Between Tradition and Transgression: Education, Culture, and (Inter)national Pedagogies in Spain (1857–1931)

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Lawson, Andrew Parker 

This dissertation examines three prominent educational reform movements in late nineteenth- and early- twentieth century Spain: the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institute of Teaching), the Escuela Moderna (Modern School), and the Escola Nova Catalana (New Catalan School). Studying these movements syncretically, analyzing both similarities and differences, the thesis contends that efforts at educational reform throughout Spain were vibrant, heterogeneous, and far-reaching. Although bound together by history, politics, culture, and more, the thesis studies how each movement conceived differently the relationship between the individual and the collective, or the particular and the universal: the Institución Libre de Enseñanza pursued a liberal Spanish “cultural nationalism,” while the Escuela Moderna eschewed nationalist formulations in favor of international collectivism, and the Escola Nova Catalana sought to increase Catalonia’s political and economic influence both domestically and internationally by championing study of Catalan history and language.

By privileging child-centered pedagogical theories that focused on rationalism, autonomy, hygiene, and wellness, and by taking steps to widen educational access to girls and working-class children, the three movements contributed to the constellation of reform that advanced Spain’s often fractured process of modernization. Spanish and Catalan educationalists were also active in global circuits of intellectual exchange. Accordingly, the thesis deploys a cultural and historical archive to illustrate the international characteristics and contributions of educational reform movements in modern Spain. In their attempts to “modernize” pedagogical methods and curricular offerings and to “emancipate” students from the strictures of State-sponsored Catholic hegemony, Spanish and Catalan educationalists occasionally employed rhetoric and embraced methods that mirrored the practices they critiqued. Thus, the dissertation considers the ties and tensions between tradition and transgression in an array of areas that range from religion, economics, and governance to gender, class, and national identity to the prospects and/or specters of revolution. Ultimately, the dissertation explores the interconnected relationships between pedagogy, politics, and power to offer fresh perspectives that will enrich the cultural and intellectual histories of modern Spain and its relations to the wider world.

Epps, Brad
Spain, Catalonia, Education, Modernization, Pedagogy, Cultural Studies, Institución Libre de Enseñanza, Escuela Moderna, Escola Nova, Nationalism, Anarchism
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Gates Cambridge Scholarship