Friday, 5 June 2015

Raymond Carr & Gerald Brennan:

A Break With Romanticism

Albert Raymond Maillard Carr, historian: born 11th, April 1919;
died 19th, April 2015.
IN 1999, I met the historian Raymond Carr after he'd given a talk on Spain at the Cervantes Institute in Manchester, he was just eighty and asked me if I was 'a fan' of the late Gerald Brenan the anthropologist who wrote the classic work on Spain 'The Spanish Labyrinth'.  He'd been at pains in his talk to point out that Brenan had got it wrong when he'd claimed that the Spaniards were different, and would never succumb to capitalism and the Protestant ethic.  In his talk Carr said that there was little to distinguish Spain now from other capitalist countries in Europe.
When we discussed Brenan, Raymond Carr complained that he'd tried to get Brenan to write a volume for the Oxford History of Modern Europe, but he'd declined saying he had already written 'The Spanish Labyrinth' and wanted to concentrate on more creative writing.  The Oxford anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers, who went on to write another anthropological classic 'The People of the Sierra' about a village in near Ronda researched in the 1950s, accompanied Carr on this occasion.  Pitt-Rivers' ethnographic study of the village of Grazalema in the Sierra de Ronda has been criticised by historians such as Eric Hobsbawm.
In the end Carr ended up writing 'Spain: 1808-1939' based on the failures of the Spanish middle classes to resolve the resistance of the landed gentry to political and social change.  Discarding the 'Black Legend' one reviewer said of Carr that 'like Napoleon, he believed that: “Spaniards are people, just like any others”.'  And yet, his history was steeped in huge reading of Spanish novels such as those of Benito Pérez-Galdós. 

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