Back to Index

SPAIN: The Civil War and Catalonia

Miquel Strubell i Trueta writes:

"I fully agree with you that " ancient hatred between England and Spain, largely the result of religion, to be one of the great tragedies of history." The 16th century was the origin of the confrontation (indeed, as soon as the Atlantic routes began to yield their fruits!). At that time, however, Spain though sharing a common monarch (not when the Catalan king Ferdinand and the Castilian queen Isabella acceded to their respective thrones, but when their grandson Charles acceded to the throne) was really a twin kingdom (much like England and Scotland throughout the 17th century). The Atlantic was reserved for Castilian vessels and traders, and the Mediterranean for the Catalans.

When at the turn of the 17th century there were two pretenders to the Spanish throne, the centralist Bourbon was chosen by the kingdom of Castile, whereas the Catalans (with the other members of the confederation, Valencia and Aragon) decided for the "federalist" Hapsburg. In the ensuing war the English were very firmly on the side of the Catalans, until the accession to the Austro-Hungarian empire of the Hapsburg pretender led to their withdrawal. The longstanding friendship between the Catalans and the English is immortalized in a Gibraltar bay called Catalan bay.

Sure enough, the winning Bourbon pretender soon hammered home a forceful, French-inspired process of centralization and eliminated the self-governing bodies of Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon. We are still smarting from that decision...

Even though they have the same nationality, I doubt whether the US states around, say, California, such as Oregon, Arizona or New Mexico, would take kindly were they to lose their statehood and become merely part of "Greater Illinois"!

Catalans are a nation of shopkeepers, just like the English. And the BBC was the most popular source of (clandestine) information in Catalonia during World War II.

May I end on a more personal note. You made a reference to my university. Founded as recently as 1995, it is the first and only university in Europe (and probably anywhere in the world) whose academic activity is centred 100% on a virtual campus. Our 14,000 undergraduate students taking one of our 11 degree courses are receive their learning material in Catalan. We are on the lookout for partners in the US, needless to say! And of course our doctoral program is promoting research on and reflection the information society and the impact of new communication technologies on the lives of us "earthlings".

My comment: Miquel refers to Fernando as "the Catalan king." This suggests annoyance that Fernando is normally called King of Aragon, even though Catalonia was more important that Aragon. Technically he was King of Aragon. I agree completely that the French-inspired centralization of Spain was the origin of the present resentment.As for distance universities there are several in the US which are completely "virtual," although they may not have the scope of the University of Catalonia. I believe there are some also in Europe.

Ronald Hilton - 10/06/00