Uncommonly Savage: Civil War and Remembrance in Spain and the United States

Uncommonly Savage: Civil War and Remembrance in Spain and the United States

Uncommonly Savage: Civil War and Remembrance in Spain and the United States

Uncommonly Savage: Civil War and Remembrance in Spain and the United States


"Truly impressive. Travels uncharted terrain, moving deftly through a vast scholarship in two languages. The research is sound, the prose crisp and accessible, and the subject unquestionably important."--W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory

"Illuminates the enduring potency of memory in shaping postwar societies for generations after the fighting ceased, reminding us that both losers and victors often had powerful motives to remember--and to forget."--Caroline E. Janney, author of Remembering the Civil War

"Traces the dynamics of memory in the aftermath of the Spanish and American civil wars and demonstrates how similar processes of closure, willful blindness, and ideological inculcation worked out in the different contexts to produce sometimes similar but often radically different outcomes." --Cillian McGrattan, author of Memory, Politics and Identity

"With an engaging narrative and deep research, the book is a model of the benefits derived from a truly comparative study."--David Goldfield, author of Still Fighting the Civil War

Spain and the United States both experienced extremely bloody and divisive civil wars that left social and emotional wounds, many of which still endure today. In Uncommonly Savage, award-winning historian Paul Escott considers the impact of internecine violence on memory and ideology, politics, and process of reconciliation. He also examines debates over reparation or moral recognition, the rise of truth and reconciliation commissions, and the legal, psychological, and religious aspects of modern international law regarding amnesty.


The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of
the living.

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

All wars leave a legacy of bitterness and hatred, but internecine conflicts create the deepest scars. There is something different about such intrafamilial conflicts. People who once were part of one national family divide, define each other as the hateful enemy, and aim for the jugular. On both sides of an internecine conflict there is a feeling of betrayal, a sense that those who were brothers or sisters have been traitorous to their commitments or to the nation. the resentments fueled by national division often give such wars a particularly ferocious quality. Then the war comes to an end, and, in many cases, the deeply alienated antagonists have to find some way to reunite, to live with each other and the bitter memories of division.

This book is about the problems left by such wars—the historical wounds—and how nations deal with them. Its focus is on the legacy of internecine conflicts, and it explores that subject by comparing two nations that are not often lumped together. Spain and the United States both fought extremely bitter and hugely destructive civil wars. the wars themselves were different in many ways—in causes, timing, geographical patterns, and many other particulars—but the legacies of these conflicts were similar. Both Spain and the United States bore historical wounds that were very deep and whose disfigurement and pain lasted long after the fighting stopped.

What was the nature of the divisive legacies common to both countries? First to be remembered were the human costs. For both Spain and the United States these were so enormous that they produced pain and grief . . .

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