The Basque Contention: Ethnicity, Politics, Violence, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Basque Contention

Ethnicity, Politics, Violence, 1st Edition

By Ludger Mees


280 pages | 18 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781857439632
pub: 2019-07-09
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To the outside world, for some half a century, the words ‘Basque Country’ have provoked an almost instant association with the Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA - Basque Homeland and Liberty) separatist group, and violent conflict. The Basque Contention: Ethnicity, Politics, Violence attempts to undo this simplistic correlation, and for the first time, provide a definitive history of the wider political issues at the heart of the Basque Country.

Drawing on three decades of research on Basque nationalism, Ludger Mees weaves together the various historical and contemporary strands of this contention: from the late medieval kingdoms of Spain and France and the first articulations of a Basque ethno-particularism, to the dissolution of ETA in 2018, and all manner of dictatorships, conflict, peace, civil war, political intrigue, hope and failure in-between.

For anyone who has ever wanted to gain an insight into the Basque Country beyond the headlines of ETA, and grasp the complexity of its relationship with Spain, France and indeed itself, this volume provides a detailed, yet digestible, basis for such an understanding.

Table of Contents

List of Figures


  1. Introduction: Retrieving the pirates
  2. The context: Problems of state and nation building in France and Spain
  3. Basque particularism: The process of ethnogenesis from the 17th to the 19th centuries
  4. The Noble Savage

    In search of a name

    The Grande Nation

    On the Spanish side of the border

  5. The claim for sovereignty: The evolution of Basque nationalism until the Civil War (1895-1939)
  6. The Founding Father

    Aggiornamento and constitutionalization

    From contentious politics to war

  7. Between resistance and accommodation: The Basque contention during Francoism (1939-75)
  8. Paris, Berlin, New York

    Cold War does not speak Basque

    Nation building and coercion

    Economic growth, social unrest and politics

    The appeal of revolutionary nationalism

  9. Transition to democracy: Regional autonomy or independence? (1975-80)
  10. Spaniards, Franco has died!

    Basque peculiarities

    The appeal of the National Front

    Constitutional versus historical rights

    Autonomy or independence?

  11. The shape of autonomy and the problem of political violence (1980-95)
  12. New policies, old spectres

    From hegemony to power sharing

    Reviving the 1936 experience: the entente between opponents

    Pan-nationalist temptations, first edition

    The microcosm of violence

  13. The radical decade (1995-2005)
  14. A new swing of the PNV pendulum

    From pluralism to polarization: nationalists versus constitutionalists

  15. From violence to politics: Nationalism and the end of ETA (2006-18)

Secret talks around a cooking pot

The PNV at a crossroads

The unexpected aftermath of a car bomb

Back to the roots


About the Author

Ludger Mees completed his PhD in History at the University of Bielefeld (Germany) and was Assistant Professor at the same institution before taking up a lectureship at the University of the Basque Country (Bilbao, Spain) in 1991. Since 2004 he has been full Professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country and between 2004 and 2009 he was also Vice-Chancellor. He is author, co-author or editor of 17 books and about 120 articles and book chapters in the fields of nationalism, social movements, historiography and agrarian history.

About the Series

Europa Country Perspectives

The new Europa Country Perspectives series, from Routledge, examines a wide range of contemporary political, economic, developmental and social issues from areas around the world. Complementing the Europa Regional Surveys of the World series, Europa Country Perspectives will be a valuable resource for academics, students, researchers, policy-makers, business people and anyone with an interest in current world affairs.

While the Europa World Year Book and its associated Regional Surveys inform on and analyse contemporary economic, political and social developments at the national and regional level, Country Perspectives provide in-depth, country-specific volumes written or edited by specialists in their field, delving into a country’s particular situation. Volumes in the series are not constrained by any particular template, but may explore a country’s recent political, economic, international relations, social, defence, or other issues in order to increase understanding.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Economic Conditions
POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / European