Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SOCRES (Social Republicanism in XIXth c. Spain)
Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31
The first result of the investigation was to show that the Cartagena Canton was much more popular, more feminine and more diverse in its geographical origins than the historiography pretended. Against the narratives of a romantic and “bourgeois” revolution, SOCRES has put in evidence the Canton’s dynamics of radicalization, and the way civilian and plebeian leaders quickly beat the moderate wing of the insurrection. It has also demonstrated that, even if the cantonalist project had been formulated as a male ideal of armed Republic, women had played an active (though subaltern) role as nurses, prostitutes or workers in the arsenal depots. Some of them had even taken up arms in the last weeks of the siege.
The second result of SOCRES is to propose a new account of the canton’s political project, which was much more in touch with the labor struggles of its time than what 1970’s historians pretended. As the investigation has shown, many workers and peasants were present in the canton. Their politization had begun in the 1860’s, in a moment when both radical republicanism and internationalism were circulating among Spanish working classes. However, SOCRES has also demonstrated that nearly three-quarters of the cantonal forces exiled in Algeria were not city workers or peasants but soldiers, military seamen and convicts from the Cartagena prison, categories that we are used to consider as a “lumpen” unable to demonstrate political thinking. In that matter, SOCRES follows the suggestion of the Global history of work and penalty, according to which our preconceived ideas of modern work and of workers movement needs to be revised. Free factory workers were not alone to give birth to workers movements: precarious workers such as Cartagena’s women, or forced workers such the canton’s soldiers, seamen and convicts were also able to mobilize, and to make the Canton a pioneer experience in the history of socialism and social-republicanism.
The third result of SOCRES is to show that, whereas the canton of Cartagena has always been presented as a local and isolated movement, it had wide national, imperial and transnational connections. French Algeria, only a few hour of Cartagena by sea, was the first and most visible region of contact. During the six months of its existence, the canton took the form of a Pirate Republic fueled by the commercial and political exchanges with the French colony, from which came most of the knowledge about the Communes. This was made possible by the giant mutiny of thousands of military sailors at the beginning of the insurrection, and by the know-how of civilian sailors and smugglers who took the commandment of the mutinous ships. SOCRES also inscribed the canton in a Spanish imperial history, showing how much the revolution was imbued with a “Creole dream” of political autonomy which had flourished in the colonies of Porto Rico and Cuba. It also evidenced the links between the insurgents and a reformist nebula from Filipinas, and finally retraced the colonial geography of the insurgents’ deportations and exiles to Cuba, Marianas and Algeria. As these convergent results show, the canton of Cartagena was a global revolution in its scope and reverberation, and it should form part of the Global histories of 19th century.
SOCRES has also given voice to categories which were marginalized by the classical history of labor, such as peasants in arms, arsenal workers, conscripts, sailors and convicts, and finally working class women. It has advocated for another history of the labor movement, traditionally centered on the white male, free factory worker of Northern Europe and the United States. It has also focused on the role of exiles, deportees, migrants and seamen in the global diffusion of social republican ideas, to question the national frame which still dominates modern political history. The “Atlantic history” has already evidenced the links between migrations and revolutions, focusing on the Northern Atlantic during the 16th to the 18th centuries. The historian Benedict Anderson has displaced the picture, promoting the Spanish Empire as the center of a global anarchist web of relations woven at the end of the 19th century, which connected anticolonialist intellectuals from Philippines and Cuba to European anarchists. SOCRES has shown that a few decades earlier, a global web of contest had already emerged from the Spanish Empire and that it was expressed in the language of social republicanism, Atlantic abolitionism and workers’ internationalism. It has thus woven the history of the Cartagena Canton as an innovative global micro-history of the 19th century.