A Story to Be Revived

riously compromised future. Few intellectuals are as aware of this dan- ger as secondary school teacher Elvira Roca, the author of the audacious essay...

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DECEMBER 2017 | NO. 11


A Story to Be Revived A Review/Summary of Imperofobia y Leyenda Negra by Elvira Roca Luis Zaballa [email protected] ANALYSIS AND PREVIEW OFFICE

Análisis 1


Nº 11

The opinions included in the following article may only be attributed to the authors and do not constitute official positions of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.


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‘The future belongs to those with the longest memory,’ once wrote magnificently Friedrich Nietzsche. If such is the case, it is difficult to dodge the conclusion that Spain is facing a seriously compromised future. Few intellectuals are as aware of this danger as secondary school teacher Elvira Roca, the author of the audacious essay Imperiofobia y Leyenda Negra (Imperial Phobia and the Black Legend) (Siruela, 2016), which has received excellent reviews by critics and is currently in its fourth edition. What follows is an overview of the content, followed by a brief assessment.

The Concept of Imperial Phobia An understanding of the imperial phobia phenomenon first requires a clarification as to the concept of an empire, given a specific meaning by Ms Roca opposite the conventional idea of colonial dominance. She defines an empire in positive terms as the ‘inclusive expansion’ of a State which replicates itself to produce new political communities for its government institutions. It is further characterised by the biological and cultural blending of its people and the egalitarian treatment they receive, which enables a type of social mobility rarely possible in pre-existing political groups. In the end, an empire is a stable political construction destined to last over time due to the positive balance on the living conditions created. As soon as an empire gives less than what it takes, says Roca, its disintegration begins. In line with this definition and introducing the necessary nuances, the author recognises the Roman, Russian, US and Spanish ones as true empires, as reflected in the book’s subtitle (Rome, Russia, the United States and the Spanish Empire). However, she avoids calling the large


British, French or Dutch powers empires as, according to her conception, they are simply colonial expansions in that they established a radical hierarchical relationship between the mother country and its colonies in virtue of which the latter were merely instruments used to serve the former. Those displaced in overseas territories lack any political rights in the mother land and the natives are excluded. Censuses conducted in French and English colonies, for example, only included the European settlers whereas Spanish Imperial censuses included the indigenous and creole populations. Based on this, she defines imperial phobia as a ‘prejudice of racist aetiology’ against ‘the people who come to be the backbone of an empire’. Therefore, it’s a form of racism that doesn’t strictly derive from differences in ‘colour’ or ‘religion’ although generally ‘supported by both’. The aim is to denigrate a national ‘lineage’ with the singularity that it does not arise out of the relative weakness of said lineage but rather its strength. It amounts to a rejection of a different population yet not perceived from above, but rather from below. Another distinctive feature of imperial phobia is its social acceptability, achieved through the recruitment of an intellectual class responsible for generating defamatory stories. Thanks to the work of this intelligentsia, such prejudice gains respect and becomes practically immune to empirical refutation, thereby ensuring it withstands over time.

The Imperial Phobia of Other Empires Rome appears as the first empire subject of defamatory literature or, at least, as the first empire capable of detecting it and manifesting its intention and procedures. Quite illustrious

Secondary school teacher Elvira Roca

Few intellectuals are as aware of this danger as secondary school teacher Elvira Roca, the author of the audacious essay Imperiofobia y Leyenda Negra (Siruela, 2016), which has received excellent reviews from critics and is currently in its twelfth edition.

was the work by historian Sallust, who, based on the hostile writings of Mitridate- a sort of Viriathus of the Black Sea- identified some of the ‘clichés’ of anti-Roman imperial phobia that would be recurrently reproduced in later empires. One of these ‘clichés’ was that of ‘bad blood’ or a ‘lack of pedigree’. Unlike the Greeks, who came from the gods themselves, the Romans originated from the abduction of the Sabine Women, which reflected them as the descendants of evildoers. Another of these clichés was the ‘impiety’ by which the Romans did not respect anything divine or human in the conquered territories. They were accused of being indifferent to local religious and political traditions, replacing theocratic monarchies with an imperial administration lacking any traditional legitimacy. Another cliché is that of the ‘unconscious empire’, according to which the Roman imperial building would have resulted from an accumulation of favourable circumstances and not any intellectual or moral merit. One moderate version of this cliché acknowledged the Romans had a special ability to make war but denied them any other political or cultural virtue. Even militarily, their power only came from their cruelty and bloody nature and not their value or organisational power. As far as US imperial phobia, the author pinpoints its origin to the theory of the biological degeneration of New World species, initially formulated by naturalist Buffon and disseminated by propagandist Cornelius de Pauw in order to devalue the American hemisphere. The thesis was later reinforced by the scientific racism of authors of the likes of Arthur de Gobineau, according to whom, humans would


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degenerate due to the effect of racial mixing, something that would be particularly affecting the USA where the superior Anglo-Saxon and Nordic race was supposedly mixing with inferior European races and inevitably creating populations of no intelligence or beauty. Clearly, it was a variant of the cliché of bad blood which would eventually extend to the cultural arena, reflecting the USA as a desert civilisation. The defamation instrument chosen in this case were travel books in which English authors such as Frances Trollope or the very Charles Dickens saw to creating the stereotype—which is well-grounded at present— of Americans as ‘tacky, ignorant… and hyper-materialistic’ people. Finally, Russian imperial phobia unfolded in three different phases: During the first phase, which began in the 17th century, the European powers deprived of any overseas expansion planned to divide up the Russian territory among themselves in the belief that their people were not really European. And, thus arose the proverb ‘Scratch a Russian and you will find a Tartar’, which was used as a stimulant for the territorial distribution. The planning thereof was curiously enough handled by German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, although the project was frustrated by Russia’s resurgence at the hands of Peter the Great. In the second phase, essentially boosted by the French Enlightenment in the 18th century, there was an attempt at the intellectual patronage of France on Russia based on the new concept of ‘civilisation’ which, in practice, was understood as that which the French had, and the Russians did not. And from there, there arose a plan for political domination grounded on the new idea of the Russian danger. To give credit


to the idea, one recurrent technique of imperial phobia was used – the fabrication of self-incriminatory documents. In this case, it was the false Will of Peter the Great, which was widely disseminated by Napoleon in an effort to demonstrate that—failing preventive action—Europe would become ‘Russia’s booty’. The preventive action materialised years later with the invasion of Russia and the now well-known results. During the third phase, which was activated during the 19th century upon the Crimean War, a campaign was organised by the English press through which a stereotype was created depicting Russians as aggressive and ignorant with the caricature of the fierce Russian bear as the symbol. An article on the cover of The Times eloquently began with the following sentences: ‘The policy of Russia has long been impregnated with the spirit of the deadly hostility to England’.

Spanish Imperial Phobia of Black Legend The author begins her study of the Black Legend highlighting the fact that neither in Spanish nor any other language is it necessary to add the qualifier ‘Spanish’ to the expression as it is already implicit in the meaning. The origins of this expression go back to two conferences by Emilia Pardo Bazán (1899) and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1909). If the former specifically alluded to the anti-Spanish propaganda being spread on the occasion of the 1898 Spanish-American War, the latter was already applying the concept to ‘several centuries of anti-patriotic propaganda’. However, it was the monographic book by Julián Juderías La Leyenda Negra (1914) that would consolidate this expression in the broadest of sense, examining the historical rea-

lity in-depth. Ms Roca summarises the content of the Black Legend with three basic concepts: ‘it’s opinion, it’s against Spain, and it’s unfounded’. On the other hand, it counters certain recent literature that tends to deny the current validity of the Black Legend (Henry Kamen, for example), or even deny it as historic reality (Ricardo García Cárcel), thus relegated as an illusion or narcissist obsession of the Spanish people. To refute that theory, the author presents, among other documents, an interesting 1944 report by the American Council of Education that resolutely concludes after reviewing United States textbooks from a Black Legend perspective: ‘Signs of this prejudice were found in almost all the studies… The abolition of the Black Legend… is one of our biggest problems both in education and as intellectuals as well as in politics’. In its historical development, the Black Legend would unfold in successive phases, each one of which includes new propagandistic techniques and new defamatory clichés. The first of them would be the Italian phase, originating in Aragonese and later Spanish presence through which many techniques and clichés arose which would be used in later phases. Contrary to those who interpret this later continuity as a historical consequence of the Italian phase, the author believes that it is rather a use of pre-existing ideas in accordance with the needs inherent to each phase. What most defines the Italian phase is the recruitment of intellectuals for propagandistic purposes, a task that was taken on by a variety of Renaissance humanists. One of the most significant was Florence native Paulo Jovio, who denounced the alleged oppressive presence of the Spaniards in a series

of widely disseminated Stories, attributing it to the inherently defective nature of the Spanish people. The writings did not find any answers in the Empire but rather a personal response from explorer and conqueror Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada who identified certain defamatory sophistry in his book El Antijovio such as the use of the half-truth to camouflage lies in the middle of factual events or the use of tactical praise to hide the author’s slanderous motive. It was one of the first efforts to counter the anti-Spanish propaganda, yet it was never published—until 1952— which only emphasizes one of the most striking attributes of the Spanish Empire in this area: its structural defencelessness. Among the various clichés aired by Jovio and other humanists, the alleged Spanish impiety and lack of pedigree among the Spanish population stand out. Impiety was invoked each time a Pope would break his political alliance with Spain, and it can be observed in the words of Pablo IV when he called Spaniards ‘non-believers, schismatic and …the dregs of the world’. The accusation of a lack of pedigree was based on the mix of blood with the Saracens and, especially, the Jews, to the extent that Spaniards were commonly referred to as ‘pigs’. Added to these two clichés was a third, that of the alleged medieval nature of the Spaniards, which not just a few historians have assumed as a true fact in presenting the Italian Renaissance as a cultural phenomenon that arose despite the Spanish presence. Roca radically disagrees with this interpretation, pointing out that the Italian Renaissance could hardly have flourished had it not been under the ‘protective umbrella’ of the Spanish Empire which effectively defended the Italian Peninsula from the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire.


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The Italian phase was followed by the protestant phase with three sides: the German, the Dutch, and the English. The three would be a part of what is traditionally called the Religious Wars, although the author sees them more as Anti-Imperial Wards. To this end, she points to the fact that the Schmalkaldic League, comprised of protestant forces, was joined in 1531 by French Catholics, which would reflect the anti-imperial nature of the enterprise. The German side would originate in the crisis of the Germanic feudal regime, which would lead to the serious impoverishment of the peasantry and even the aristocracy. As a way out, the idea was promoted that Catholicism was a foreign political power (Italian, Spanish, etc.) that justified the confiscation of their property. Support was requested of the emperor Charles who obviously denied such request, inevitably leading to the conflagration. An ideological reconfiguration of the economic problem required the concurrence of the intellectuals, particularly Martin Luther, who directed his tirades against the Pope, calling him the ‘Anti-Christ’, and against Spain for holding up the Empire. He even once wrote that ‘Spaniards are obviously beasts’. Roca goes to great effort to prove that the result of this political operation was a real Germanic civil war between the Germans on both sides irrespective of how it has been presented as a religious war and national emancipation. One significant aspect of German imperial phobia is the decisive exploitation of the printing press as a propagandistic weapon of war to the point of being able to affirm that the combination of the printing press and the pre-existing defamatory techniques in all reality amount to the origin of modern propaganda. The printing


The author refers to the concealment of one’s own losses as a deletion technique commonly used in countries with propagandistic traditions, which has generally gone unnoticed in countries like Spain, which have even gone so far as coming to terms with this selective historiography

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

press was further used to reproduce images on a massive scale for the first time ever, which made it possible to reach the immense illiterate population. The social impact and mobilising power incriminatory and deliberately scabrous images proved to have facilitated the discovery that the power of propaganda lies in its capacity to arouse emotions among the public, more than transmitting any argument. The English side of protestant imperial phobia would originate in the reign of Henry VIII, especially due to the constitution of the Church of England, and it would reach its apogee with the English-Spanish War (1585-1604), which opposed Elizabeth I and Philip II. However, the rivalry would continue, as reflected by the statement made decades later by Oliver Cromwell before the Parliament: ‘Our true enemy is the Spanish. Them. They’re the inherent enemy’. Roca defines the boundaries of this rivalry by pointing out that England was the leader of the Protestant world and Spain, the leader of the Catholic world, which explains how it has persisted over time even into our days. The main imperial phobia cliché was, in any case, that of Spanish impiety. Cromwell concluded his parliamentary diatribe against the Spanish people by invoking ‘that animosity against all things godly’. Hence, a new cliché arose, that of the alleged Spanish incompetence and ineptitude. The cliché was especially applied to the failed ‘Invincible Armada’, although the propaganda of self-exaltation eventually won out over that of defamation—with which it is incompatible in this arena. A good amount of English historiography has glossed this battle as a turning point at which England took the reins from Spain in the dominance of the seas, something still reflected in

films periodically dedicated to Elizabeth I. Roca proves how nobody at the time interpreted this battle in those terms and how, in fact, it was part of a lengthy war that concluded with the 1604 Treaty of London, which substantially favoured Spain’s interests. She takes advantage of this to point out how the English Armada was beat by the Spanish Armada several times (Veracruz 1568, Contra-Armada 1589, Cartagena de Indias 1740, Argentina 1804 and 1806), although this is unknown to the general public because, unlike the failure of the Invincible Armada, it does not appear in textbooks or cinema. The author refers to this concealment of one’s own losses as a deletion technique commonly used in countries with propagandistic traditions, which has generally gone unnoticed in countries like Spain, which have even gone so far as coming to terms with this selective historiography. The Dutch side developed in the context of the War of Flanders (1568-1648), known outside Spain as the Dutch Revolt. Even the name evokes a fight for national emancipation against a foreign power which would, of course, be Spain. Such is suggested by the very national anthem of the Netherlands, which includes the words allegedly written by William of Orange: ‘My spirit is tormented, noble and loyal people, seeing how the cruel Spanish are affronting you’. The author maintains that the War of Flanders was also a civil war, which began with an anti-Imperial and anti-ecclesiastical uprising of the upper ranks of the Dutch nobility which split the population into two opposing factions. Thus, the Duke of Alba’s army had 54,300 soldiers in 1573 even though only 7,900 were Spaniards when the number of Flemish soldiers


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only totalled 30,000. On the other hand, the army of Orange supporters always included a strong number of German mercenaries and French Huguenots, all of which leads the author to the astonishing conclusion that ‘there were more Dutch people fighting on the royal side than the Orange side’. The anti-Spanish propaganda from the Orange side was due to a specific political demand to delegitimise an emperor who had taken power of Flanders through the habitual hereditary means and without contest. ‘Philip II was as much the King of Castile as he was the King of the Netherlands’, points out the author, ‘meaning it was difficult to convince public opinion’ of his illegitimacy. This strategy precisely owed to the completely unfounded accusation that Philip II had assassinated his son Charles, a story that would perpetuate in collective European imagination through the novels of Saint-Real (1673) and Schiller (1787) as well as the famous Verdi opera (1876). The success of this black propaganda, along with the systematic use of various techniques to manipulate public opinion available at the time (printing press, images, etc.) has given William of Orange the title of the father of modern propaganda. Roca even defines him as ‘one of the creators of the modern world’ for this very reason. Finally, the enlightened phase of anti-Spanish imperial phobia largely appears as a reworking of the Italian phase where the intellectual enlightened elite reproduces the clichés produced by its ‘humanist’ predecessor. For example, this is the case of the accusation of Spanish backwardness and medievalism, although no longer coupled with the charge of impiety. On the contrary, the problem


A coin anticipating the English triumph over the Spanish Armada in Cartagena de Indias (1740). When such victory did not happen, the entire series was ordered to be withdrawn although some pieces survived. It’s the perfect example of historiographic ‘deletion’.

The cliché of the Inquisition as an agent of terror in Spanish society, which was responsible for mass torture and death, is challenged by the author with a meticulous review of 44,000 inquisitional records.

with Spain for the enlightened was precisely its excessive religious devotion and submission to ecclesiastic instruction. That was when the notion arose that Spain’s political and cultural decline in the 18th century was ultimately due to the suffocation of intellectual freedom caused by the Inquisition through its List of Prohibited Books. Roca tries to dismantle this theory, indicating that the Inquisition only conditioned the publication of potentially heretic religious books and that the list did not affect the dissemination of ideas in literary, philosophical or scientific fields, meaning it hardly could have had the devastating impact it is attributed in these areas. She further warns that contemporary European countries, and particularly the Protestant ones, had censorship systems that were as restrictive as the Spanish ones or even more so. Even enlightened France maintained a double state and ecclesiastical censorship system which banned a large number of works freely published in Spain. After this, the author reflects upon the deletion technique, which was originally applied in Protestant propaganda, and later developed through enlightened propaganda. For example, she criticises the fact that today’s textbooks associate the Enlightenment with the greatest of human ideals all while hiding the justification of the slave trade by its main intellectual representatives, which turned the 18th century into the great century of slavery. Montesquieu, for example, defended the ‘natural servitude of the Indians’, and attributed Spain’s decline to the massive miscegenation with American races, furthering the old cliché of the Spanish bad blood. It is important to underline that the propagandistic deletion technique is not only used

to hide one’s own demerits, but also the demerits of others. Particularly, Roca points out that a large amount of the great intellectual contributions attributed to the Enlightenment originated in the Renaissance (and quite particularly in Spanish scholasticism); however, the authors did not have the dignity to acknowledge their sources meaning their ideas spread as ahistorical apparitions (‘like wildfire’, says Roca) without any intellectual background or historical context. Another widespread cliché arose during the Enlightenment consisting of assigning the relative delay in Spain and even its lack of ‘civilisation’ to the expulsion of the Jews decreed in 1492, something that would have deprived the country of a particularly dynamic population economically and intellectually speaking. Without forgetting to lament the human price of the expulsion, Roca rejects this theory completely, indicating that the centuries that followed actually saw the rise and splendour of Spain in all areas.

The Inquisition and Conquest The cliché of the Inquisition as an agent of terror in Spanish society, which was responsible for mass torture and death, is challenged by the author with a meticulous review of 44,000 inquisitional records by Gustav Henningsen and Jaime Contreras, which revealed that 1,346 of the accused had been sentenced to die between 1540 and 1700 (which would amount to an average of 9 executions a year). This number also includes crimes such as rape, child abuse, currency falsification and weapons smuggling, generally pursued by national courts. As a contrast in terms of scale, she cites the work of British historian James Stephen, who proved that


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England had executed 264,000 people in three centuries (some 900 a year). The studies further demonstrate that, far from being dominated by torture, the inquisitional procedure was the most justly of that era. Roca gives an account of studies revealing how less than 2% of the inquisitional processes included some form of torture and even how this marginal practice was subject to constant review and restriction to the point that the Inquisition was, by her estimates, ‘the first court in the world that prohibited torture, one hundred years before this ban became widespread’. As concerns the persecution of witchery, Roca refers to the assembly of theologists held in Granada in 1526, which instilled scepticism within the Spanish church regarding this phenomenon. It drastically restricted the definition of prosecutable cases, which in any case had to cease upon the repentance of the accused. The contrasting treatment of witchery in other European countries, particularly the Protestant ones, is overwhelming. Henningsen calculates that some 50,000 witches were burnt (half of them in Germany, 4,000 in Switzerland, 4,000 in France and 1,500 in England) with exactly 27 attributed to the Inquisition. Finally, the author examines the religious persecution in the Protestant world as Juderías did a century before. The principle of cuius region, eius religio, according to which subjects had to adopt the faith of their prince, set off mass religious persecution in all directions and turning the principle of ‘freedom of conscience’ into a sarcastic joke. Roca also emphasizes how most of the religious wars and persecution cases opposed different Protestant factions against each other even to the point of stating


that ‘they caused more deaths than the battles against the Catholics’. As concerns the Black Legend of the conquest of America, she studies the case of A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, pointing out that Bartolomé de Las Casas could not have witnessed the massacres he described—something he later admitted himself— yet they were massively disseminated through the printing presses in Flanders, England and Germany, illustrated with the horrendous engravings by Theodor de Bry. The propagandistic technique of using a (false) witness of incriminatory events was, therefore, combined with the exploitation of the printing press and the exacerbation of emotions through graphic images. Roca contrasts the destiny of the American indigenous under the Spanish Empire with their destiny under the British and American power. She emphasizes the recognition of the natural equality of the indigenous people as early as the era of the Catholic Monarchs, which was transferred to all sorts of laws dedicated to preserving their population and preventing their exploitation in addition to the miscegenation practices fostered by imperial authorities. Of the factors that could explain the absence of a similar policy in the North, she alludes to the inexistence of a ‘resisting clergy’ who were listened to by those governing. She also approaches the cliché still maintained in today’s publications, that the current delay in Latin America with respect to North America is due to a culture of entrepreneurism and science that supposedly existed in British but not Spanish power. Roca criticises this idea, underlining that Mexico City was notoriously larger, more dynamic and richer than Washin-

gton at the time of the American independence and that the salaries of the indigenous were higher than in the West. The contrast is coherent with the quite higher number of printing presses, universities, scientific publications and hospitals documented in the Spanish Empire.

The Persistence of the Black Legend The clichés of the Black Legend remained long after Enlightenment. They were essentially republished in the 19th century through travel books in which the storytellers sought to bring out the backwards and exotic Spain they already had in mind leading to our country being considered non-European. Most of these clichés lived on throughout the 20th century and were even revived in the early 21st century to bring credibility to the high-profile financial PIGS campaign, aimed at proving Spain’s historical insolvency. Roca takes this fact as proof that the Black Legend is a current reality that offers fertile ground for those who wish to attack Spain, and which actually enables the fact that the Spanish people are right now bearing higher debt interest than other countries with a worse financial history. This leads her to wondering what the causes of the odd persistence of Spanish imperial phobia are when the motives that engendered it have been long since gone. One of the answers that pops up is that the Black Legend is a part of the foundational narrative of Protestant nations (Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, particularly) and that such narrative is useful even today for shoring up their national realities. Something similar would be happening with France, whose national narrative is based on the Enlightenment. Added to this, on the other

hand, is the attitude of the Catholic Church, which is reluctant to challenge these nations, again in a field of propaganda, so as not to hinder a confessional reconciliation it has never stopped believing in. The secular helplessness of Spain —the Church’s traditional ally— can be explained by this same reason. Yet Roca highlights another essential fact, which is the active collaboration of a good number of Spanish intellectuals in accepting and disseminating imperial phobia clichés. She mentions the case of Goya, for example, who— likely very honestly— drew The Court of the Inquisition which he never could have witnessed since they had disappeared long before his time; or even Ortega, who brought the notion form Germany that disposition to science and work were linked to German blood and that German blood inherited by Spaniards came from the Visigoths, which was an already degenerated race. This would have been the explanation for the delay and decomposition of the early 20th century spineless Spain (once again, a reference to Spaniards’ bad blood). However, this collaboration by intellectuals still requires an explanation as it is not found in other countries. The author offers a psychological interpretation here, indicating the temptation of post-imperial governing classes to shrug off any responsibility for the loss of the Empire, fully denying any connection to the governing classes, which actually allowed such a loss.

Assessment It is no doubt a wise move to insert a study of the Black Legend in the broader phenomenon of imperial phobia as it allows the identification of different clichés and methods used in addition to an understanding of the causes behind


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it. The neologism “imperial phobia”, nonetheless, deserves an ambivalent opinion. On the one hand, it proves to be a functional concept that is capable of transmitting a theory in a single term and, to this end, emerges as an effective ‘meme’ which has likely contributed to the success of the book. On the other hand, it joins a present-day terminological trend of defining an ideological adversary’s positions in terms of ‘phobia’—inherently irrational—which is an obstacle to rational debate. Empires may be subject of rational criticism, there’s no doubt about that, even including the Spanish Empire of course. It is worth assuming Ms Roca would share this idea, but it would have been useful for her to have somehow done so explicitly. Another of the book’s merits lies in asking about the persistence of the Black Legend when Spain has not been a dominant power in the world for centuries. Some of the explanations proposed are suggestive, and possibly true, but it is not clear that they are fully satisfactory. It would be highly useful, to this end, for there to be continuity to the line of research undertaken by the author. Delving into the details, it is worth noting that the piece of work shares the reproduction of a story regarding the life of Bartolomé de Las Casas with other texts that are critical of the Black Legend and that is the idea that Las Casas attributed a different nature to native Americans and Africans, sacrificing the latter to save the former. The idea is often expressed in the context of the—deserved—criticism of Las Casas for his contribution to the Black Legend through his Brief Account. But, as Las Casas’s primary biographer Isacio Pérez made efforts to demonstrate, there is not a single passage in his work that lowers the nature of Africans


The Court of Inquisition as imagined by Francisco de Goya.

Ms Roca is one of a valuable tradition of authors who have taken it upon themselves to defend the real history of Spain. or any other racial group. On the contrary, there are passages that solemnly and repeatedly affirm that ‘all nations are human’ and that ‘there is only one lineage of man’. The historical source of this attribution to Las Casas is seemingly found in the request sent by the King to send slaves to La Española to replace the indigenous on the island, who were disappearing— most certainly due to the diseases imported from the Old World. Pérez points out that the document making the request referred to ‘black or white’ slaves and that it was to be understood that it did not in-

clude illegally hunted slaves but rather slaves sentenced in court for having committed some type of offence such as sedition which justified this penalty of stripping them of their freedom. That being said, Las Casas would acknowledge years later that he ‘regretted’ not having been better informed of the origins of the slaves which was in all reality illegal. In any case, it does not seem fair that such error could tarnish an entire life dedicated to defending the American indigenous— as well as the Africans, as proven by Pérez— and it makes no sense at all that criticism of the Black Legend leads Spain to disowning such a figure of moral highness and historical transcendence of the likes of Las Casas. Ms Roca is one of a valuable tradition of authors who have taken it upon themselves to defend the real history of Spain. This tradition includes men of letters like Pardo Bazán and Blasco Ibáñez, Hispanists such as Philip Powell and Sverker Arnoldson, as well as public ser-

vants like Julián Juderías and—more recently— Alberto Ibáñez. When the professional backgrounds of all these authors are taken into account, their nearly total desertion of the Spanish university is surprising and inevitably leads to wondering whether Spanish professors have no interest in shedding light upon the true history of our country in opposition of the very dark propaganda. The question is particularly pressing in the case of public universities, supported with money from Spanish taxpayers. In fact, there is a great void in the centre of intellectual life in Spain, which in and of itself requires a historical, political or sociological explanation and, in any case, only emphasizes the merits of personal efforts like that of Elvira Roca, whose book is probably the most extensive and systematic study that has ever been written on the Black Legend; that fantasy which Arnoldson would define as the greatest ‘collective hallucination’ the West has ever experienced.