_ Martín de la Guardia highlighted that Canalejas was the only one able to renew the liberal left with a “modernisation and Europeanization” programme
_ ‘Canalejas. Un liberal reformista’ unfolds the career of one of the greatest Spanish political figures of the early 20th century
FAES Foundation launched on Tuesday, April 1st Canalejas. Un liberal reformista, the fourth volume of the series Biografías Políticas, published by its imprint Gota a Gota. In the event, the author of the book, Salvador Forner, professor of Contemporary History at the University of Alicante and holder of the Jean Monet Chair of History and Institutions of the European Community defined Canalejas as “a fully integrated politician in the Restoration, advocate of the regime and reluctant to accept any constitutional reform”.
“Canalejas was a Spanish nationalist who regarded the Monarchy as a unifying value”, Forner described the politician of Ferrol, and highlighted that “his career evolved from democratic radicalism to fully acceptance of the constitutional Monarchy, and to end up admiring Cánovas”.
According to Forner, “Canalejas, a liberal democrat, directed his political action toward the extension of rights and the political participation of citizens—as an advocate of universal suffrage in 1890 and of the democratisation of the military service—and toward social democracy”. In this respect, he recalled the momentum for reform that Canalejas gave to the State action, “in order to achieve the improvement of working classes as well as their integration in the Restoration regime through public intervention”.
The author believes that Canalejas’s almost three years in office had both good and bad points, but we ought to take into account the framework of “the difficulty of undertaking a reform from within the regime, regarding the particularities of the Restoration, his short term of office and the strong opposition he aroused and which religious extremism gathered with regard to the left outside the regime”. “It was his individual prominence, linked to an undeniable political and parliamentary ability, what gave his figure a specific weight in the Spanish politics of the early 20th century”, Forner stated.
The book was launched in the Centre for Political and Constitution Studies. Ricardo Martín de la Guardia, professor of Contemporary History at the University of Valladolid; Benigno Pendás, director of the Centre; and Miguel Ángel Quintanilla, FAES Director of the Publishing Department, also took part in the event.
Martín de la Guardia, who described the book as “a well-thought work, perfectly structured, lively, entertaining and rigorous in style”, highlighted that, by creating the Liberal Democratic Party, Canalejas aimed to “change politics in order to adapt it to mass society”. In this respect, he highlighted that “since Sagasta, Canalejas was the only one able to renew the dynastic liberal left with a major programme”, where “modernisation and Europeanization seemed to be affirmed in a renovation programme, which opened huge possibilities”.
He also mentioned that Canalejas is sometimes defined with simplifications and claimed that he “deserved much more”. “The author very well explains how he evolved from a republican position to regarding Monarchy as the appropriate framework to successfully undertake the political reforms and how, not being a “Canovist”, he accepted that the elastic nature of the Constitution allowed to implement very reformist programmes”, Martín de la Guardia said, and stated that we cannot “deny Canalejas’s ability to govern, his administrative skills, his honesty and his love for Spain, which was, according to him, a starting point of our political work”.
THE BOOK AND THE SERIES
Canalejas. Un liberal reformista, unfolds the career of José Canalejas (El Ferrol, 1854 - Madrid, 1912), one of the greatest political figures of the early 20th century. The book unfolds his personal evolution, the story of his public action and the context in which it was developed, his ideology and the relationship with his political opponents; and shows the career of a liberal who evolved from democratic radicalism to full acceptance of the constitutional Monarchy and Cánovas del Castillo’s regime.
By publishing this new biography, FAES continues with its purpose of spreading the work and thinking of the most important figures of the Spanish liberal-conservative tradition of contemporary Spain, as well as bringing the genre of bibliographical essays to a wider audience, not exclusively academic, interested in the political history of Spain. The series Biografías Políticas, directed by historian Manuel Álvarez Tardío, shows, through the biographical genre, the existence of a continuity line for the defence of freedom and progress by Spanish liberal-conservatives, and thus contributes to present the Spanish contemporary political history in a plural and sensible manner. The first three volumes were dedicated to Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, by Carlos Dardé; Antonio Maura, by José María Marco,and Francisco Silvela, by Luis Arranz Notario.