Sefarad Interpreted: The Historiography of Jewish Spain and National Debates, 1914-1941
Resarch project of Pablo Bornstein
The project seeks to study the presentist concerns that informed the interest of Spanish historians in turning toward the medieval history of the Jews at the beginning of the twentieth century, from the perspective of the history of science. These concerns had to do with living issues of the cultural and political contemporary reality in Spain such as Church-State relationship, the construction of a national historical narrative attached to the modern nation-building process, and the efforts for cultural and intellectual regeneration after the vast social crisis Spain suffered as a consequence of the 1898 Hispano-American war. More interestingly, the study of the cultural Semitic legacy during the fist decades of the twentieth century became entangled with a Catholic apologetic movement that stood up in defense of “Catholic science” against the attacks on religion that were perceived coming from scientific positivism. The vindicators of Catholic science stressed the compatibility of reason and faith and thus sought to reconceptualize the modern debate between science and religion in neo-scholastic terms.
Some questions that the research project looks to answer can be posed as follows: How was the emergence of a modern historical scholarship regarding the Iberian Jewish past mediated by the pressing demands of Spanish social and intellectual life? What role did transnational ties between scholars play in shaping the agenda of Jewish studies in Spain? What factors account for the fact that Spanish historical scholarship on the Iberian Jewish past was promoted predominantly by scholars of rather conservative and Catholic leanings? What were the connections between the interpretative schemes designed by the Arabist scholars and the development of historical studies on the Iberian Jews? What specific images of the Iberian Jews were conveyed through this development in Jewish studies?
Pablo Bornstein obtained his PhD in 2019 at Tel Aviv University. He studied History at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and later received his MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is a fellow of the Isaac Abravanel Center at the Institute of International Politics at Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. His book Reclaiming al-Andalus: Orientalist Scholarship and Spanish Nationalism, 1875–1919, based on his doctoral dissertation, is about to be published by Sussex Academic Press: