Some stories from History | Babelia

Actors Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939). Courtesy Everett Collection

1. Crusades

Since the first speaking hominin broke the buffalo femur that he used as a mace on the head of the rival who was contesting a piece, thousands of memorable phrases have been said (and, later, written) about the war. Perhaps one of the most repeated is the famous one by Von Clausewitz that war is (the continuation of) politics by other means, although it must be recognized that the inversion to which Foucault subjected it, turning the predicate into subject and vice versa. Of all the phrases about the war, the one I prefer is, however, the one that she blurts out to her suitors Scarlett O’Hara in gone With the Wind (1939), a movie that was released when US public opinion began to consider intervening in Europe: “Blah, blah, blah. War, war, war. This talk about the war is spoiling all the holiday fun this spring. ” The literature on wars – one of humanity’s occupations that, like the search for food, has remained constant – grows every second (and believe me I’m not exaggerating). In this strange rentrée, both posed and pre-confined, important books have appeared on wars and their battles. Alliance, for example, just published 1064, Barbastro, by Philippe Sénac and Carlos Laliena, a remarkable work on the famous capture of the city of Huesca by an international army summoned by the bishops and Pope Alexander II, and which can be considered, 30 years before the First Crusade, the first European collective attempt to curb Islamic expansion on the continent. The conquest of the city culminated in a savage repression of the vanquished, accompanied by torture and rape of Muslim women. On the crusades – the international wars against Islam that mobilized the most troops between 1095 and 1296 – I strongly recommend The Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Land (Attic of the Books), by Dan Jones, a historiographically updated account that, without being as rigorous as the referential History of the Crusades (Alianza), by Runciman, has the advantage that it can be read as if it were a novel.

2. Beatable / Invincible

There is nothing as useful for a politician as having a good communication team: a group of experts, fully identified with the wishes of their leaders and capable of transforming failures into victories, and these into proclaimed successes. urbi et orbi. The examples of the effectiveness of these teams are obvious: there you have, to look at a close example, the efficiency with which, in the middle of the decaying tardorajoyato, the well-oiled propaganda apparatus of the Catalan independence movement managed to sell internationally its version of the events of the October 1, 2017. A much earlier example of the effectiveness of propaganda took place from the unfortunate summer of 1588, after the disaster of the so-called “invincible” army against the English fleet. The propaganda apparatus of Isabel I got the echo of the defeat of the Spaniards to reach the last corner of the planet: the proud nation had been brought to its knees; their mighty ships destroyed. Pamphlets, popular songs, satirical poems, coins, engravings, pictures celebrating the Spanish defeat and the English victory circulated through all the European courts. The contrast with that highly effective propaganda display is offered by the scant echo, both at the time and later – even in school textbooks: they never spoke to me about it – which was obtained by the also catastrophic defeat (superior in terms of ships destroyed) of the English expedition that in 1589, just a year later, Isabel I had launched against Spain in order to take advantage of the momentary weakness of her historical rival; the English managed to hide or sugarcoat their failure, and the circumspect Filipino bureaucrats failed to capitalize on the success. Professor Luis Gorrochategui deals with all of this – and, above all, with the historical and military context of the battle. Against Armada: Spain’s biggest victory over England, published by Critique. As for Felipe II, king of Spain (and Portugal) during those events, I also recommend the new biography of Enrique Martínez Ruiz Felipe II: Man, king, myth (The Sphere of Books), which, beyond that of Geoffrey Parker (Philip II, pretentiously called “the definitive biography”; Planeta, 2010), pays particular attention, integrating them into his reign, to the three facets that his subtitle enunciates. The chapters devoted to the festivities, to the devotion of the king, to his role as patron and collector of art and books, as well as to the formation of his highly chosen and well-advised library, have been particularly enlightening to me.

3. Müntzer

In the great story The war of the poor (Tusquets), which Éric Vuillard has dedicated to Thomas Müntzer and to the revolts in southern Germany in 1524, the peasant struggle acquires – from fictional freedom – a universal perspective, which Ernst Bloch was perhaps also thinking about when composed his Tomas Müntzer, theologian of the revolution, an essay (Antonio Machado, 2002) that was published in Spanish for the first time in the now mythical Ciencia Nueva (1965-1970). It deserves a memory that pioneering publishing house that slipped through the cracks in the censorship of late Francoism, and that had founded a group of progressive university students, among whom were Pepe Esteban, Javier Gallifa, Lourdes Ortiz, María Teresa Bort, Carlos Piera, Jesús Munárriz , Rafael Sarró, Alberto Méndez and others, such as Jaime Ballesteros, one of the interior leaders of the PCE. It was in the prehistory of the democratic edition of postwar Spain, before Anagrama, before Tusquets.