From Patriotism to Liberalism

Political Concepts in Revolution

Authored by: Javier Fernández Sebastián

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter offers an overview of certain decisive changes in Spanish political language over the course of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I begin by treating the unease felt among various sections of the learned élite regarding the unstable meanings of certain key terms, and the semantic battles waged with ever-increasing intensity in that time of transition between the late Enlightenment and the early stages of liberalism. As I show, such controversies over meanings gave rise to interesting political-philological debates over whose remit it was to define the correct use of words. Finally, I show that with the crisis of the Spanish monarchy in 1808, and the following process of politicization, a set of interlinked concepts – including “patria,” “revolución,” “nación,” “independencia,” “libertad,” “constitución,” and several others – quickly gained prominence in contemporary discussions, and provided the foundations for political vocabulary to be comprehensively updated. My focus is essentially historical-conceptual, and seeks to integrate several different perspectives, including political-intellectual history, and certain developments in cultural history. Rather than eminent authors and political treatises, I rely on evidence from other types of sources, particularly ephemeral or circumstantial sources, such as parliamentary oratory, political pamphlets, or early examples of the newspaper press.

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