HST2016: Barcelona and the 'Tragic Week'

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Professor Mary Vincent



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.


Module Summary

Barcelona is now Europe’s most popular ‘city break’, its distinctive architecture recognized as ‘world heritage’ but as famous for its bars and bustling port as for its buildings. A century ago, though, the city was also known for arson and bomb attacks to the extent that Barcelona was renamed ‘the rose of fire’. As the modern city outgrew its medieval origins, the existence of industrial wealth resulted in a spectacular new city, rebuilt in the Art Nouveau idiom after the demolition of the old city walls in 1854. The Eixample not only housed celebratory buildings by Catholic architects like Gaudí and Catalan Nationalists such as Puig i Cadafalch, but was also intended as a modern, egalitarian town. The realities of urban poverty, however, meant that it was always juxtaposed with the crowded alleyways of the old centre, which was fast becoming a breeding ground for anarchism.

The appeal of a political ideology that accepted no authority and had frequent resort to violence will be examined in the module, which will also look at how this provincial city remodelled itself as the Catalan capital, creating a unique architectural style in the process. New modes of urban politics emerged in response to both the challenge of Catalan nationalism and the assault of anarchism. Mass politics gave the marginalized and dispossessed a new voice, and one that claimed possession of the city. Public space became increasingly contested and these struggles between popular and elite, secular and sacred will be a main theme of the module. Artists, businessmen, assassins, and priests all inhabited a city that was at once radical, bohemian, anarchist, nationalist, prosperous and desperate. All these facets were revealed in the violent confrontations of the 1909 Tragic Week, a wave of anticlerical riot in which Barcelona burned.


Module Aims

This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to the in-depth study of the cultural and political history of modern Spain.
  • Develop students' understanding of source criticism, with regard to textual, visual, and architectural sources.
  • Familiarise students with a variety of historiographical approaches (including political, urban and cultural history)
  • Promote students' ability to write informed and cogent essays in clear and grammatical English.
  • Encourage students to develop their confidence and ability in presenting their ideas orally.


Teaching and Assessment

The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars. The lecture workshops will introduce students to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime students on pertinent issues and sources. They will look to provide information, encourage ideas and guide students' private study. Seminars will provide opportunities for students to present their ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources (both textual and visual) prepared in advance and will involve student-led discussions and presentations in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving students in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism.

Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Selected Reading

  • Robert Hughes, Barcelona (London, 1992)
  • Teresa M. Sala (ed.), Barcelona 1900 (Amsterdam, 2007)
  • Temma Kaplan, Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso's Barcelona (Berkeley, 1992)


Intended Learning Outcomes
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