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“Modern Spain: A Documentary History”


Edited by Jon Cowans
320 pages, $19.95 paper

Penn Press has published many successful collections of primary source documents in translation, ranging from accounts of European witch trials to court evidence presented at the trial of Cambodian mass murderer Pol Pot. The latest addition to this genre is “Modern Spain: A Documentary History,” edited by Jon Cowans, associate professor of history at Rutgers-Newark.

While the Civil War of 1936-39 dominated Spain’s 20th-century history, the country’s fateful and bloody division into left and right had its roots in the events of the Napoleonic era. “Modern Spain” contains the first broad-ranging collection in English of writings from this entire period.

Selections include decrees of the liberal Cádiz Cortes of 1810-14, an 1841 plea for the revival of the Catalan culture and language, an 1873 anarchist manifesto, an 1892 argument for the education of women, a Basque nationalist’s 1895 diatribe against Spaniards, José Ortega y Gasset’s “Invertebrate Spain,” General Francisco Franco’s 1936 manifesto and his 1940 letter to Hitler, the Spanish bishops’ 1950 press release on immorality and indecency in the mass media, King Juan Carlos’s speech on the attempted coup d’état of 1981, and a 1999 report by SOS Racismo on immigration and xenophobia in contemporary Spain.

Covering political, cultural, social, and economic history, “Modern Spain: A Documentary History” provides a valuable opportunity to explore the history of Spain through primary sources from the Second Republic, the Civil War, and the Franco dictatorship, as well as from the period of Spain’s profound transformation following the ascension of King Juan Carlos in 1975.

Originally published on July 17, 2003