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Press, Politics and National Identities in Catalonia

The Transformation of La Vanguardia, 1881–1931

Pol Dalmau holds a thesis from the European University Institute (Florence, Italy). He has been a visiting fellow at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and New York University. His research focuses on the birth of the mass media and its connections with broader phenomena in European history (colonialism, democratisation, political culture).

For more than three generations, the members of the Godó family controlled Barcelona’s top-selling newspaper La Vanguardia, navigating it through the country's turbulent 20th century. Whether under the corrupt politics of the Bourbon Restoration, the takeover of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship or the radical transformations of the Second Republic, La Vanguardia remained Barcelona’s indisputable journalistic benchmark. Central to this success was the Godó family’s capacity to turn their newspaper into an active mouthpiece for Catalan interests in the rest of Spain. In a period characterized by political turmoil and heated controversies over identity, La Vanguardia remained one of the most active bridges between Barcelona and Madrid. At the same time, ownership of the newspaper allowed family members to expand their interests into other fields, such as politics, business and colonial rule in Cuba and Morocco.

Drawing on a wide range of archival material, this book is the first account of one of the most influential (yet at the same time, least known) newspapers in modern Spain. In so doing, it sheds new light on how the media shaped and conditioned the birth of mass politics in Europe. While contemporaries often observed that newspapers had a powerful influence over public affairs, historians have not systematically examined the role of press owners as ‘political actors’. In contrast, Pol Dalmau focuses on the case of a renowned family in Barcelona to uncover the media's critical role in Europe's uneven road to modernity.

Published in association with the Catalan Observatory of the London School of Economics

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-815-2
Hardback Price: £75.00 / $95.00
Release Date: December 2017
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-003-3
Paperback Price: £29.95 / $45.00
Release Date: March 2019
Page Extent / Format: 280 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes



Introduction: Press Barons and Liberal Politics

1 The Foundation of La Vanguardia and the Transnational Origins of Modern Journalism

2 “Our future lies in Africa”: Newspapers and Colonial Ambitions in Morocco

3 Between Barcelona and Cuba: Colonial Business and the Mechanisms of Influence

4 Press, Politics and the “Disaster” of 1898

5 Public Image and the Mediatisation of Politics

6 Mass Politics and the Strategies of Adaptation

7 The Golden Age of La Vanguardia and the Crumbling of the Liberal Order

Epilogue: Press, Politics and National Identities in the Crisis of Liberalism


This book by Pol Dalmau is destined to become required reading of all those seriously interested in modern Catalan and Spanish history. Furthermore, its location of events in Catalonia and Spain within a broad European context means that it will be of interest to academics as an important case study that challenges some of the broadly held assumptions with respect to the period covered. ... Dalmau’s work shows the importance in studying the press as a historical actor in its own right; one that played a significant role in articulating a more globally interconnected society and, in an era in which a mass circulation press was coming into being, attempted, with varying degrees of success, to set the political agenda.
From the Guest Series Editor’s Preface by Angel Smith, University of Leeds

This study delves into the history of Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia, established in 1881, as an example of the press oligarchy during Europe’s crisis of liberal politics during the period before WWI. The study focuses on the God<’o> family, a prominent dynasty of press proprietors in modern Spain, and how they used the newspaper to promote their political agendas. The study demonstrates the role of the press as a political actor and its social and political impact. The book contains black and white historical photographs and photographs of newspaper pages.

Pol Dalmau’s study is a penetrating look at the inner workings of an elite family trying to maintain power in the face of transformations that threaten to diminish it. It also is a revealing examination of how the objectives of newspapers changed, professionalized, and modernized in general and as instruments of elite socio-political influence. Dalmau adroitly and succinctly tells a complex story that is fascinating, entertaining, informative, and makes a significant contribution that will appeal to scholars of press studies in Spain, Europe, and elsewhere.
Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese
Historical Studies
(Vol. 43, 2018)

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