Philip IV and the Government of Spain, 1621-1665by R. A. Stradling

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  • Philip IV and the Government of Spain, 1621-1665 by R. A. StradlingReview by: Charles Joseph JagoThe American Historical Review, Vol. 95, No. 3 (Jun., 1990), pp. 843-844Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 09:17

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  • Modern Europe 843

    well-known French political scientists is thus a welcome addition to the literature.

    Jacques Capdevielle and Rene Mouriaux have not, however, set out to tell once again the story of that year. Instead, they have a thesis about its place in recent French history. May 1968, they claim, was a parenthesis in what they term the "problematic of modernity" (p. 17). This is not wildly original-it is compatible with the contemporary observations of Michel Crozier and Raymond Aron-but it does make sense of a whole complex of developments, which the book sets out in a chronology of the French experience since the mid- 1950s. The population explosion of the postwar years, the crisis in the Left precipitated by Charles de Gaulle's consolidation of power and his new constitution, and the rapid economic transformation of the previous fifteen years all contributed to the "cultural" crisis in French life of which 1968 was a symptom, albeit a startling one.

    In this view, the events of May and June 1968 in France constituted three discrete crises: the problem of a higher education system utterly unfitted to absorb a 225 percent increase in students in the decade 1958- 68; a strike wave that was already in evidence in 1967 and that did not abate until the mid-1970s; and a political trauma triggered by the social conflicts but with its roots in a divided Left and a conservative party undergoing internal transformation. Although this way of breaking the moment up into its parts risks tending to the counterintuitive-something really did happen in May 1968 that cannot be analyzed into invisibility-it does help account for certain oddities of the time.

    Thus, the authors emphasize the contrast between the scale of "action" in 1968 and the unremarkable results achieved: a minor educational reform and some short-lived gains for organized labor. They also note the paradox that it was the very "official" Left, which was so humiliated in 1968 (witness Francois Mitter- rand's many false moves at the time), that recovered within a decade and emerged once again influential and effective, while hardly any of the prominent young men of May have found themselves a place in French political (as distinct from; cultural) life in the ensuing years. Here the leitmotif of "modernity" helps illustrate the erroneous perspectives of 1960s "leftism"-the marginal workers (women, immigrants, the unskilled) whom the new Left saw as the avant-garde of a new revolutionary wave turned out to be the latest helpless victims of the transformation of French industrial capacity. By 1981, theorists and workers alike could look only to the new Socialist party and its renascent leader, himself a paradoxical bridge between the old politics and the New France.

    The thesis, then, is fine as far as it goes. May 1968 probably will be recorded as an angry hiccup in the helter-skelter transformation of postwar France, a cul- turally determined response to deeper disturbances and frustrations. What this book fails to address, how- ever, is why, in France, response to change took

    (takes?) such a form. Nor do the authors ask themselves why modernity should have been challenged in Paris in 1968 just when similar upheavals were occurring worldwide. It is good to be reminded of how silly people could be in those years and how naively incon- sequential. But to classify the moment as a cultural parenthesis is only to describe it anew. To be explained it must be taken a little more seriously. But then, in the France of 1990, there are strong political motives for seeking to diminish the significance of the debates and myths of the 1960s. Perhaps Peguy was right after all.


    New York University

    R. A. STRADLING. Philip IV and the Government of Spain, 1621-1665. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1988. Pp. xvii, 381. $59.50.

    During the reign of Philip IV (1621-65), imperial Spain reached the zenith of its military power only to suffer ignominious decline. Despite the significance of this period, little is known about Philip. From 1621 to 1643, he was dominated by his valido, the count-duke of Olivares. So much historical attention has been devoted to Olivares and his period of ascendancy that both Philip and the last twenty-three years of his reign have been almost totally ignored. Consequently, Philip IV remains very much the distant-figure in the mirror as portrayed in Velazquez's famous canvas Las Meninas.

    It is the singular merit of R. A. Stradling's book that Philip emerges from the background to take his ap- pointed place in the foreground of Spanish history. In the process, he sheds his traditional characterization as a weakling, addicted in his youth to pleasure and in his maturity to pious self-pity, while remaining throughout dependent on stronger people around him. Stradling's Philip IV is an intellectual, a would-be military com- mander, and a conscientious Christian who through study and experience prepared himself for a lengthy period of relatively successful personal rule.

    Philip IV's emergence from dependence to indepen- dence constitutes the main theme of Stradling's study. The process commenced in 1627-28 when the combi- nation of a near-fatal illness followed by the debacle of the Mantuan War produced in Philip a "coming of age" (p. 92) manifested by a desire to be more involved in government and to lead an army into battle. During these years a tension developed in his relations with Olivares that came to a head in 1642, two years after the Revolt of Catalonia, when Philip, against Olivares's wishes, took personal command of his army in Aragon. Having become as publicly reviled as his valido, Philip by this action inaugurated a new phase in his reign and his life: he "crossed his Rubicon" and experienced his "Canossa" (pp. 214-15). Olivares fell from power shortly thereafter, in January 1643. For Stradling, "The year 1643 marks the end of Philip's journey, which had taken some fifteen years, from dependence

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  • 844 Reviews of Books

    on a mundane substitute to direct reliance on the heavenly Todopoderoso" (p. 270). At this point, "the age of the valido had come to an end" (p. 267). Philip's rule became a personal rule, his independence ensured by a careful balancing of rival court factions. Despite the manifold problems that he encountered during the late 1640s, Philip regained his popularity and became the architect of Spain's survival. Indeed, according to Strad- ling, despite recent historical opinion to the contrary, the power of the Spanish crown was not substantially less in the 1650s than it had been thirty or even fifty years earlier.

    Stradling's study is not primarily biographical; by far the greater emphasis is not on Philip but on the government of Spain, 1621-65. Stradling examines in detail the workings of court and government, the interplay of factions, the relations between crown and Cortes, aristocracy and church. In doing so he brings a fresh perspective to this period in Spanish history. For example, he casts a far colder eye on Olivares than does J. H. Elliott, the leading historian of the count-duke. Stradling has a penchant for hyperbole, and one might quibble with his designation of 1643 as the year of the Spanish Fronde. But more striking are his skeptical judgments on the interpretations of other historians who have written on aspects of this period. His book makes a most valuable contribution to the field, not least of all by bringing life and thought into the inscrutable face of Philip IV.


    Huron College

    VICTOR ALBA and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ. Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism: A History of the P.O.U.M. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction. 1988. Pp. xi, 323. $44.95.

    This book is basically Victor Alba's 1973 work, orig- inally published in Spanish, translated and given a final chapter by Stephen Schwartz. It is dedicated to Andres Nin and Joaquin Maurin. Those two Catalans might have remained obscure revolutionary writers if not for the struggles of Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky in the Soviet Union and of Francisco Franico and George Orwell during the Spanish Civil War.

    Nin, killed by Stalinists in 1937, became one of the martyrs of the second Spanish republic; Maurin, who survived a Franco prison, died in New York in 1973. As its subtitle indicates, this book is the story of their tiny "Trotskyist" party, the Partido Obrero de Unificaci6n Marxista (POUM), created in 1935 in opposition to the small Stalinist Communist party of Spain (PCE). Dur- ing the 1920s Nin and Maurin were both Communists in a secret illegal sect of about five hundred Spaniards. Nin pursued Comintern politics in the Soviet Union until his expulsion in 1930, while Maurin stayed in Catalonia, much of the time in jail.

    The Spanish republic, launched in April 1931, toler- ated the activities of Nin and Maurin, as well as those of

    anarchist and socialist parties and unions. From 1928 until about September 1934, Nin remained dedicated to the exiled Trotsky's ideas on revolution. Maurin was devoted to a Spanish working-class revolution inspired by both Lenin's and Trotsky's activities of 1917. Both believed in Lenin's idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Neither, after the late 1920s, wanted any- thing to do with Stalin. So the PCE regarded Nini, Maurin, and the POUM as rivals who might rob the Stalinists of potential recruits.

    For those historians unacquainted- with the details of the Spanish Civil War, this scholarly and well-docu- mented book sheds light on the origins of the Popular Front and the struggles on the Spanish Left. There is little clarification, however, as to how Spaniards might have applied Karl Marx's ideas to problems of social injustice. There is even less about the Soviet Union. In their efforts to recruit workers to their views, Nin and Maurin promoted revolution from 1931 until 1936. Maurin was principally a party organizer and Nin a union organizer; both were writers. Maurin was the only POUM member of the Popular Front Cortes elected in February 1936, and, after the Civil War erupted, he was jailed in an area where the rebels prevailed. The insurgent generals' counterrevolution was in part a response to the threat of working-class revolution advocated by the POUM, the PCE, and other radicals in Spain's major labor unions, the social- ist UGT (Uni6n General de Trabajadores), and the anarchist CNT (Confederaci6n Nacional del Trabajo).

    During the war the POUM presented two problems for Stalin. First, Nin, who became an official in the Catalan government, was a former Soviet resident who did not believe in Stalin's version of the purge trials then going on in the Soviet Union. Second, and more important, the POUM wanted to seize the opportunity provided by the war to promote worker and peasant revolution against capitalism and feudalism. Stalin, on the other hand, sought to use the Spanish conflict to combat the Axis brand of fascism in Europe.

    The notion that Spain would be a pawn in a great power struggle was totally foreign to the POUM lead- ers. They maintained a Bolshevik fantasy of 1917, that a second Russian-style social revolution could be pulled off in the Spain of 1936. Stalin, however, not only was by then in a counterrevolutionary phase at home but also was paranoid in believing that Trotsky, in exile in Mexico, could somehow capitalize on a Spanish revo- lution. The fact that the POUM leaders rejected fur- ther association with Trotsky after September 1934 proved unconvincing to the Soviet dictator.

    Thus, in May andJune of 1937, following fighting in Barcelona among republican factions, pro-Soviet re- publicans had Nin and perhaps fifty other leaders executed. The POUM party was disbanded. George Orwell, a member of the POUM militia, barely escaped to- write Homage to Catalonia. The aftermath of the bloody "May Days" smudged the democratic reputa- tion of the beleaguered Spanish republic and proved to be one of the key turning points of the civil war. The

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    Article Contentsp. 843p. 844

    Issue Table of ContentsThe American Historical Review, Vol. 95, No. 3 (Jun., 1990), pp. i-xii+657-982+1(a)-54(a)Front Matter [pp. i-xii]The Longest Run: Public Engineers and Planning in France [pp. 657-692]Energy, Power, and Perceptions of Social Change in the Early Nineteenth Century [pp. 693-714]CommentRecent Trends in the History of Technology [pp. 715-725]

    Knowing Things Inside Out: The Scientific Revolution from a Medieval Perspective [pp. 726-744]Rule by Sentiment: Alexander II's Journeys through the Russian Empire [pp. 745-771]Reviews of BooksGeneralReview: untitled [p. 772]Review: untitled [pp. 772-773]Review: untitled [pp. 773-774]Review: untitled [p. 774]Review: untitled [p. 775]Review: untitled [pp. 775-776]Review: untitled [pp. 776-777]Review: untitled [pp. 777-778]Review: untitled [pp. 778-779]Review: untitled [pp. 779-780]Review: untitled [pp. 780-781]Review: untitled [p. 781]Review: untitled [pp. 781-782]Review: untitled [p. 782]Review: untitled [pp. 782-783]Review: untitled [pp. 783-784]Review: untitled [p. 784]Review: untitled [pp. 784-785]Review: untitled [pp. 785-786]Review: untitled [pp. 786-787]Review: untitled [p. 787]Review: untitled [pp....


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