Snippet: Casajuana on Hugh Thomas (1931-2017)

On May 7, 2017, the historian Hugh Thomas, author of one of the most influential books on the Spanish Civil War, died at age 85.

There have appeared obituaries in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, and El País.

In an article entitled “The ‘prince of hispanists'”, Carles Casajuana writes about his personal experiences with the British historian when he was the Spanish ambassador to the UK. Among other things, he says that the author of The Spanish Civil War (1961; revised ed. 2001), maintained that the Catalan Arnau de Vilanova (Wikipedia) in the 13th century invented the process of alcohol destillation and the production of liquor, which he called acqua vitae. Though the Chinese also claimed the invention, Thomas thought that Arnau at least was the first one in Europe. As to the importance of British historians in the historiography of Spain, Thomas thought the fault lay with the Franco regime and censorship that didn’t permit Spanish historians before 1975 to look without prejudice onto their own recent history; his colleague Paul Preston thinks that there is a second reason, i.e. the way history is taught at British universities, centered on thinking, processing a lot of different information and drawing conclusions, rather than learning by heart huge amounts of historic data. On a more personal note, Casajuana expresses his gratitude to Thomas and his wife for invinting him on different ocasions to dinner parties, which enabled him to get to know many different people and to learn a lot about the British mentality and culture.

You can read more on Carles Casajuana (Sant Cugat del Vallès, 1954) on the pages of the Catalan Writers’ Association. This blogger enjoys his weekly op-ed article in La Vanguardia.

SOURCE: Carles Casajuana, “El ‘príncep dels hispanistes’,” La Vanguardia, May 13, 2017, p. 28 [printed edition]

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