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Is Spain Different?

A Comparative Look at the 19th and 20th Centuries

In the Series
Studies in Spanish History

Nigel Townson is the author of The Crisis of Democracy in Spain: Centrist Politics under the Second Republic, 1931–1936 (SAP, 2000); editor of a general history of Spanish republicanism; and author of a three-volume work of the Spanish exiled writer Arturo Barea, a counterfactual history of modern Spain; and, most recently, Spain Transformed: The Late Franco Dictatorship, 1959–1975 (Palgrave, 2007). He is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Thought and Social and Political Movements at the Complutense University of Madrid.

Contributors to this volume include: José Álvarez Junco (Universidad Complutense, Madrid); María Cruz Romeo (University of Valencia); Edward Malefakis (Columbia University, New York); and Pamela Radcliff (University of California, San Diego)

“Analytically the most intelligent book to come out of Spain in recent years.” Stanley Payne, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This excellent and thought-provoking collection of essays, written by leading experts in the field, provides a much-needed comparative dimension to the history of modern Spain. It will be essential reading for all those seeking a clearer understanding of how Spain has developed since the nineteenth century.” Professor Tom Buchanan, University of Oxford

“By adopting a comparative perspective, this collection of essays highlights Spanish idiosyncrasies, as well as many similarities with other European countries in their quest for modernity. A well-edited, coherent, and informative volume with a broad appeal to students of European history in general and Spanish history in particular. Nigel Townson has done a fine job in assembling a group of distinguished historians to challenge commonly-held assumptions as to Spain’s exceptionalism. Sophisticated yet clearly written and argued, Is Spain Different? is a valuable teaching resource.” Professor Raanan Rein, Elías Sourasky Professor of Latin American and Spanish History, Tel Aviv University

“With contributions from leading Spanish, British and North American scholars, this is quite simply one of the most sophisticated and subtle books on Spain’s fascinating and controversial contemporary history published in the past decade.” Charles Powell, Professor of Spanish History at San Pablo-CEU University, Madrid

The slogan that launched the tourist industry in the 1960s, Spain is Different?, has come to haunt historians. Much effort and energy have been expended ever since in endeavouring to show that Spain has not been different, but normal. Still, many of the defining features of the country’s past – the civil wars, the weak liberalism, the Franco dictatorship – are taken as evidence of its distinctiveness. A related problem is that few historians have actually placed Spain’s trajectory over the last two centuries within a truly comparative context. This book does so by tackling a number of key themes in modern Spanish history: liberalism, nationalism, anticlericalism, the Second Republic, the Franco dictatorship and the transition to democracy. Is Spain Different? thereby offers a fresh and stimulating perspective on Spain’s recent past that is not only of interest to students of Spanish and European history alike, but also sheds new light on the current political debates regarding Spain’s place in the world.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-359-1
Hardback Price: £49.95 / $64.95
Release Date: March 2015
Page Extent / Format: 200 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


The Editor and Contributors

Introduction: Spain: A Land Apart?
Nigel Townson

1 The Debate Over the Nation
José Álvarez Junco

2 The Civil Wars of the 19th Century: An Exceptional Path
to Modernization?
María Cruz Romeo Mateo

3 Anticlercialism and Secularization: A European Exception?
Nigel Townson

4 The Second Republic: A Noble Failure?
Edward Malefakis

5 The Spanish Civil War: A Unique Conflict?
Michael Seidman

6 ‘Spain is Different’? The Franco Dictatorship
Nigel Townson

7 The Transition: A Global Model?
Pamela Radcliff


This is comparative history at its best […] All in all, this is a remarkable edited collection: broad, ambitious and displaying flashes of originality and fresh insights throughout […] This is an exceptional work, which works conceptually, methodologically and historiographically, and it is a great resource for students.
Mark Lawrence, The Journal of the Historical Association (2017)

A tourism slogan of the 1940s claimed, “Spain is Different.” Spanish and US contributors in history address and often refute the notion of Spain’s exceptionalism in this collection of essays on the history of modern Spain. Themes explored include liberalism, nationalism, anti-clericalism, the Second Republic, the civil wars of the 19th century, the Spanish Civil War, the Franco dictatorship, and the transition to democracy. The book’s readership includes students, academics, and researchers in Spanish and European history and political science.

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