Fulton and Fátima: 1917 in the Mind of Catholic Cold Warriors

by Brooke Sales Lee

You might certainly wish for divine intervention, were you a right-wing dictator, circa 1946, who had spent the war making deals with both the Americans and the Germans. For Portugal, that was exactly what the regime got, facilitated by certain eager Americans.

In 1954, Bishop Fulton Sheen announced to Americans across the eastern

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Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

seaboard that the ‘birth of the modern world’ took place on 13 October 1917. His popular television show, Life is Worth Living, showed the auxiliary bishop of New York striding grandly across his small set in full clerical dress, explaining that on that day in Moscow, horsemen had charged in on a catechism class in the Church of the Iberian Virgin, destroyed the altar, and attacked the children.[i] ‘At the same hour,’ in Rome, Eugenio Pacelli was consecrated archbishop; he later survived an assassination attempt in Munich by communists and became Pope Pius XII. And finally, on 13 October 1917, in a village in Portugal, three children surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers witnessed an apparition. The apparition revealed herself to be the Virgin Mary, warned them of danger, and made the sun appear to ‘dance in the sky.’

In 1954, Portugal had been under the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar for twelve years. He had come to power as the prime minister in 1932 and written a constitution ending the military dictatorship that had replaced the unstable First Republic in 1926. His regime, the Estado Novo (New State) would outlive him and end only with a military coup in 1974.

But how did Fulton Sheen’s assertion that the modern world began in October of 1917 relate to the workings of a 42-year dictatorship? The answer may be found in Fátima. In 1942, Pope Pius XII announced that Our Lady of Fátima, as the apparition had come to be known, told the children on 13 October 1917 that a war worse would come and that atheistic Communism would spread; the only way to save the world from

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Emblem for tourists to Fatima for the closing of the Holy Year, 1951 (Torre del Tombo archives)

annihilation, and the wrath of an angry God, was to repent earnestly, pray the rosary, and consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.[ii]

Salazar was more than familiar with Catholicism; he had attended seminary as a teenager before studying law and economics. His friend and roommate in university, Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, had quickly risen through the Church to become Cardinal Patriarch of Portugal. And after 1945, the traditional Catholicism of Portugal was a godsend to an authoritarian dictator who had flirted with fascist aesthetics through the thirties, and traded with Germany through the forties.

Fighting against a potential destabilizing shift in both in domestic and foreign public opinion, , Salazar turned to Catholicism and specifically, to Fátima. While Portugal’s leaders could not claim to represent a land of democratic rights, they argue that it was devoutly Catholic and therefore anti-Communist. Fátima was no accident, they could argue; God had given Portugal a special role in saving the world from atheistic Communism.

The Portuguese government made sure to emphasize their Catholic legacy. As part of the construction of a glorious ‘Golden Age’ by the regime, the state renovated and restored historic buildings and encouraged tourists and locals alike to think of Portugal as a country born out of a Catholic struggle to claim land and souls for Christendom, first in Moorish Iberia and then in colonies around the world.[iii] Fátima showed that God smiled upon this mission and wished it to continue. After all, Portugal had remained neutral throughout the Second World War, and the Estado Novo had ended the anticlerical policies of the First Republic.

Fulton Sheen was one of dozens of prominent Catholics from around the world invited by the Portuguese government to witness the ceremonies for the closing of the Holy Year on 13 October 1951. He alluded to this event in his 1954 television show as he

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Sketch for the closing of the Holy Year in 1951 (Torre del Tombo Archive)

claimed that a million people crowded into the square in Fátima. Footage from this event was shown on Sheen’s program, filmed not for news coverage but for a Warner Brother’s feature film about Our Lady of Fátima and the seers.

All things considered, Fulton Sheen essentially jumped on the bandwagon when it came to Fátima and Portugal. As early as 1946, The Catholic World published an essay by Hungarian Catholic convert Eugene Bagger entitled ‘Portugal: Anti-Totalitarian Outpost.’ The piece argued that the Catholicism of Portugal meant it was not totalitarian, and instead a benevolent dictatorship. In 1950, the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society in Canada published William C. McGrath’s short book Fatima or World Suicide which argued that nuclear war was imminent if Catholics did not take heed; it was one of several books on the topic published between 1947 and 1955. Sheen had been a prominent Cold Warrior from the start, and his popular reach in America made him an attractive mouthpiece for the holiness of Fátima and Portugal’s government. He only began writing and speaking of Fátima after he was hosted by the Portuguese government in 1951.

In 2017, we should remember that while Fulton Sheen and other prominent Catholics seemed to readily broadcast the message of an authoritarian regime, most Catholics in the Anglophone world latched onto Fátima through the Church and their understanding of the metaphysical world. Of the several books written about Fátima, most focused not on Portugal or any kind of special blessing from God upon the place where the apparitions occurred, but on the message of hope in the face of grave danger. Even though Sheen was quick to suggest parallels between a ‘white square’ in Fátima and the Red Square of Moscow, he was speaking of the faith he had devoted his life to and what he saw as the greatest contemporary threat to his Church. It was not that he had been bribed with a free trip to Portugal, but that in this matter, the regime’s interests and his own aligned neatly. The Church wished to increase piety and fight Communism. Salazar and his government needed a godsend, which it found in 1917.

Bio: Brooke Sales-Lee has a Master’s Degree in History from York University in Toronto. Her work there focused on the use of Our Lady of Fátima as a transnational political tool of the Estado Novo and the intersection of secular politics and Catholicism during the Cold War more widely. She is currently an independent researcher and can be found on tweeting about politics, the Church, and extremism at @BrookeSalesLee

References

[i] The entire episode of Life is Worth Living is viewable on YouTube: https://youtu.be/YWzPU1oeViM Fulton Sheen wrote up the themes and topics of his show as a series of essays published in Volumes under the same name, Life is Worth Living. They were published by McGraw-Hill in the 1950s and can sometimes be found in Catholic libraries.

[ii] The full text of the “secrets of Fátima” are available in translation on the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html

[iii] This project began during a period of nationalist activity by the state that echoed the Italian Fascists and German National Socialists in their attempt to write a more heroic history of the nation. A key example of this in Portugal was the Portuguese World Exhibition of 1940. Several monuments were rebuilt to last and remain popular tourist attractions to this day: http://www.padraodosdescobrimentos.pt/en/monument-to-the-discoveries/1940-portuguese-world-exhbit/

Full image attributions

Image 1: By Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: Provided by the author, scanned image from Torre do Tombo archives in Lisbon

Image 3: Provided by the author, scanned image from Torre do Tombo archives in Lisbon

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The Language of Authoritarian Internationalism

by David Brydan

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a rapid increase in international cooperation between scientists, experts, intellectuals, activists and other groups. These developments were prompted both by improvements to travel and communication technologies, and by the belief that international cooperation was required to deal with the political and technical challenges posed by an increasingly interconnected world.

The language of ‘internationalism’ quickly became associated with liberal idealists, or with the emerging socialist and communist movements, envisaging either a world united by free trade and political liberty, or by working class solidarity. International cooperation, however, was not confined to liberals and socialists.

Many experts involved in international technical cooperation belonged to the authoritarian right. Radical nationalists and fascist movements aped their political opponents by promoting international cooperation between authoritarian movements and states. Mussolini’s Italy aimed to forge an international fascist movement under the umbrella of the CAUR (Comitati d’Azione per l’Universalita di Roma). Nazi Germany later took up a similar initiative, attempting to unite Axis and Axis-aligned states during the Second World War within the Anti-Comintern Pact and the ‘New Europe’.[1]

These efforts, however, faced a common problem: how to talk about international cooperation without adopting the language of liberal or socialist internationalism, particularly without recourse to the familiar internationalist language of peace, freedom, tolerance and equality?

During my own research into the international activities of doctors and medical scientists in Franco’s Spain, I found almost no cases of Francoist experts using the terms ‘internationalism’ or ‘internationalist’. This was due to the unacceptable political connotations of such terms, despite the fact that many of those experts worked with organisations such as the League of Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the WHO.

How, then, did Francoists talk about international cooperation? For Spain, during the early years of the Second World War, the ‘international’ primarily meant Nazi Germany and its allies within the ‘New Europe’.

Francoist scientists, intellectuals and politicians were involved in a wide range of events, networks and organisations convened by Nazi Germany, in fields ranging from health and youth politics, to literature and folk dancing. Many of these initiatives were labelled as ‘international’, such as the International Women’s Meeting held in 1942.[2] Other initiatives, perhaps more accurately, were described as ‘European’, as with the European Writers’ Union formed in the same year.[3] This reflected Nazi efforts to promote the war as a defence of a shared ‘European civilization’ against the threat of Bolshevism.

picture1
Leaders of the Wartime International Association Against Tuberculosis

Like their liberal counterparts, fascist internationalists justified the need for international cooperation on practical grounds. Speaking at the first meeting of the International Association Against Tuberculosis in 1941, Reich Health Minister Leonardo Conti argued that, because the increasing levels of cross-border movement caused by the war were helping to spread the disease, it ‘also has to be countered with international measures.’[4]

Though he admitted that ‘international cooperation is not easy’, he argued that the countries in attendance formed a ‘bloc with a unified destiny’ forged by their experience of the war.[5] His arguments were reflected in many of the other international events held under the auspices of the ‘New Europe’, whose participants were keen to distinguish themselves from pre-war ‘Anglo-American’ forms of internationalism.

Instead of the ineffective pre-war international cooperation which had undermined national sovereignty and national identity, they saw themselves as the founders of a new, more dynamic and modern form of cooperation between nationally-conscious individuals and groups, more aligned to the political realities of the ‘totalitarian’ era.[6]

picture2
El Instituto de Cultura Hispánica

This vision had lost much of its credibility long before the final Nazi defeat in 1945. After the war, Franco’s Spain was excluded from the newly-constructed UN system, and Francoists therefore had to search for new international networks and patterns of international cooperation. Many turned their attention towards Latin America, hoping to position Spain at the head of an informal community of nations bound by ties of Hispanidad, or what was often referred to as ‘Hispano-American brotherhood’. As with the ‘New Europe’, this vision rejected the theoretical universalism of liberal and socialist internationalism.

The outlook, ideology and discourse of the Franco regime rested heavily on its claim to represent Spain’s imperial past and lost ‘Golden Age’. The idea of Hispanidad thus represented an attempt to build modern structures of international cooperation rooted in a hierarchical imperial mythology. This model of neo-imperial internationalism, however, depended on vastly overoptimistic assumptions about the willingness of Latin American states to align themselves with Franco’s Spain.

It was Spain’s Catholic intellectuals and politicians who were most willing to engage with the post-war international system emerging around the UN. Some went so far as to participate in debates about post-war internationalism and human rights with their counterparts abroad, although they did not do so uncritically. The majority, however, saw liberal internationalism as both a pale imitation and a corruption of Catholic ‘universalism’.

As the Basque intellectual Carlos Santamaría argued, it was the world’s Catholics who were

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Carlos Santamaría

‘best prepared for international collaboration’, and it was their duty not just to participate in the work of secular international organisations, but to unite within Catholic international bodies to provide a counterpoint to the materialism which dominated the modern world.[7]

Spanish Catholics thus built strong ties with international Catholic organisations and networks during Spain’s period of post-war diplomatic isolation, but struggled to reconcile the authoritarian clericalism of the Franco regime with the post-war Christian Democracy which came to dominate western Europe.

Yet even among Catholics there remained a sense that international cooperation was not a desirable goal in itself, but a necessary response to scientific developments and international ideological threats. The Chilean nurse, Veronica de la Fuente, told a gathering of Spanish Catholic nurses in 1950:

‘Evil is uniting to build its forces and to triumph. We live in the century of ‘Popular Fronts’, of Syndicates, Cooperativism, Leagues, Federations, etc. … In the face of this global spectacle, what do Christians do?… Beneath the standard of the faith and the flag of the ecclesiastical hierarchy we must unite in societies, groups, brotherhoods or whatever we wish to call them; but to band together, never alone nor dispersed, because that way we lose both time and strength.’[8]

It was this sense of global threat which underpinned the internationalism of mid-twentieth century nationalists, both in Spain and abroad. Cooperation between fascists and the authoritarian right was necessary precisely to counter the threat posed by the internationalism of their ideological enemies. Theirs was thus an ‘anti-’ internationalism: anti-communist, anti-liberal, and anti-cosmopolitan. The contradictions, tensions and linguistic contortions which surrounded such efforts reflected a fundamental ambivalence about the idea of international cooperation in and of itself.

David Brydan is a researcher at Birkbeck and a member of the Reluctant Internationalists project. He recently completed a PhD on the history of international health in Franco’s Spain. Find him on twitter at @davidbrydan.

References

[1] Arnd Bauerkämper, ‘Interwar Fascism in Europe and Beyond: Toward a Transnational Radical Right’, in Martin Durham and Margaret Power (eds.), New Perspectives on the Transnational Right (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 39-66.

[2] Elizabeth Harvey, ‘International Networks and Cross-Border Cooperation: National Socialist Women and the Vision of a ‘New Order’in Europe’, Politics, Religion & Ideology, 13 (2012), 141-58.

[3] Benjamin George Martin, ‘”European Literature” in the Nazi New Order: The Cultural Politics of the European Writer’s Union, 1942-3’, Journal of Contemporary History, 48 (2013), 486-508.

[4] ‘La fondazione dell’Associazione Internazionale contro la Tubercolosi’, Lotta Contro La Tubercuolosi , anno XIII, 3 (1942), 240-241.

[5] Ibid.

[6] David Brydan, ‘Axis Internationalism: Spanish Health Experts and the Nazi ‘New Europe’, 1939-1945′, Contemporary European History, 25 (2016), 291-311.

[7] Carlos Santamaría, ‘Notas para un dialogo’, Documentos: Conversaciones Católicas Internacionales, vol. 3 (1949), 90.

[8] Cuarta Asamblea de la Hermandad de Enfermeras y Asistencia Medico-Social “Salus Infirmorum” (Madrid: Publicaciones “Al Servicio de España y del Niño Español”, 1950), 29-30.

Full Image Attributions

Image 1: ‘La fondazione dell’Associazione Internazionale contro la Tubercolosi’, Lotta Contro La Tubercuolosi , anno XIII, 3 (1942), 238.

Image 2: El Instituto de Cultura Hispánica: Al Servicio de Iberoamerica (Madrid: Instituto de Cultura Hispanica, 1953)

Image 3: Archives of the Asociación Católica de Propagandistas

‘It is not the Maghreb that Islamised itself… It is Islam that maghrebised itself’

By Imen Neffati

Located on the Western tip of the Arab world, Tunisia shares with Algeria and Morocco certain historical and cultural characteristics. They are all Arab Islamic societies of Berber ancestry. They all experienced a period of French colonization before becoming independent nation-states in the mid 1950s to the early 1960s. And, crucially, nowhere in the Maghreb was there a broad-based, grassroots women’s movement demanding the expansion of women’s rights; rather, such action came from the top.[1]

Bourguiba_portrait
President Habib Bourguiba (Source: Wikicommons)

In Tunisia, national family law took the form of the Code of Personal Status (CPS) in 1957, a series of progressive laws aiming to establish equality between women and men in the public and the private domains, and instituted by Habib Bourguiba, the first President of Tunisia after independence in 1956. [2]

The Code, drafted (even before the Constitution) by fifteen jurists —all Arabic speakers, under the supervision of the Minister of Justice Ahmed Mestiri— outlawed polygamy and abolished repudiation. It entitled women to file for divorce on the same grounds as men, and increased mothers’ custody rights. In the years following independence, women obtained the right to work, move, open bank accounts, and establish businesses without the permission of their husbands. The Code was followed by other endorsing measures: the contraceptive pill was made freely accessible throughout the country. July 1st 1965 saw a law allowing abortion, for social as well as medical reasons. Wearing the veil at school was also forbidden.

High-profile religious leaders protested. A fatwa of fourteen members of the former Islamic tribunal denounced the new policies as ‘religiously reprehensible and incompatible with the Quran’, to which Bourguiba responded that ‘this change represented a choice in favour of progress …the end of a barbaric age and the beginning of an era of social equilibrium and civilization, [we must] fight anachronistic traditions and backward mentalities.’[3]

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Bourguiba removes the veil of a female onlooker (image source: ina.fr)

The Code was thus revolutionary, with one exception: inheritance law, which remained unchanged and based upon Islamic principles.[4] Bourguiba yielded to conservative wishes, ignoring pressure from his entourage and members of his government who wanted to reform inequality in heritage. Muslim scholars explain this by looking at Islamic law in its entirety, which bestows the responsibility and accountability on men to provide for women.

Another explanation is that Islam decrees that women, upon marriage are entitled to a ‘dowry’ from the husband (in addition to any provision by her parents). The ‘dowry’ is, therefore, essentially an advance of inheritance rights from her husband’s estate (the CPS clearly kept the dowry as it was).

In 1956, upon gaining sovereignty, Tunisia faced pressure from two authoritative spheres when it came to developing its national institutions: the immediate kin-based community or tribe,and the world Islamic community.[5] I believe that the kin-based structure of Tunisian society in the pre-colonial and colonial periods was an important factor in the failure of the CPS to modernize inheritance/property law.

In fact, until the beginning of the twentieth century there had been a history of tension between whichever social group held power in the political centre, and autonomous local collectivities resisting its control. Pre-colonial states, with varying degrees of administrative capacity, expanded and contracted depending on how much control they could have over tribal areas on the periphery. The resistive nomadic way of life is often glorified in Maghribi culture, and even today, it is not uncommon to hear that whoever has Bedouin blood (i.e., nomadic ancestors), belongs to the authentic core of Maghreb society.

Reflecting on the importance of kin-based solidarities in the Maghreb, there has recently been a revival of the work of Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), who was concerned with what held a collectivity together, gave it strength and power, and prevented its atomization. His concept of asabiyya, is useful for the analysis of Maghrebin society. Asabiyya is often translated as “solidarity” with an emphasis on unity and group consciousness. A more accurate translation, proposed by David Hart, is ‘unifying structural cohesion’ or ‘agnation in action’.[6]

What mattered for the history of any group was the strength of its asabiyya: its ‘unifying structural cohesion’ based on ties among agnates, or male kin in the paternal line. The groups with the greatest asabiyya were those best capable of resisting control by others, including central authority, sometimes even displacing central authority altogether. The French anthropologist Germaine Tillion captures this linkage between kinship and politics effectively, referring to the many ‘republics of cousins’ in the traditional political order of the Maghreb. Throughout the Maghreb after independence, political leaders faced the challenge of transforming locally based societies into centrally integrated nation-states.

As is the case with other world religions, Islamic principles and local cultures have intermingled over the course of history. This has combined with various interpretations of the original texts by religious scholars to give rise to different schools of thought within Islam.[7]

The school called Maliki has historically predominated in the Maghreb because it has been the best adapted to the social structure of Maghribi societies, allowing them to adopt Islam with minimal adjustments to kinship structure so that it conforms to the extended patrilineage.[8] According to Emile Felix Gautier : ‘It is not the Maghreb that ‘Islamized itself . . . it is Islam that ‘maghrebized’ itself.’

Bourguiba-et-les-femmes-1957
Bourguiba surrounded by women (Source: Wikicommons)

As the old Tunisian saying goes: ‘Angels and men work towards unity. The devil and women work towards division’. This captures the culture of kinship in the country. Two contradictory principles have historically operated: a principle of unity, based on ties among men in the agnatic lineage, and a principle of division, introduced by the necessity of accepting into the kin group a number of women from other lineages.

The particularism of conjugal units represents a potential threat to the solidarity of the agnatic kin group, since conjugal units may break away and thus bring division. Many of the social norms governing kin and gender relations have functioned to strengthen the unity among the men of a lineage and to keep at bay the threat of division, symbolized by women. Clearly, when women marry into a different family, they should be restricted on how much property they are allowed to take out of their own lineage and in to the husband’s lineage.

In one of his most famous speeches in Jericho in 1965, Bourguiba explained his policy as follows: ‘It often happened to me to resort to the “policy of stages” when I found myself in the obligation to be the master of certain situations’. Bourguiba is famous for refuting the policy of the ‘whole or nothing’ that characterised the Arab world political vision for a long time – particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

CPS did not radically change the inheritance law but it did eradicate the vision of the family as an extended kinship group built on strong ties crisscrossing a community of male relatives, and replaced it with the vision of a conjugal unit. Bourguiba never pretended to be a radical.

Imen Neffati is a PhD student currently at the end of her first year of study. Her thesis, Beyond Charlie: Anticlericalism and Freedom of Speech, explores how stock themes and images migrate across the anticlerical press, challenging contemporary boundaries of good taste and ideas of radical and moderate politics. She has previously been awarded the Fulbright Scholarship 2012-13 at the University of Scranton Pennsylvania, where she also taught Arabic at intermediate level. Imen has also taught EFL with the Ministry of Tunisia. Find her on Twitter at @Carmen_2505.

References

[1] Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first president, argued that family laws in Tunisia were a ‘state matter, an act that must be supervised by public law and society in its entirety’.

[2] After independence, Bourgiba  ruled until 1987. He is known as the liberator and negotiator of independence from French colonisation. He was very progressive, and made Tunisia an exception in the Arab world in terms of liberties. In my own opinion, he turned into a dictator in the 1970s and 80s.

[3] The term ‘fatwa’ means a ‘formal legal opinion’. Although in the West the term is frequently understood as a death sentence against those who blaspheme, its actual definition is much broader.

[4] The Koranic text was clear: ‘A male’s share shall equal that of two females’. Surat Al-Nisaa (fourth chapter) verse 11.

[5] The term “tribe” refers to the social organisation based on kin grouping which constituted the basic community in the Maghreb, where there are entire regions in which individuals continue to identify themselves as members of a tribe.

[6] The tracing of common descent exclusively through the male line.

[7] Four major legal schools have developed within the dominant Islamic Sunni tradition. They present slight, yet noteworthy, variations in legal regulations pertaining to women, family, and kinship. The four schools are also called the four “rites” of Islam. Imam Abu Hanifa of Kufa, Imam Malik bin Anas of Medinah, Imam Muhammad al-Shafi of Medinah, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal of Baghdad. Religious authorities within each school consider different scholastic interpretations of the doctrine acceptable and trustworthy.

[8] A group of descendants traced through men on the paternal side of the family

Image credits:

President Habib Bourguiba: Wikicommons

Bourguiba removes veil: ina.fr

Bourguiba surrounded by women: Wikicommons

 

The regulation of identity through names and naming in Twentieth Century Spain

By James Chetwood

Un estancia Español

I’m going to confess from the get-go that I’m not a historian of Francoist Spain. I’m not even a modernist. And I’m barely even a historian. I’m actually doing a PhD in medieval English naming patterns (yes, that’s a thing you can do). So why am I writing a blog about Spanish personal names in the twentieth century?

To be honest it’s a fairly unlikely and uninteresting chain of events that I won’t bore you with here. But, the main reason is that, in the period I’m studying, the personal naming system changed from one where very few people bore the same name, to one where a few, very popular names were borne by the majority of the population.

Some scholars have suggested that this was caused by downward pressure from an increasingly dominant and dominating aristocratic élite. I’m sceptical about just how much this could have been the case: medieval lords were powerful, but I doubt they cared a huge amount about what the peasants who worked their lands chose as names for their children. There was no legislation restricting the names people could choose – and there were no officials registering names who could enact such laws, had they existed at all.[1]

So, I started to think about where it might be possible to see if a concerted effort to regulate the names of a population had any discernible impact on naming patterns; which is how I ended up looking at twentieth century Spain.

 

Names and identity

While names are intrinsically linked to individual identity, they also play an important role in defining and creating group membership. Every group or society has its own set of names and naming customs. By adhering to these customs, and choosing a name that other members recognise and accept, parents demonstrate that their child is part of that group or society.

Conversely, choosing a name that doesn’t fit in with these norms can mark a child and a family out as being different. We see this in Spain at the turn of the twentieth century, when a number of radical and revolutionary groups gave their children names which highlighted their political beliefs.

Jaures
Source: Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro*

Socialist, communist and anarchist parents chose names that personified their own ideals and demonstrated their belonging to a political group, such as Germinal, Palmiro and Jaurés – and it doesn’t take much guessing to work out the political beliefs of the parents of Carlos Marx Longinos Alonso Rogdriguez.

 

However, following the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist regime was intent on creating a new and centralised Spanish identity, which placed God and Spain at the forefront. New-born children were to bear names taken only from the Calendar of Roman Catholic Saints, or traditional Spanish names.

These names were only to be registered in Castilian, excluding the other regional languages of Spain, as well as anyone who may have wanted to choose a non-Spanish name, whether that be for political reasons or personal ones. There would be no more Germinals, Palmiras and certainly no more Carlos Marxes.

 

Measuring the impact

But did this legislation, and the oppressive social environment, have an impact on wider naming patterns? In some ways, yes.[2] One clear change is the use of double names, which seems to coincide closely with the period of the Francoist dictatorship. These double names were absent from the top 10 lists in the 1930s, but dominated by the 1960s, and then had disappeared by the 1990s.

Another immediately noticeable about the majority of double names is their overwhelmingly religious nature. The continuous presence of certain names such as Maria, José, and Jesús in double names is overwhelming. For women, names dedicated to Marian shrines were the norm, such as Maria del Pilar and Maria de los Dolores. Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the saints, were, quite literally everywhere.

So, on the face of it, it seems like the measures taken by the Spanish state did succeed in its goal of homogenising the names of its citizens, and creating an exclusively Spanish, Christian national identity. These are, clearly, names dedicated very much to God and to Spain.

Yet there are some exceptions, which indicate that some aspects of regional identities persisted. In Bizkaia, both Begoña and Maria-Begoña were present in the top 10 girls’ names throughout the dictatorship. Begoña is the name of a region of Bilbão, in which the shrine of Our Lady of Begoña is situated. The name was clearly Christian, so allowed in the Civil Register. But by using it, people were able to assert a small part of their Basque identity.

The return to democracy in 1975 allowed people to assert these previously suppressed identities to a much greater extent. In Bizkaia, for example, the removal of restrictions enabled the expression of distinct, regional and linguistic identities through personal names. The 1970s saw an almost complete replacement of the top 10 male and female names – 18 out of 20 were completely new. Many were distinctly Basque, including Unai, Aitor and Iker for men, and Iratxe, Naiara and Ainhoa for women.

 

Effects on concentration

So did the imposition of strict rules on the choice of personal names cause an increase in naming homogeneity? The reduction in possible name choices, the frequent repetition of a small number of common Christian names, as well as the immediate outburst of naming creativity across Spain following the return to democracy, all seem to suggest so.

Yet, this isn’t the case. In fact, the proportion of men represented by the top 10 names dropped from around 40 percent in the 1930s to under 20 percent in the 1980s. Amongst women, this dropped from nearly 30 percent to around 15 percent. And, perhaps counterintuitively, from the 1970s, when restrictions were removed and people able to choose whatever names they wanted, naming concentration actually increased, both in Spain as a whole, and its individual regions.

Naming Concentration Spain
Statistics based on data from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística

 

So, top down pressure from the state in the Francoist period did not, ultimately, effect the downward trend in naming concentration, which was caused by wider systemic changes to Spanish society, instigated by the rapid industrialisation and modernisation that Spain underwent in the same period.

However, following 1975, the people of Spain seem to have, intentionally or otherwise, used names to reassert old, or perhaps assert completely new, community identities – identities to which they held greater attachment than the centralised, Catholic, Castilian identity that had been enforced for so long.

 

Notes:

[1] I think that the increase in naming concentration was caused by a change in how people lived and interacted, as they were brought together to live in the typical nuclear villages and small towns we associate with most of Europe from the late-medieval period through to modernity, and the intensely norm-enforcing social networks that went along with them. It’s not until the twentieth century, when the forces of industrialisation, urbanisation and modernisation again transformed communities and reshaped social networks, that we see this tendency towards high naming concentration reversed, and a trend towards greater individualisation of personal names.

[2] Statistics have been based on data from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística.

* Full image citation: “Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-22434-7844-98?cc=1932363 : 10 November 2014), Group 8 > 004914239 > image 154 of 203; Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro).

James Chetwood is a Wolfson Postgraduate Scholar in the Department of History at the University of Sheffield. He is currently researching personal naming patterns in medieval England. You can find James on twitter @chegchenko.

History Matters: ‘On the Language of “Authoritarian” Regimes’

Written by Hannah Parker, this post originally appeared on the University of Sheffield’s History Matters blog on February 25, 2016

On February 12 2016, Steph Wright (who works on disabled veterans of the Spanish Civil War) and I held a conference on ‘The Language of Authoritarian Regimes’. The day aimed to explore the creation, dissemination and reception of discourse in regimes commonly considered to be ‘authoritarian’ from an interdisciplinary perspective; to discuss how to effectively analyse discourse through a range of different sources; and to understand any broad parallels that can be drawn between different regimes. 1

The speakers addressed a fascinating range of topics, covering Soviet literacy campaigns and the texts of Soviet citizens; the ‘emancipation’ of Tunisian women to create a modernised national identity; personal naming and mental health discourse in Franco’s Spain; music and ballet in the Soviet Union; Nazi language in the context of historical discourse analysis; and the translation of foreign texts for Soviet citizens.

Though there was clearly much ideological variation between the different regimes discussed, many of the processes occurring within these societies were in fact very similar, and so I’ve taken the liberty of articulating some of my own, quite general observations. The workshop originated in an interest Steph and I share in the ways citizens negotiated and shaped the discourses of gender and citizenship they were presented in our respective research fields. I was aware, based upon my own research into Russian women’s self-perceptions and social roles, of the degree of ‘negotiation’ of authoritarian government and discourse in the Soviet Union, but after listening to the other papers delivered, I was struck by the extent to which this process of negotiation was a key feature of authoritarian societies more generally.

Zhenshchina na rabotye

Due to these processes of negotiation, a common feature of the running of ‘authoritarian’ regimes is risk management. Inherent to the nature of all the regimes and societies discussed at the workshop was the task of balancing policies geared – often very sincerely – towards politically ‘emancipating’ a population, and managing this sense of ‘emancipation’ so as to maintain the acquiescence of the people.

Within this process, literacy, language, arts, and practices of personal naming were all key strategies for interaction with the discourse of a regime, through which citizens could express identity, dissent or compliance. These strategies also presented the regimes with a significant problem: how to manage these interactions, and the risks posed by the ways in which they contributed to a sense of discursive heterogeneity which coexisted uncomfortably with the idea that there should be a ‘homogenous’ character to state, society and the arts.

International LiteratureSamantha Sherry’s paper on the translation of foreign literature in the Soviet Union, and its inherent challenges, encapsulated this risk management problem precisely. Officials feared ‘opening the floodgates’, so to speak, to Western influences and so they censored foreign texts by removing not just whole passages or texts, but manipulating the entire ideological premises to ‘complement’ the broader principles and finer details of Soviet ideology.

The interdisciplinary element of the event worked really well, and definitely broadened my perspective on discursive matters within and between authoritarian regimes. In particular, the papers given on the development of Soviet ballet, and the use of time in the choral music of Veljo Tormis, highlighted the importance of conceptions of time, movement, and space as a ‘language’ to negotiate dominant discourse.

The concept of monumental time as the time of oppressed people, discussed by Claire McGinn in her paper on the music of Veljo Tormis, highlighted the dichotomy of time in application to both state and society. All of the societies in question sought to ‘modernise’ or ‘mechanise’ their populations in some way: a future-driven linear historical time characterises state discourse and understandings of ‘progress’ in authoritarian (and ostensibly many other twentieth-century) regimes.

Oppressed people on the other hand belong to monumental time – devoid of the linear regularisation of historical time – which is something the Tunisian state arguably sought to address in its framing of the 1956 personal status code, attempting to link the modernisation of the Tunisian state to concepts of kinship to create.

To some extent this is also reflected in the development of ballet in the early Soviet Union: the use of folk dance, the reworking of old narratives, as well as the evocation of non-verbal discourse all functioned as a means of negotiating life under such severe creative restrictions. And this speaks directly to the problem of ‘risk management’ with which policy makers – and censors – in these states sought to grapple.

The papers delivered on the day have brought me closer to an integrated understanding of ‘authoritarianism’ as a social and discursive phenomenon, and have added invaluable insight to my own research on the reception of Soviet gender ideology by ordinary women. Steph and I were also delighted with the variety and cohesiveness of the programme overall, for which our guest speakers are entirely responsible.

Based on the success of the day, we will be starting a blog based on the same theme. Any relevant contributions would be much appreciated, so please send any expressions of interest to hparker2@sheffield.ac.uk or smwright1@sheffield.ac.uk!

Hannah Parker is an AHRC-funded PhD student at the University of Sheffield. Her research focuses on the reception of gender ideology by women in early Soviet Russia. Steph Wright is a WRoCAH-funded PhD student at the University of Sheffield. She’s researching disabled nationalist veterans and perceptions of masculinity in Franco’s Spain. You can find them both on twitter @_hnnhprkr and @EstefWright. A full list of speakers and their papers can be found in the conference programme.

Header image: Language of Authoritarian Regimes poster, courtesy of Guy Parker.

In-text image 1: Women at work in a large textile factory. Picture extracted from the article ‘Woman at Work’, from “Женский журнал” (Women’s Journal), 1928.

In-text image 2: Internatsional’naia literature (International Literature) No. 1.