Reactions to the State: acceptance and refusal

(axis 3)


Head: François Godicheau
Professor at the University of Bordeaux III

Imperial order and disorder: an analysis of categories

This study reviews a series of essential issues relating to the way in which the imperial State under (re)construction addressed phenomena of resistance, revolt and more generally political and social "disorders", which in turn underwent changes in response to growing demands and increasingly repressive responses from the State. In this connection there is a structure of parallel categories of order and disorder which needs to be examined; otherwise our discussion of public policy runs the risk of projecting on to 19th-century societies a set of categories devised more recently or for different contexts, particularly Anglo-Saxon societies.

These categories hev undergone considerable change, with shifts in the meanings of certain words, the use of synonyms, the invention or appropriation of new terms, and examples of circulation among the different parts of the empire. These developments and movements are an integral part of this study, and we need to list the various categories and consider very carefully how to use the ones that we reserve—for the elements they contain descriptive of the events reported in the sources—as working categories.

Our fundamental hypothesis is that the categories used by the institutions responsible for maintaining order are not merely descriptive but tend to create types of offences, are perfomative in effect, and are acts to which protesters themselves respond by choosing, acknowledging or rejecting this or that adjective. For example, the category of "anarchist" was long used as a term of simple moral condemnation (based on the concept forged during the French Revolution) but gradually gained acceptance from 1870 onwards, albeit its meaning was never clear or linked to a body of political doctrine before the end of the 1890s (Godicheau, 2008).

Between "primitive revolt" and modern protest, as reflected in the construction of the State

Historians consider that up until the beginning of the 20th century, Spanish territory was the scenario of a traditional repertoire of disturbances ranging from social protest, food riots, tax riots and violent protests against conscription, to various forms of banditry and organised smuggling. This traditional repertoire was also characterised by a lack of long- or medium-term organisation and of a political programme, which would distinguish it from a modern repertoire comprising long-term, organised mobilisations tending to underpin alternative schemes of social and political organisation opposed to the ones proposed by the State and the ruling classes.

The phenomenon of banditry in the case of Spain has been studied mainly for the first half of the 19th century; later periods have only been the subject of some local or regional updates. Banditry tended to disappear in the second half of the century through the action of the Civil Guard. In the case of Cuba, on the other hand, banditry has been analysed as far as the chronology runs and up to the end of the century, and historians have highlighted not only the importance of the image of rural banditry for the way that the authorities viewed delinquency as a whole prior to independence, but also the connections between the resurgence of banditry post-1878 and the independence movements. Little attention has been paid to other phenomena relating to the "traditional" repertoire of protest, except for a thesis on examples of resistance to conscription. On the other hand, there are any number of studies on "the origins of the labour movement" which—based as they are on a methodology aimed at identifying "roots"—tend to confirm this divide between two repertoires. 

The point is therefore to examine the evolution of forms of protest and attitudes to a State whose demands and modes of administration changed in the course of the century.

Project members:

François Godicheau
Jeanne Moisand
Manel Risques
Pablo Riaño