Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy

Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy

Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy

Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy

Synopsis

Using a rich variety of sources such as official newsreels, school textbooks, the work of contemporary historians, memoirs, official documents, legislation, and monuments, this book explores how the historical memory of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) influenced the transition to democracy in Spain after Franco's death in 1975. The author traces the development of official discourse on the War throughout the Franco period and describes the régime's attempts to achieve political legitimacy. Although there was no universal consensus regarding the events of the Civil War, general agreement did exist concerning the main lesson which should be drawn from it: never again should Spaniards become embroiled in a fratricidal conflict.

Excerpt

Memory and learning are closely linked terms, given that without a retentive capacity it is not possible to apply the lessons of the past, and that without the light which learning sheds on the present memory is of little use to us. Until very recently the study of both these concepts was limited to the field of psychology, which has produced a great deal of research regarding the workings of memory and different forms of learning, although these relate only to the individual.

In the last few years a new approach has emerged, especially in the United States and France, in which an analysis of collective memory and learning has been undertaken from the perspective of sociology, political science and history. in Spain, however, virtually no study has been carried out of these two phenomena within the three disciplines. References have often been made either to the presence or the absence of the Spanish collective memory, although these allusions are not based on any kind of reflection regarding the theoretical or methodological implications which are derived from using such a concept.

My interest was initially aroused by the contradictory impressions that I formed from reading the abundant literature which exists regarding the Transition as well as numerous pieces from the daily press. From my reading of the former I sensed the existence of a deliberate silence regarding the recent past, which, nevertheless, seemed to underlie the most important decision-making processes of that period. the obsession with peace and stability, the particular caution regarding issues relating to public order, the systematic avoidance of conflictual issues and the constant search for consensus among all parties as the only way – we might almost say the only legitimate way – of taking decisions, all led me to focus my attention on the collective memory of the Spanish people and their historical learning over the last few decades.

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