Democratic Spain and the United States, An Atlantic History 1868-1874

2018 edition

Gerard Llorens

My project is to study the U.S. political and public view of the Spanish Sexenio Democrático (1868-74) during the period of its existence from a transnational perspective. 1873 is a critical moment of tension between these countries in the wake of the Virginius Incident, their most relevant diplomatic conflict between the Ostend Manifesto (1854) and the Spanish-American War (1898). The aim of the study is to understand how Spain is perceived both in diplomatic terms and in the press and pays special attention to questions related to slavery, democracy and republicanism. The study’s objective is to comprehend how, following the American models, an Atlantic republicanism was articulated and spread at the time of the French Third Republic (1871) and the First Spanish Republic (1873).

During the Sexenio years, the U.S. was immersed in the Reconstruction Era under President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77). Given the proximity of Cuba to the U.S., it is particularly important to have its context in mind, with the Ten Years’ War (1868-78). How was the slavery question dealt with, since it had been abolished in 1863 in the U.S. yet was still present in the Caribbean despite the 1870’s Ley Moret? What was the American perception of Spain in the years leading to 1898?

People have often approached this period in terms of what was to happen afterwards, that is to say, the Sexenio, and especially the First Republic, have been studied as the preambles to the Restoration and its main participants. Our study aims to understand the dynamics of knowledge transmission in the Atlantic World, and its impact on the creation of national identities. There is a need to revise this topic from a world history perspective, which will allow us to discern integration and transformation patterns in the 19th century.

Presumably, the portrayal of Spain varied across conservative, liberal, and progressive newspapers, and in those that were aimed at a popular audience as opposed to a highly educated one. The Fourth Estate prior to yellow journalism offered a variety of alternatives, from penny press to political press. The main goal is to obtain a broad view of U.S. opinion on Spain between 1868-74 while taking into account historical, geographic, and political factors, and evaluating the impact of these views on international relations.

At a time when both Europe and the U.S. are looking to vindicate their identities in the face of the challenges created by migratory movements in the 21st century, it is particularly important to look back at the period in which these identities were being forged. In addition, our study will offer a comprehensive analysis of antebellum Spanish-American relations, in connection to the development of the debate on slavery. The creation of an Atlantic republicanism remains a terra ignota, and is a central concept to be elaborated on. A world history perspective will contribute to a new, far-reaching understanding of both U.S. and Spanish history.