By Nigel Townson
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Additional resources for Is Spain Different?: A Comparative Look at the 19th and 20th Centuries
This had nothing to do with the triumphal image projected by France or Great Britain at the time. Spanish schoolchildren were instructed in past imperial glories in order to foster their national pride and were led to believe that these had been replicated during the recent war against Napoleon, but no contemporary triumphs were cited. Such hollow evocations, recited in schools and at commemorative acts, made Spaniards either laugh or feel sorry for themselves. The anecdote attributed to Antonio Cánovas del Castillo during the drafting of the 1876 Constitution is well known: on reaching the article that described the legal requirements in order to be a Spaniard, he made a show of his wit by murmuring, “Spaniards are those [ .
However, imperial expansion, the objective that accompanied or replaced the liberal revolution as the pretext or spur of the nationalizing impulse in so many European countries of the second half of the 19th century, was impossible in the case of the weak Spanish monarchy. An attempt was made under the government of O’Donnell (1858–63). And in 1898 Spain lost what remained of its oceanic empire. The imperial enterprise would be renewed in the first decades of the 20th century, but with much more modest goals, limiting itself to the northern fringe of Morocco and the odd small territory elsewhere in Africa.
Neither was the term “Gallicanism”, as control of the Church by the king and the tendency to seek ever greater independence from Rome were features shared by both the Spanish and the French Churches. The subsequent reforms of Joseph I in Austria would take the same form. Following the Anglican schism, the English Church, which did not even recognize the doctrinal declarations of Rome, had become the paradigm of what would later be called a “national Church”. The forging of “imagined communities” that preceded the nations of the modern era was based not only on religion, but also on the construction of an image of cultural singularity by means of historical accounts.