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Volunteers of the Spanish Empire (1855-1898)

Bristol student theses: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Authors

  • Fernando J Padilla Angulo

Research units

Abstract

Volunteers of the Empire (1855-1898) explores the history of the Volunteer units that existed in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and the Philippines during the second half of the 19th century. These units were closely associated with the continuity of Spanish sovereignty, and to understandings of the empire as an extension of the Spanish Nation. The Volunteers have traditionally been considered the private militia of the Spanish colonial elite, politically conservative, and made up almost exclusively of Spaniards from the metropolis, the so-called peninsulares. This thesis challenges this view and explores the history of the Volunteers in a new light. Principally drawing on unpublished documents consulted in Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico (encompassing military records, letters, and memoirs), this thesis explores four main aspects: the reasons that motivated the creation of the Volunteers, the participation of colonial societies, the Volunteers’ relationship with the Spanish authorities, and their social and political cohesion. In a major revision of the existing historiography, this thesis demonstrates that both "peninsulares" and creoles participated in the Volunteers. This heterogeneity meant that the Volunteers’ relationship with the Spanish authorities fluctuated between loyalty and confrontation depending on the challenges posed to the colonial statu quo by the colonial policy designed in Madrid. The Volunteers were also diverse in social (there were "peninsulares" and creoles, working-class, middle-class and affluent members), and political terms. Conservatives, liberals, republicans, and socialists filled their ranks. The cohesive principle of the Volunteers resided in adherence to the idea of the Spanish Nation’s unity, rather than in loyalty to the imperial authorities. This thesis argues that the Volunteers can be held to represent the ambivalent relationship between Nation and Empire, something which is still poorly understood in the Spanish case despite recent advances. It reveals the existence of a loyalist sentiment among significant sectors of the colonial societies, inviting us to reconsider the political and social dimensions of the struggles for independence in the Spanish colonies.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date25 Sep 2018

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