UCL European Institute


History and Nationalism. Spain and Catalonia in a comparative context

23 October 2014, 12:00 am

History and Nationalism

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23 October 2014
As the question of national distinctiveness resurges, this panel discussion with experts on Spanish, Catalan and Latin American history will discuss the uses and abuses of history today.

23 October 2014

Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre
UCL Wilkins Building
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT

Image credit:
The Literary Digest (1890), New York : Funk & Wagnalls, p. 1307

History may be about the "foreign country" of the past, but it is also of our world today. Not only will it be influenced by the socio-political and intellectual context in which it is written, but consequently too by the way we produce, receive and transmit historical knowledge at a given time. Arguably, to reflect on the assumptions that underlie our explanations of the past is particularly urgent in the historiography of nationalism. Does an implicitly nationalist stance inform all national history, with certain framework conditions too easily taken for granted? Can historians of nationalist movements avoid being unduly influenced by the ideological cause they chart, or indeed the teleological assumptions that underly it? What if a silent consensus seeks to stifle critical challenges to a dominant explanatory narrative? At a time when the question of national idiosyncrasy has forecfully re-emerged, this panel discussion with experts on Spanish, Catalan and Latin American history will re-assess the uses and abuses of history today.


  • Nicola Miller, Professor of Latin American History, UCL
  • Paul Preston, Príncipe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish History, LSE
  • Enric Ucelay-Da Cal, Emeritus Professor of Contemporary History, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

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In cooperation with the LSE Catalan Observatory

More on the speakers:

Nicola Miller is Professor of Latin American History at UCL. She is interested in intellectual history, cultural history and international history - and particularly in thinking about how these different sub-disciplines can be brought together and in the insights to be gained from inter-disciplinary work and transnational approaches.  She has published widely in all three fields, particularly on the history of intellectuals in Latin America. She also has a long-standing interest in nationalism and national identity. Publications include Reinventing Modernity in Latin America: Intellectuals Imagine the Future, 1900-1930, (Palgrave, New York, 2007), 'The historiography of nationalism and national identity in Latin America', Nations and Nationalism, vol. 12(2), 2006, 201-221, 'The Absolution of History:  Uses of the Past in Castro's Cuba', Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 38(1), 2003, 147-62, and In the Shadow of the State: Intellectuals and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Spanish America, (Verso, London and New York, 1999) (342 pp).

Paul Preston CBE is the Príncipe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish History at the LSE. He was born in Liverpool in 1946 and has dedicated the bulk of his professional life to writing the history of twentieth century Spain. He has taught at the Universities of Rome, Madrid, Valencia, Reading and London and lectured widely in Europe and America. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and holds the Marcel Proust Chair of the Academia Europea de Yuste. Among his books are Franco: A Biography (1993); Juan Carlos. A People's King (2004); The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution, Revenge (2006) We Saw Spain Die. Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War (2008) and The Spanish Holocaust. Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain (2012).

Enric Ucelay-Da Cal is Emeritus Professor of Contemporary History at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) and coordinator of the UPF Research Group on States, Nations and Sovereignties. His research addresses European, Spanish and Catalan nationalism and political, cultural and intellectual history during the 20th century. He has published widely in several languages, including: La Catalunya populista: Imatge, cultura i política en l'etapa republicana, 1931-1939 (Barcelona: La Magrana, 1982); La paz simulada: una historia de la Guerra Fría, 1941-1991 (Madrid: Alianza, 1997 and 2006); and El imperialismo catalán. Prat de la Riba, Cambó, D'Ors y la conquista moral de España (Barcelona: Edhasa, 2003). He previously taught at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and was a Visiting Professor at Duke University (1994), Venice International University (2002) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (2004). From 1993 to 1998 he was one of the co-directors of L'Avenç. Revista d'Història.