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L’histoire culturelle en France et en Espagne

Benoît Pellistrandi
Jean-François Sirinelli



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Pascal Goetschel

Cultural policies. A new field for cultural history?

The result of the meeting between political history, which studies the leading personalities, the decision making processes, and the exercise of power and cultural history, the study of cultural policies leads to a methodological and epistemological reflection of the practise of cultural history in France. After weighing in the balance the research achievements in the fields explored and outlining the recent scientific orientations, the author proposes a new reflection on the statute of the history of cultural policies, showing how, in France, this refers to a history rooted in politics. Thus, we have the idea that this history should not be limited to the description of administrative processes. On the contrary it should accept contrasting political, social and economic visions, and feelings, which express a certain concept of culture, not only immersed in its own time but is also a participant in this time.


Michel Leymarie

Contemporary History of the intellectuals

The recent history of the intellectuals in France can be described in a particular time and situation: that of the predicted end of the intellectuals. This subject has been occupying debates for almost a quarter of a century and it is thus time for a new examination of French traditions, so as to make their polemics and inheritances of contemporary interest again. The development of the discipline of history among the intellectuals at the same time as their social status is waning is having methodological repercussions. These however, have favoured the development of new research fields of interest to young scientists. This movement demonstrates that the history of the intellectuals continues to be very fruitful. Finally, the comparison with other national traditions makes it possible to mark out a unified space for European researches.


Jean-Yves Mollier

Reading and the world of publishing in the french speaking world

When one brings to mind the genealogy of the history of reading and the progressive consolidation of historical research into the world of books and printing, it is possible to realise the problematic inflexions and enrichments, which have characterised this field of history over the last half century. The interest in the diversity of reading practises, depending on the social media, the regions and the spiritual and political traditions have completely renewed a merely quantitative approach. It is also possible to study in detail the world of publishing, analysing all its aspects both economic and social as well as political and cultural. If this field of cultural history enjoys a solid historiographical tradition based on its exemplary results, it is still possible for it to be a field of innovative research.


José Carlos Mainer

Towards a new literary history. Between books and readers

This paper presents the constitution of Spanish national literary history, which is the intellectual inheritance from the 19th and 20th centuries, eager for taxonomy and chronological clarification. In spite of partial changes in approach, this «literary canon», which from the way it was built up, bequeathed a decisive achievement: the idea that the literary text relies on its materiality and its reading, that is to say, its creative and receptive complexity. The methodological changes, begun in the 1970s, during the university demographic explosion in both student and staff numbers, have reinforced the historical philological tradition with a positivist and nationalist tendency. The doors have also been opened to welcome new concepts, some of which came from North American. Cultural Studies. Over the last two decades, the wealth of research based on the study of the text and the book has given literary history, produced in Spain, an exceptional quality, which is confirmed by the increasingly solid history of the edition.


Laurence Bertrand Dorléac

Art history or in praise of weakness

Art history is usually considered as cultural history which raises the question of reception and of psychological, social, political, anthropological, religious and economic function. However, can it be stated that it encompasses all these fields? The examination of its genealogy, its traditions and its schools makes it possible to measure its conceptual and methodological enrichment. Art history has progressively become a complex territory which has been expanding and complicating at the same time, with new institutions and new practises than those that marked the beginnings of the discipline. It is necessary to bear this evolution in mind and to link it to history, cultural history and art history, while trying not to foster any rivalry between imperialisms, which would lead art historians to retreat into their own dominions, whose frontiers are fixed too rigidly.

Javier González de Durana

Recent art history in Spain. Methods, subjects and tendencies in the last few years

The constitution of art history in Spain rests on very thin foundations because of the slow institutionalisation of the discipline, the lack of dynamism of the museums and the cultural and ideological divisions. However, it received a new impulse, when the need to catalogue the works of art became evident and new subjects and methodologies were developd, thanks to some of our predecessors who later became Directors of art schools. The increase in the number of museums made it possible to multiply the important exhibitions, a source of enrichment for the corpus of Spanish art history. When considering the state of current historiography, firstly one should observe the number of different approaches that have been explored and then secondly, the ideological, historical, and identity problems in art history, paying special attention to the avant-gardes, the nationalist eruptions and the policies of the state, in order to understand the richness of present day art history, which covers all periods, and all varieties of art as well as its reception in society and the cultural world.


Dominique Poulot

The historiography of the patrimony in contemporary France

Throughout the last generation, from the defence of historic monuments to a wider perspective, the notion of patrimony in the name of a policy of cultural development, has been gaining ground in the world of architecture, urbanism, museums and ethnology, archives and memories. Patrimony invades the whole social spectrum. To realise the extent of this revolution it is necessary to begin with the first demonstrations of concern for the patrimony in 19th century France, caused by the horror at the vandalism of the revolution. The involvement of the state in this phenomenon appears as a specifically French idea, where the institutions have taken an increasingly greater interest in their own historiography. The current dialogue between the historiography and a multitude of associations makes it possible to have an approach to cultural history, in which the relation between the administrative and local agents are explored. At the same time, there is an insistence on the sociological dimension of these phenomena and how they are received in a changing French society.


Christian Delporte

Cultural mediaaand history

In spite of its recent historiography, the history of the media is a legitimate subject in its own right in the contemporary world, which is inhabited, even structured by the force of the media communications devices, of its networks, its interactions, and its technical evolutions. As the media shape society and its collective behaviour, the study of media culture forces itself on the contemporary historian. So it is obvious that the economic, political and social mechanisms that support the production of the media discourse come right into the category of this history. These new issues facing historians are, without doubt, due to the enlargement of the geographical framework in which the international circulation of information is considered as a structural element of the media. In the confluence of comparative history, the history of media circulations and intercultural history, media history clearly constitutes part of cultural history.


María Antonia Paz

Media and culture in Spain

Besides being a fairly recent field in Spanish historiography, media history is distinguished by its institutional peculiarity: it is produced in faculties of history, information science and communication (studies designed to train students for positions in the media, beginning with journalism). This field of study has been enriched by the inclusion of new subjects —such as monographs on the press and the history of new technological devices (Internet), without forgetting radio, cinema, television, publicity and propaganda, while at the same time, its key issues have been renewed in depth. The study of the contents does not exhaust the subject. Indeed, what has been of interest are the business structures, the questions concerning the reception of the message, the meaning of the notion of «mass culture» and the values claimed by the media and how these are transformed. So when weighing up the historiographical balance, there appear to be important achievements —for example in the field of press history— and promises that have still to be kept —like the history of the cinema or of the new technological devices.


François Chaubet

The notion of cultural transference in cultural history

The works, dedicated to cultural transfers, study the interrelations, the complicated processes of the interdependence of cultural categories, which are not the movements of concepts, perceptions, and intellectual materials but adaptations within precise local configurations. This new cultural method in history makes it possible to transcend the old methodological and ideological prejudices, which affirmed the existence of an abstract universalism of communication or on the contrary, the complete lack of permeability of cultures and knowledge. History, it seems, appropriates the themes of aculturalisation and the mixing of peoples, which forms the core of anthropology. Specifically, it was the pioneer studies of Franco-German relations in the 19th century that produced that extensive historiographical movement which later on became interested in Franco-American relations in the second half of the 20th century. The examination of the historiographical advances in current research and the methodological and epistemological consequences of these procedures constitute the other two parts of this contribution.


Antonio Niño

International cultural relations and transfers

The study of international cultural relations and transferences form part of a renewal of diplomatic history, based on a new reading of the notion of culture. The rejection of the essencialist concept of culture, means perceiving it as a more or les structured construction. It seems that three fields of influences and exchanges can be demonstrated: the local and domestic field, referring to the study of cultural transfers and exchanges caused by population movements (rural exodus, migration flows); the field of the market, based on a study of the exchange of cultural goods in its different forms (from expansionism to colonialism, influences affected through linguistic and technical domination to dominion of the rules); the field of foreign cultural relations, which concentrates the attention of researchers on the development of «cultural diplomacy» in the 20th century. Thus the mobilisation of the epistemological methods and advances of anthropology and political economic and social history aAn ppear to be the tasks for the history of cultural transferences.


Serge Berstein

Cultural policies

The current understanding of the notion of culture is the result of a desire to understand political acts better, through an approach which takes their complexity into account. Thus this orientation sees then as representations, whose norms and values irrigate the different ideological families and define their political traditions. This concept allows the historian to place himself at the point where individual behaviour meets collective attitudes. Far from substituting itself for other explanatory models of political life, the study of political cultures aims to enrich political analysis and allows political life to be observed in the light of a temporal approach which favours the long duration of traditional cultures.


Ismael Saz

The history of cultural policies in Spain (and the strange case of «spanish nationalism»)

After explaining how the concept of political culture, in its Anglo-Saxon and French versions, was born, the author shows how it was adopted in Spain in the context of the transition from the Franco dictatorship to democracy (1970s), thanks especially to the sociologists, who started to do their research empirically. However, the very flexibility of the concept transformed it into a type of fashionable «historiographical catch-all», or substitute for the traditional notion of Ideology. So the possible evaluation of the fruitfulness of this concept and its acceptance in Spain, in the light of recent studies gives a new twist to the study of liberalism and republicanisms. So apart from some cases, the study of working class families and traditions still remains to be done. Finally, the examination of the methodological and epistemological difficulties, unique to the Spanish nationalisms suggests a case study of these. In this way, one can show how the notion of political culture can serve to clarify a delicate theme and with what historiographical challenges (the study of sociabilities, languages and social changes) it must confront.


Pablo Pérez López

Religion and culture in spanish historiography

In studying the subject of religion in the historiography of contemporary Spain, three key structural facts appear: 1) the overwhelming historical and sociological domination of catholicism; 2) the link between religious history and political history; 3) the strong opposition between ecclesiastical history produced in the bosom of the church and the «lay» history of religious experience, reduced to a congruent portion in the universities. But, in spite of the research and the new developments, it looks as if the present situation is stagnant. Various assumptions confront each other (the catholics as the motors of the anti-liberal reactionary forces, secularisation as liberation or on the contrary as decadence), all of them referring to hard ideological struggles to do with the identity of Spain. So it is only by reconsidering the relation between faith and culture, based on the dialectic between scientific rationalism and religious experience, will it be possible to encompass religious history, thus taking a new course, that of a radical epistemological change. Instead of taking the church and the catholics as a starting point, the aim is to understand how the catholic dimension is manifested in Spanish culture, either as a result of institutional actions or individual or collective initiatives, which will then permit us to have a perception of the world, structured by the substance of faith.


Christian Amalvi

National identity and history

National and historical identity have formed an inseparable pairing in France since the romantic era, whose strength undoubtedly originated in the fact that the French try to reconstruct a unity in the past, which obliterates the traumas of present political divisions. This paper, firstly, looks back to the statute of university history in the middle of the 1960s, in order, later, to analyse the evolution of the profession of the historian and his increasingly more important role as an expert, who aim is to guide public opinion in the crisis of memory which transfixes the international community.


Benoît Pellistrandi

History and national identity in Spain

The representations of the national past and the reflections on Spanish identity influence political discourse, which at the same time influences these views. So a field of research has been opened up, in which the task of history is to take into account the emergence of these problems of identity and to explore how the representations of the past were produced, in order to understand the unequal fortunes of local identities. The unfinished character of the nationalist and historiographical inheritance from the 19th century explains the partition of the discourse in the first third of the 20th century, while political rivalries encroach upon the representation of the past to convert it into an ideological question. The triumphant regime of General Franco, which was the object of both domestic and foreign tensions, will never be viewed through a common consensus. On the other hand, a meditation on Spanish history will help the emergence of a new will, which will inspire the men and women of the democratic transition.


Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau

The cultures of war

The aim of this paper is to answer the following question. Does the difficult notion of «culture of war» make a better approach to the phenomenon of 20th century western war, as understood by the human and social sciences, possible? The notion of the culture of war is understood as the field of the representations of war, invented by contemporaries, first during the war and then afterwards. It is the consequence of a historical and museological effort carried out as a collective, international enterprise since the decade 1980-1990. It was born as a result of a reflection on the «material objects» from the war which were collected in museums —like for example Péronne’s dossier on the Great War— which forced historians to analyse their material methods and their anthropological meanings. In this sense, the notion served as a problematic enrichment and led to a new reading of the conflict of 1914-1918. With the development of these concepts, historians attempted to reach a different understanding of the struggle. The Introduction an use of these concepts have been very positive, since they can be applied to other ends, apart from the First World War but the assessment of their achievements will be made over the long term from a deeper comparative perspective.


Eduardo González Calleja

The «culture of war». The state of the question as seen from Spain

The historical field opened up by the notion of «culture of war» is distinguished by a very heterogeneous historiography in Spain —in spite of the presence and the importance of war in the modern history of the country. The concepts of «experience of war», «brutalisation of societies», «image of the enemy» or the management of the collective memory are no more than methodological contributions which explain the structure of this paper. The first part explores the genesis and significance of this concept of the culture of war. The second part is concerned with the role of war in the construction of collective subjective individuals. The notion of brutalisation serves as the underlying theme for the third part and finally the issues relevant to the collective memory are analysed. Indeed, this renewed interest in the memory follows two diverging trends —on the one hand, there is the associative movement at local level, which is concerned with political protest, and on the other hand there is an historiographical movement concerned with issues of memory in the national political debate. This divergence enables us to better understand the notions of the culture of war and the culture of politics.


Patrick Cabanel

National culture and regional cultures in France

The observation of historical processes does not make it easy to respect the rule, whereby a demonstration is organised in three times: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Perhaps this movement is not the worst manner to deal with the dialectic between the national culture and the regional cultures of France from the end of the 18th century to the present time. The thesis, that of the achievement of an inculcated national culture, corresponds to the Jacobine concept of the unity of France. The antitheses —which consider that an unfinished national culture is a deadly one— come from the regionalist condemnations of the extreme right (related to Mauras) and then from the extreme left (since the 60s). There Is also the revisionist historiography of E. Weber, who points to the delays in nationalisation in a France where the dialects and ancient measures live on very vigorously. The synthesis —that of a national culture capable of assimilation— developed by Michelet and Vidal de la Blache had been lost sight of until a new generation of historians became interested in it.


Josep María Fradera

Levels of culture. «National cultures» and cultural regionalism

The Spanish example invalidates any approach that attempts to deal with regional cultures, a subset within a national culture. The plurality of the revolutionary centres, which stimulated the transition from the «Ancien Régime» to liberalism, (including overseas) collided with the centralising efforts of those in power, which explains its limits and weaknesses. In that centralizing enterprise, the political culture of the state attempted to create a «national culture», which was nothing less than an «official culture», without therefore exhausting the other forms of culture. The Catalan example enables us to study, in depth, the problems of the relations between different levels of culture. Catalan regional culture played a large part in the cultural changes of the 19th century and expressed not so much regionalist zeal as a tension between liberalism, economic progress and social transformation. At the end of the century, it was considered as a national culture because of the dynamics of Spanish society and because of the increasing frequent assimilation of Spanish culture into Castilian culture. Thus the notions of regional culture and of national culture should be treated systemically, in order to avoid all political exploitation of cultural differences, as this transforms local cultures into official ones, whose echo and evaluation can scarcely be measured in the Spain of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.


Jean-François Sirinelli

Mass Culture

Certainly, history has been very slow in fully analysing the processes of massification of cultural practises. However, it does now appear that this historiographical vacuum is being filled. Work on the definition of the notion of mass culture has been extremely difficult: mass culture has its origins in the massification of the productions, of the vectors and in its practises which convert it into a chameleon-like object. The historian of mass culture faces a real challenge, that is, the need to bear in mind, in his work, both the antecedents of the notion (the productions) and everything that accompanies it (the perceptions, the sensibilities and the collective representations). Besides, this process should be recorded in a chronology that takes in the 19th and 20th centuries and should respect clearly identified forms, rhythms and phases. In reality, the historian discovers the progressive arrival of a «world culture», which is a second stage in the process of globalization of the planet after the economic and cultural phase which began at the end of the middle ages. This movement of the expansion and proliferation of mass culture during the second half of the 20the century thus constitutes an object for history which can only be ignored with difficulty.


Juan Francisco Fuentes

The culture of the masses in Spain

The study of the culture of the masses presents various epistemological difficulties, which in the Spanish case can be symbolised by the opposition between José Ortega y Gasset, a critic of the masses in the 30s, and Antonio Machado, a poet, who saw the people as a creative source of culture. These notions were being formed in the fluctuating ideological contexts: in the 60s, according to the sociologists and writers, interested in the subject, mass culture was no more than an instrument of «Yankee imperialism», while in the 80s, some intellectuals celebrated the hedonism, to which one was invited by this mass culture. A further element, of course, is the enrichment of the bases of cultural: cinema, then television transformed the traditional fear of cultural phenomena. But those debates were able to hide the different social, economic and political aspects of the genesis of the culture of the masses and therefore of their content. A detailed study showed how well the avant-garde of the 20s had perceived the powerful social attraction of the cinema and sports, as well as the changes in the tastes and practises which they caused. While at the same time, the historians saw in the advent of the culture of the masses a movement from a rural world to an urban, industrial one. With this variety of approaches, the need to study the culture of the masses with its own polysemy and in the Spanish case with its own chronology, seems obvious.


Claire Andrieu

The use of history in public debate in France

Two movements characterises the use of history in public debate in France. On the one hand, public uses for history have been developed, while on the other hand, historical culture seems to have been emptied from the public arena. The first movement is the response to issues arising from the collective memory related to the great changes suffered by French society since the 1960s (the end of the colonial empire, the acceleration and then collapse of economic growth, the disappearance of the rural identity of the country, the explosion and the echo of May 1968, and the geopolitical changes since 1989…). The second phenomenon owes much to the apogee of political thought based on technocratic values, the authority of the economy and on the plan for European construction. These new orientations no longer confer a privileged place to history, which is coming to be seen as patrimonial heritage. History in France is now making its way in this contradictory bipolar situation.


Benoît Pellistrandi

The use of history in public debate in Spain

National identity in Spain is not an object of consensus. On the contrary, the differences that can be observed between the different divergent concepts are signs of division and conflict. This realisation obliges one to take a close interest in the cultural aspects of this subject. Indeed this is the area in which the conflict is best revealed and the mobilised ideologies, the invented representations and the symbols exploited for particular ends are clearly seen. If contemporary Spanish society has shown signs of a taste for history as a cultural practise, its political divisions have led it to pervert the use history for particular ends and to convert it into the object of political debates, in which there are expressed both the frustrations arising from the civil war and the long Franco dictatorship, and the will of a fully democratic society to examine its past as objectively and —serenely?— as possible.

© Casa de Velázquez, 2008

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