Nightcap

  1. Assessing Sotomayor’s first ten years with SCOTUS Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy
  2. A case of mistaken identity Peter Miller, Views of the Kamakura
  3. Spain’s democratic decline Raphael Garcia, Inkstick
  4. An homage to Charlemagne David Crane, Spectator

Afternoon Tea: Mother and child (1921)

nol art picasso mother and child 1921
Click here to zoom

A Pablo Picasso classic. This one is in a private collection somewhere.

RCH: The battle that shaped Texas for one hundred years

That’s the topic of my latest at RealClearHistory. (Remember, I have a Tuesday column and a weekend column over there.) Here’s an excerpt:

In the mid 16th century, then, in what is now Texas and Oklahoma, world powers and regional polities bobbed and weaved with each other in an intricate, unpredictable game of geopolitics to settle who gain hegemony over a region destined to be important for transcontinental trade for centuries to come. The defeat forced Spain to give up its designs for the region entirely, and France was never interested in the region being anything other than a resource-rich frontier for its American port cities in New Orleans and Quebec.

The defeat also caused a minor rift between Tlaxcala and Spain, which was a big deal at the time because without Tlaxcala, Spain would have never been able to conquer the Aztec Empire as thoroughly as it did.

Please, read the rest. Texas ain’t no joke…

Nightcap

  1. A new history of Islamic Spain Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books
  2. A Palestinian perspective on Labour’s anti-Semitism row Nimer Sultany, Disorder of Things
  3. The crumbling of French culture Guillaume de Thieulloy, Law & Liberty
  4. Can Asia and Europe make America’s alliances great again? Tongfi Kim, the Diplomat

Dictators who gave up power?

That’s the topic of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory, thanks to an extended email with Andrei. Here’s an excerpt:

10. King Juan Carlos I. Juan Carlos should be a household name in the West. The monarch of Spain upon dictator Francisco Franco’s death, Juan Carlos was expected to continue Franco’s legacy of authoritarian rule. After all, he received a military education in Spain under the Franco regime and had a clear claim to the throne (although the throne itself was a complicated legal matter). Furthermore, Juan Carlos was an active member of Franco’s staff, even stepping in to fill Franco’s void when the fascist began to fall ill due to old age. When Franco died, Juan Carlos began to dismantle the Franco regime and helped usher a smooth transition to democratic rule.

Please, read the rest.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade

My latest over at RealClearHistory went up on Tuesday. The schedule for my work over there goes as follows: I’ve got a regular Friday column and a Tuesday blog post, so be on the lookout! Here’s an excerpt:

The volunteers were to be used as cannon fodder for the Republicans, which explains the high casualty rate, but it was the disorganized front put on by the democratically-elected Republican government that is to blame for the high casualty rates, rather than some sort of prejudice or malice on the part of the Spanish Left. The volunteers almost all came from non-military backgrounds, too, as most were starry-eyed urban idealists who believed they were fighting injustice. After a meager 30 days of training, the Lincoln Battalion was marched to the front lines to fight a bunch of battle-hardened troops that mostly hailed from Spain’s colonies, where military governance was practiced and honed to near perfection.

Read the rest. This was a fun one to write. I initially wanted to do something about the Spanish Civil War and international meddling (Madrid fell to Franco on March 29), before tying it in to the events in Syria.

My editor gently reminded me that the blog posts should be about American history, so I threw in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. And check out my RCH colleague’s post on the birth and rise of the Republican Party.

Spanish GDP since 1850

Among the great economic historians is Leandro Prados de la Escosura. Why? Because, before venturing in massively complex explanations to explain academic puzzles, he tries to make sure the data is actually geared towards actually testing the theory. That attracts my respect (probably because it’s what I do as well which implies a confirmation bias on my part). Its also why I feel that I must share his most recent work which is basically a recalculation of the GDP of Spain.

The most important I see from his work is that the recomputation portrays Spain as a less poor place than we have been led to believe – throughout the era. To show how much, I recomputed the Maddison data for Spain and compared it with incomes for the United Kingdom and compared it Leandro’s estimates for Spain relative to those for Britain (the two methods are very similar thus they seem like mirrors at different levels). The figure below emerges (on a log scale for the ratio in percentage points). As one can see, Spain is much closer to Britain than we are led to believe throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century. Moreover, with Leandro’s corrections, Spain convergence towards Britain from the end of the Civil War to today is very impressive.

spanishgdp

The only depressing thing I see from Leandro’s work is that Spain’s productivity (GDP / hours worked) seems to have stagnated since the mid-1980s.

spanishproductivity