The imperial renewal of the Iberian states:
an early form of globalisation? (1808-1930)

Since it emerged in the USA in the 1980s, the world/global history school has seen major growth. However, the decentralisation of viewpoints that it proposes would appear to meet a stumbling block in the case of the Iberian Peninsula, in that the loss of the American colonies between 1808 and 1825 seemed to bring an irreversible end to Iberian imperialism. The loss of Spain’s last scraps of empire in 1898—the Disaster—and the subjection of the Portuguese empire to British suzerainty in 1890 supposedly confirms the notion that the fates of these former colonial powers, now considered decadent, were untypical.

Recently, Spanish and Portuguese historians have been adopting an "Atlantic perspective", questioning the nature of relations and interactions between metropolis and overseas possessions. Since then they have been actively highlighting the scale of the resurgence in which, at the same time as the North European countries, they sought to rebuild an empire from the 1860s onwards. Spain's adventure in Morocco between 1906 and 1926 shows that the colonial reprise continued beyond the loss of her Caribbean and Philippine jewels in 1898.

Today, Spain and Portugal therefore need to be viewed as composite political/administrative complexes, comprising a metropolis and overseas possessions, the parts of which were inseparable and in constant interaction. This project adopts an externalist, multiplex approach which places the metropolis/colonies relationship at the heart of any analysis and breaks with nationalistic historiographic traditions which stress an internalist approach and virtually ignore the importance of overseas possessions.

In the 19th century, the will to be part of empire was a primary element of cohesion, especially from a regional perspective, and the function of empire as the nursery of a new collective identity grew increasingly in importance throughout the century. For an important sector of Spanish public opinion, and certainly in elite circles, imperial affairs impinged just as much as national affairs. This is true of political debate: opposition movements fuelled political radicalism in the metropolis and overseas, to the extent of questioning the very foundations of the liberal nation-state. While colonial statutes were exceptional in nature, particular constitutional statutes were maintained at the same time in certain regions of Spain. This of course applied equally to questions regarding the nature of the State.