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In a plenary session of the Spanish Royal Academy of History (April 1776), Francisco Jose Viana y Teran lectured his colleagues about the type of history that the Academy should promote and the role history should play in vindicating the Spanish nation’s past, especially at a time when many European scholars and philosophers were claiming that the Iberian peninsula had isolated itself to prevent the penetration of Enlightened ideas. For Viana, and undoubtedly for many of his colleagues, the vindication of their nation, “unfairly calumniated by foreigners,” required something other than propaganda and apologies. It called for a comprehensive national history proving that Spain had always belonged to a select group of civilized nations and, therefore, was entitled to political autonomy and intellectual respect. The history promoted by the Academy could no longer be the one favored in previous centuries–the recording of the rulers’ exploits. Instead, historians should study “peoples’ customs and mores, the inconstancy of the laws, the influence of the government, the phases of national progress, the vices and preoccupations that made possible our national decline, and what we have to do in order to restore the nation to its previous glory.”


At the time of publication, author Antonio Feros was affiliated with New York University. Currently, he is a faculty member at the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 28 September 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.