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A preview of our 'Two Spains' tour, with Giles Tremlett

posted on 13/05/20


Giles Tremlett is a historian, writer and journalist who has lived in Madrid for the last 25 years. He is leading our new tour in May 2021, Two Spains: The Spanish Civil War & its Aftermath, sharing insights he has garnered over the years from research, writing and publishing, not just on the civil war but also 20th-century Spain.

The idea of two Spains comes from a poem that was written in the 1920s:

There is a Spaniard today, who wants

to live and is starting to live,

between one Spain dying

and another Spain yawning.
Little Spaniard just now coming

into the world, may God save you.

One of those two Spains

will freeze your heart.

It is a poem to Spanish newborn children and it says, ‘Little Spaniard, may god save you. One of those two Spains will freeze your heart.’ It is the idea that there is inbuilt antagonism between these two Spains, and that is what eventually leads up to the civil war itself. We are talking about the Spains of the old hierarchies, of the army, the church, the land owners, against the new Spain of the industrial revolution, of the workers, and of the new ideas that were arriving in Spain, particularly anarchism and communism.

The idea is to think about history, but also to live it and walk it, breathe it and see it. We start in The Prado Museum, looking at some of the pictures that explain the history that takes us to the two Spains of the 20th century, before setting out around Madrid to look at where the civil war took place: one of the battlefields; the city itself. I will talk more about the international brigaders, who are my particular interest in the civil war, going to the Valley of the Fallen, the underground basilica drilled out of the mountainside near Madrid by Franco, and where Franco was buried until very recently.

We then head towards Barcelona, stopping off in Zaragoza, which is the capital of Aragon. We look at some of the battlefields, the amazing damaged villages which were conserved from that time, and from there going on to Barcelona, thinking about the city that we all know well, and the things that happened there during the civil war. In simple terms, it is Madrid, Zaragoza and Barcelona, but with lots of detours along the way.

We mix battlefields with the cultural events, explanations and manifestations of the civil war, visiting museums to look at the art, and also going behind the scenes to look at some private museums, and into some of the archives where I work when I am writing about the period.

What makes this tour different from other Spanish civil war tours is the ambition: covering Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid, and also the idea that we are looking at the whole of the civil war and trying to put it in its context. We have generous time to do it, allowing for a much more rounded version of what happened; a richer experience of what the civil war produced.

Listen now



By Giles Tremlett
MRT lecturer

Image credit: Creative Commons Licence BY-SA 3.0 ES


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