Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The economic background to the
Basque question in Spain
Montserrat Gárate Ojanguren

Perhaps more than any other one in the Peninsula, the Basque people has had to endure, from opposing factions, distorted interpretations of its history.

Julio Caro Baroja


INTRODUCTION

The Basque autonomous community occupies an area of 7,235 square kilometres, which represents 1.43 per cent of the Spanish territory and its population, of slightly more than 2,100,000 inhabitants, comprises 5.41 per cent of the Spanish total. The Basque autonomous community is made up of three provinces, Alava, Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya, the first of which being historically the least densely inhabited — even today its population amounts to barely 13 per cent of the community's and it is far behind Vizcaya in industrial development.

The so-called 'Basque question' is generally understood abroad as the reflection of radical nationalism. An important manifestation of this nationalism is seen to be violence — the latter being the way to attain the Basque country's independence from Spain. Nevertheless, thus understood the phenomenon does not correspond with reality. The Basque question is something entirely different and far more complex, and its roots are to be found in the Basque people's own history.

Many scholars who have studied the different nationalist movements in Europe at the close of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century have pointed out the importance of economic factors in the development of nationalist feeling. Some of these authors have gone so far as to propose that economic changes stimulate the awakening of national feeling in certain countries. In the Basque case the economy has a further significance, since the Basque economic model shows special traits within the Spanish general model, both legally as well as in its structure and development process.

All this considered, and in order to appraise the economic framework

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