Territory and Terror: Conflicting Nationalisms in the Basque Country

By Jan Mansvelt Beck | Go to book overview

2

The French-Basque experience

How Basques became French

Iparralde, or the 'Northern Basque Country', as the nationalists call the French Basque Country, has never been a fertile breeding ground for Basque nationalism. French Basques mainly identify with France. This identification is the result of many centuries of nationalization from above. In the mid-nineteenth century, France was far from being a united nation. The country was a patchwork of different languages, customs and traditions. According to Weber (1976) and Braudel (1989), France was economically fragmented, most areas being badly integrated and to a large degree economically self-sufficient. Communication with the various areas was also poor. People's identifications were mainly local and at best regional. Almost half of children of school age could not write French. Viewed from Paris, the Basque Provinces were also culturally badly integrated. On Weber's map of France the Département des Pyrénées Atlantiques in which the Basque Provinces are located, is in the category of predominantly non-French speaking. In this respect the Basques were part of a distinct linguistic archipelago situated on the fringe of the French landmass. French nationalizing forces were already operative halfway through the nineteenth century and had contact with the Basques.


Nationalist messages

In France the idea of a nation probably goes back to the Middle Ages. Frenchness was linked to history, religion, signs and symbols (Llobera 1994:54-7). The mythified history of the French nation assumes a Gallic origin, or in Thiesse's words: 'The Gauls have been elected as the nation's ancestors' (1999:50). Thiesse argues that the invention of a Gallic origin fits in with a general European eighteenth-century fashion of romanticizing a Celtic past. The specific French element of the Celtic idealization is its posterior association of Gallic subordination by Frank invaders with the French Revolution. Religious symbols linked the French nation and the monarchy. St Denis was connected with royalty and other patron saints like St Louis and St Michael became the 'mediators between the divinity and the French people' (Llobera 1994:55). Together with the lilies of the royal French arms, the saints disappeared from the French nationalist discourse as a consequence of the Revolution.

-19-

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Territory and Terror: Conflicting Nationalisms in the Basque Country
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures x
  • Tables xi
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The French-Basque Experience 19
  • 3 - The Spanish-Basque Experience 41
  • 4 - Euskal Herria 77
  • 5 - Basque Nationalism 97
  • 6 - Euskadi as a Weak Proto-State 126
  • 7 - The Spatial Dimension of Violence 176
  • 8 - Conflict Solutions 205
  • Conclusion 225
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 253
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