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

The Basque Contention
Ethnicity, Politics, Violence

ISBN 9781857439632
Published July 10, 2019 by Routledge
300 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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 claim for sovereignty: The evolution of Basque nationalism until the Civil War (1895-1939)

  5. Between resistance and accommodation: The Basque contention during Francoism (1939-75)

  6. Transition to democracy: Regional autonomy or independence? (1975-80)

  7. The shape of autonomy and the problem of political violence (1980-95)

  8. The radical decade (1995-2005)

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


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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 in 1991. Since 2004 he has been 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 19 books and about 120 articles and book chapters in the fields of nationalism, social movements, historiography and agrarian history.