Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

El Mar de Extremadura: Irrigation, Colonization and Francoism in Southwestern Spain, 1898-1978

  • Author(s): Henderson, David
  • Advisor(s): Radcliff, Pamela
  • et al.

This dissertation considers why the Franco regime pursued a policy of rural settlement, known as colonization, supported by irrigation. It argues that the agricultural engineers of the National Institute of Colonization (INC), rather than protecting the rights of landlords and enforcing a regressive status quo in the countryside or enacting a watered down program of land reform to fill for propaganda purposes, inserted themselves as new authorities in the countryside to actively manage the population. In doing this, they manipulated a legacy of irrigation politics inherited from the Regenerationist political movement that arose after the loss of much of Spain’s empire in the Spanish American War. The Franco regime took a romantic vision of the power of public works projects to incorporate citizens into the nation and sought to ensure the existence of a limited number of upwardly mobile, politically loyal subjects in the countryside. This project subtly changed over time: in the immediate post- Civil War period, the tenancy laws of the regime along with the settlement projects of the INC rewarded politically loyal peasants and stabilized population of towns under the aegis of maximizing production. Laws passed in 1946 and 1949 gave the INC much more scope for action and a Keynesian rationale for large-scale state investment to improve productivity (as a per-capita measure) was introduced. Nevertheless, the INC prioritized obedience and political loyalty over its stated goal of helping colonists become economically independent.

This dissertation takes a bottom-up approach to the regime’s ideology borrowed from environmental history. It demonstrates that the regime’s modernization plans kept its early political principles in mind, but also suggests the limits to these plans in their pretensions to control. These claims are based on research into the plans and correspondence of the INC in its own archives as well as that of the coordinating office of the Plan Badajoz.

Main Content
Current View