An autarkic science: Physics, culture, and power in Franco's Spain

Nestor Herran, Xavier Roqué

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16 Citations (Scopus)


We discuss the rise of modern physics in Spain during Francoism (1939-1975) within the context of culture, power, and the ongoing historical assessment of science during the dictatorship. Contrary to the idea that Francoist policy was indifferent if not hostile to modern science, and that ideology did not go deeper than the rhetorical surface, we discuss the ways in which the physical sciences took advantage of, and in turn were used by, the regime to promote international relations, further the autarkic economy, and ultimately generate power. In order to understand what physics meant within the National Catholic political order, we contrast the situation in the post-Civil War decades with the situation before the war. First we discuss how the war transformed the physicists' community, molding it around certain key fields. We then turn to the work of right-wing ideologues and conservative scientists and philosophers, who stressed the spiritual dimension of the discipline and argued for the integration of science into the Christian scheme of the world. The cultural realignment of the discipline coincided with the institutional changes that harnessed physics to the military and economic needs of the autarkic state, which we discuss in the final section. To conclude, we reflect upon the demise of autarkic physics in the late 1960s and the overall implications of our argument with regard to the development of physics in Spain. © 2013 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-235
JournalHistorical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013


  • Francoism
  • History of physics
  • International relations
  • Science and culture
  • Science and ideology
  • Science and politics
  • Spain
  • Twentieth century


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