediate aftermath of the civil war was not truly just about economics, but was actually part of a larger process of isolating Spaniards, "purifying" the nation of that "anti-Spain" crowd (aka, those who supported the Republic); and that poverty, self-denial, and hardship were all encouraged as your due sacrifice to the New State, which was continually reinforced by violence and the threat of violence.

Alun Kenwood, ed., The Spanish Civil War: A Cultural and Historical Reader - Primarily a primary source reader, but using literature to explore Spanish, American, French, British, and German experiences and reactions to the civil war. Fun read.

Helen Graham, The Spanish Republic at War, 1936-1939 - Very long book... and right now I can't remember what she argues. Probably because I couldn't find a real thesis statement anywhere... in the 500-page book!

Ronald Radosh, et al, eds., Spain Betrayed: the Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War - Primarily a collection of around 80 Soviet documents, taking up most of 500 pages, regarding the Soviets' involvement in the war, the editors argue that the Soviets wanted, from the very beginning, to control he situation in Spain. They contend that the Soviets wanted to turn Spain into a version of what they'd use in Eastern Europe after WWII.

Gerald Howson, Arms for Spain: The Untold Story of the Spanish Civil War - Using primarily diplomatic records from around the world, Howson argued that the Non-Intervention Pact condemned the Republic to defeat, in part because, in practice, the Nationalists were able to get all they needed from Germany/Italy, and because the Republic was reduced to trying to smuggle arms in from around the world. In this smuggling scheme, they were taken advantage of by pretty much everyone, though the Soviets were especially ruthless in manipulating the exchange rates to obtain as much Spanish gold as possible. He also points to the general ineptitude of all of those involved as one explanation for the whole fiasco.

Pierre Broue and Emile Temime, The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain - A lovely little Marxist book that argues that there was a social revolution going on in Spain at the beginning of the Civil War, and that this Revolution was, in large part, the enthusiasm and lifeline for the Republic. They seem to think that The Revolution could have saved Spain, but that the Republican leaders, especially the communist party, sacrificed the Revolution in order to fight the war; by doing so, they ended up losing both the Revolution AND the war. Fun, huh?

Adrian Shubert, The Road to Revolution in Spain: The Coal Miners of Asturias, 1860-1934 - His doctoral dissertation from the 1980s, Shubert argued that the miners in Asturias who revolted in October 1934 had radicalized primarily due to the economic crisis in the industry after WWI and the inability of the unions or the Republic to solve the problems. The Spanish coal industry boomed during WWI, as British coal, especially, faltered during the fighting. But after 1918, the British industry rebounded, with the effect of sending the Spanish industry into a bit of a depression; Spanish mining companies responded by trying to cut wages and social provisions, instituting greater mechanization, and in general sacrificing working conditions for greater productivity and profits. The miners turned to their syndicate, the SMA, but it chose a route of moderation, relying on the government. When the government - both the Primo dictatorship and the later Republic - were unable to mitigate the effects of the depression, the miners radicalized even more. So when the Socialists sent the word for a general strike and uprising, the Asturian miners were especially ready.

Edward Malefakis, Agrarian Reform and Peasant Revolution in Spain - A bit of a beast to get through, mainly because endless tables and statistics kind of get boring after a few hours, Malefakis argued that it was the failure of the Republic to pass truly radical land reform between 1931 and 1936 that led to the radicalization of the Spanish peasant, especially in Southern Spain (i.e., Extremadura and Andalucia) where the latifundio system was so prevalent. By not addressing the land question, the Republic doomed itself.

Robert Kern, Liberals, Reformers and Caciques in Restoration Spain 1875-1909
*I never quite found an actual thesis... but he argues that the failure of Spanish liberalism to reform the agrarian situation and provide real relief to peasants and workers explains why liberalism as a political option failed after 1875. Because liberalism was so closely associated with the power of the caciques, especially since Canovas did not trust the general public to be true participants in government, and because of the crises after 1875 (the disaster of 1898, the Semana Tragica (which killed the possibility of regionalist reform), liberalism failed to adapt, reform, or modernize.

Pamela Radcliff, From Mobilization to Civil War: The Politics of Polarization in the Spanish City of Gijon, 1900-1937
*Her doctoral dissertation, this is an excellent work that uses both Habermas' concept of the public sphere and Gramsci's discussion of hegemony to argue that in the early twentieth century, there were three hegemonic projects competing for dominance. These were the republican project, the labor movement's project, and the traditional narrative (Catholic, monarchist, etc.). Dissension within the republican ranks, and the conflict between the UGT and CNT in the labor movement, helped prevent either side from fully winning over the working class - and so neither side was able to unify the masses under one coherent hegemonic project. They tried to co-opt the public sphere, through education, processions/festivals, rituals, symbols, but none of the hegemonic projects dominated. Again, the lack of real reform under the Republic of the 1930s doomed the republican project for good.

Gerald Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth: an Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War
*Blech, this was my main project today. I finished with Radcliff around 11 a.m., and spent most of the rest of the day (when trying to work) reading this. After 300+ pages, I think the main argument of this 1940s work is that the agrarian problem (minifundia in the centre/north, latifundia in the south, regional diversity and constant struggle between peasants/workers and elites) was the primary factor dooming the Republic and leading to the war. There's a lot more in here, but I think this was the main contribution.