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Paul Preston: comparing current Spanish language's situation in Catalonia to Franco's repression of Catalan is "ridiculous"

The renowned Hispanicist Paul Preston, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics (LSE), received an honorary PhD from Tarragona’s Rovira i Virgili University (URV) on Friday. Before the ceremony, Preston seized the opportunity to state that comparing the Spanish language's current situation in Catalonia to that of the Catalan language during Franco's dictatorship "is ridiculous". "In 35 years no one told me anything for not speaking Catalan", he said in perfect Catalan. Preston's remarks follow controversial statements by the Spanish Minister for Education José Ignacio Wert on Wednesday. In particular, the Spanish Minister was recorded stating that "the situation of Spanish [language] in the education system of Catalonia, limited to being used as a non-tuition language, like any foreign language, is comparable to the situation of Catalan [language] in the times they like so much to remember", referring to Franco's dictatorship.

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15 May 2015 09:15 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The renowned Hispanicist Paul Preston, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics (LSE), received an honorary PhD from Tarragona’s Rovira i Virgili University (URV) on Friday. Before the ceremony, Preston seized the opportunity to state that comparing the Spanish language's current situation in Catalonia to that of the Catalan language during Franco's dictatorship "is ridiculous". "In 35 years no one told me anything for not speaking Catalan", he said in perfect Catalan. Preston's remarks follow some controversial statements by the Spanish Minister for Education José Ignacio Wert on Wednesday. In particular, the Spanish Minister was recorded stating that "the situation of Spanish [language] in the education system of Catalonia, limited to being used as a non-tuition language, like any foreign language, is comparable to the situation of Catalan [language] in the times they like so much to remember", referring to Franco's dictatorship.


Paul Preston strongly refuted the parallel drawn by the Spanish Minister, recalling that since his arrival in Catalonia, until he learned to speak Catalan, "nobody ever told me anything; I never had any problem". "When people in Madrid tell me that in Catalonia Spanish language is not spoken in the street and children cannot [learn it]...I find it absolutely ridiculous", he said. "I have no words to say to what extent I find it ridiculous," he concluded.

José Ignacio Wert made the controversial statement on Wednesday, when a journalist recorded it without the Minister noticing. When asked to repeat the statement in front of microphones, Wert refused. The Spanish Minister went on to clarify a few hours later, saying that he had expressed himself in a wrong way. He also added that Catalan was persecuted during Francoism "in a ruthless way" and that he thought that such persecution was "abominable". Both pro- and anti-independence parties in Catalonia, with the only exception being the Spanish nationalist ones, have requested Wert's immediate resignation or dismissal.

Preston denounced "the current hostile climate" between Catalonia and Spain

When asked about the current political situation, Professor Preston denounced the current "hostile climate" between Catalonia and Spain. He compared the "hatred attacks" towards Catalonia to those received by Scotland following the recent elections in the UK, comparing the role played by the Spanish People's Party (PP) to that of Cameron's Conservative Party in the United Kingdom.

"London's attitude is increasingly similar to that of Madrid", he said. "For electoral reasons they have spread, not exactly hate, like that which has been spread in Catalonia, but something very unpleasant in the last [UK General] elections ", Preston underlined. "A solution should have been found six or seven years ago", he concluded.

Preston is working on a new book, focusing on the history of political corruption in Spain

Commenting on his new projects, Preston announced that he is working on a new book which will focus on the history of political corruption in Spain. A work covering the "incompetence of political professionals", more superficial than his other recent works on the Civil War and Francoism. "It is rather a list of names" he stated ironically.

According to the Professor, drawing parallels between the current political situation and other historical periods - such as the Spanish Civil War or the Second Republic - is difficult. However, corruption and incompetence have always been some of the common traits of the Spanish political class. Even if in the past "opportunities were not as many as those unveiled by the real estate bubble and tourism", he underlined. According to Preston, "the economic crisis strengthened the ruling classes".

Preston described his conferral as Honorary Doctor by URV as an "honour"

On his conferral as Honorary Doctor by the URV, Preston declared to be "positively surprised" to have been chosen for this "honour and privilege". The English Historian and Hispanicist recalled that, throughout his career, he worked with several researchers from the Catalan University Rovira i Virgili, expressing his satisfaction for belonging to this academic community.

Currently, Preston holds the Príncipe de Asturias Chair of Contemporary Spanish Studies and is the Director of the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies at the London School of Economics (LSE). The Professor is globally known for his numerous works on the Spanish Civil War and Francoism, with 'Franco. A Biography' and 'The Spanish Holocaust' being two of the most famous.

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  • Paul Preston's acceptance speech after his honourary doctorate from the Rovira i Virgili University (by ACN)

  • Paul Preston's acceptance speech after his honourary doctorate from the Rovira i Virgili University (by ACN)
Paul Preston: comparing current Spanish language's situation in Catalonia to Franco's repression of Catalan is "ridiculous"