Vicens Vives, Jaume

Vicens Vives, Jaume
b. 1910, Girona; d. 1960, Barcelona
   Vicens Vives, despite his early death at the age of 50, was one of the most influential historians of Spain working during the Franco period, and formed a school of historiography which continues to shape the writing of Spanish history. Vicens was trained in the tradition of erudite documentary historiography, but at an early stage began to question the conventional Castiliancentred view of the past, by giving due prominence to Catalonia's contribution to the cultural and political identity of Spain, hitherto largely ignored by conservative historians. One of his first books, Política del Rey Católico en Cataluña (The Catalan Policy of Ferdinand the Catholic) (1940), provided an important corrective to the tendency to interpret Ferdinand's role exclusively in a Castilian context. This was followed by Historia de los remensas en el siglo XV (The Catalan Peasantry in the Fifteenth Century) (1945), an in-depth study of a particularly oppressed social group. His comprehensive and nuanced interpretation of the history of the peninsula was popularized in the short 1952 volume Approach to the History of Spain (Aproximación a la, historia de España), still widely read for its lucid insights. In the 1950s Vicens came under the influence of the French Annales school, which provided a powerful stimulus to the development of his interest in social and economic history, and the use of quantitative methods. This had the effect of expanding the scope of his investigation beyond the medieval specialism with which he had begun his career into the nineteenth century, regarded by scholars identified with the Franco regime as a period of decadence provoked by "foreign" importations such as liberalism, but by revisionist historians like Vicens, Artola, Jover Zamora and Tuñón de Lara as the key to the character of contemporary Spain. One of the earliest fruits of this new orientation was his Industrials i politics del segle XIX (Industrialists and Politicians of the Nineteenth Century) (1950), a series of short biographies of representative figures, skilfully placed in their historical context, which illuminates important aspects of the social and economic evolution of nineteenth-century society. This was followed by his monumental five-volume work, Historia social y económica de España y América (Social and Economic History of Spain and the Americas) (1958), part of which appeared in English as An Economic History of Spain (1969).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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