The Making and Unmaking of an Autarkic Physics in Franco’s Spain Essay

The Making and Unmaking of an Autarkic Physics in Franco’s Spain Essay

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The end of the Spanish Civil War brought a completely new kind of nation-state into existence. Never before (or after) Fascist Spain did such a conservative, militaristic, and anti-communist state exist in modern Europe. General Francisco Franco’s iconoclastic Spain demanded a complementary scientific structure. The resulting autarkic science was ideologically aligned with Franco, and wholly functional to state power. This autarkic science was not conjured up out of nowhere: it was created out of the ashes of Spain’s previous scientific structure, which was largely obliterated by the Civil War. A year after the end of the war, almost half of all former Spanish science university professors had been forced out of their position due to exile, Franco’s purges, or death.

The science of Fascist Spain was denied a life of its own. It was radically beholden to the state, so it changed quickly in response to changes in the state’s objectives. Because the Nationalists so successfully exorcised previous scientific tradition, the state was free to re-make science into whatever it pleased. Spanish science, then, clearly reflected Franco’s shifting goals. Drawing conclusions about, say, American politics from American science is often difficult because funding decisions are not wholly controlled by the state, and there is a robust scientific tradition of resisting total government control.

Scientists who shared Franco’s political views soon filled the university positions abdicated by Franco’s opponents. The new scientific elite was considerably more concerned with direct, practical application of their work to the military than those who they replaced. Scientists and mathematicians whose work did not directly benefit the regime...


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...nference of the European Society for the History of Science, Barcelona, November 18-20, 2010.

Sánchez-Ron, José M., and Roca-Rosell, Antoni. “Spain's First School of Physics: Blas Cabrera's Laboratorio de Investigaciones Físicas.” Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 8, Research Schools: Historical Reappraisals (1993): 127-155.

Santesmases, Mariala Jesual S., “Peace Propaganda and Biomedical Experimentation: Influential Uses of Radioisotopes in Endocrinology and Molecular Genetics in Spain (1947–1971).” Journal of the History of Biology, (2006) 39: 765–794 DOI: 10.1007/s10739-006-9112-6

Shneidman, J. Lee, ed., Spain & Franco 1949-59. New York: Facts on File Press, 1973.

Time. “A Defiant Franco Answers His Critics”. Time, 0040781X, 10/13/1975, Vol. 106, Issue 15

Wolff, Milton. FASCIST SPAIN: Menace to World Peace. New York: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1947.

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