Dr Michael Richards

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About me

My research interests lie primarily in the history of modern Spain, its civil war and the dictatorship of General Franco (1936-75). I've also published widely on the entanglement of public memory with today's 'culture wars'.

My current on-going research is a transnational study of the responses of Catholic intellectuals and activists to war, exile and global change since the 1930s. It begins with Spain's war and Francoism, reconsidering the conventional geographical and chronological parameters around study of the civil war. This has led me towards a major new study of global Catholicism at this 'molecular' level of activism.  

My initial research examined the Franco regime as an extreme nationalist alliance which combined fascist-military coercion and traditionalist Catholic ideology. The resulting book, A Time of Silence: Civil War and the Culture of Repression in Franco's Spain, 1936-1945 (Cambridge) was awarded the annual History Today prize.

The Spanish newspaper, La Vanguardia, judged the book to have 'opened the subject to a broader public', while the Journal of Modern History described it as 'pioneering […] posing new questions, breaking down old categories, and suggesting new ways of formulating problems'.

This focus on new approaches was further developed in a co-edited volume: The Splintering of Spain (Cambridge, 2005). This adapted approaches from anthropology, cultural history and cultural geography, including my own work on Catholic wartime struggles over public religious processions. 

In 2013 I published a major study of war memories and public uses of the past in Spain since 1939, including the early twenty-first century: After the civil war: making memory and re-making Spain since 1936, (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

This challenged straightforward notions of collective memory in Spain by situating memory within historical change, including demographic shifts. The former Madrid correspondent of The Times, William Chislett: 'a rigorous de-mythification of an epoch'. It also aimed to contribute to uncovering the often obscured pasts of 'ordinary' flesh-and-blood individuals.

The importance of population movement to memory informed my recently completed project on epidemics and prisons in the 1940s. This assessed the significance of epidemiological records as sources for social history. While hunger played a role in disease in the early Franco years, epidemic resulted from mass spatial confinement of the defeated, combined with forced movement of the incarcerated from prison to prison and through penal labour detachments. 

I also actively link research to public history, including an inter-disciplinary conference on wartime child displacement, which compared recent global refugee challenges with historical cases. This brought historians, sociologists, psychologists, and lawyers together with public charitable and welfare associations

Area of expertise

transnational history of Catholicism 

social and political history of epidemics

public history of violent pasts

internal wars and post-conflict trauma

children and war

Spanish civil war and Franco dictatorship

funding bodies and stakeholders include:

​British Academy; Arts and Humanities Research Council; Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; Severnside Institute for Psychotherapy; Spanish Ministry of Culture and Science; Christian Michelesen Institute (Bergen); Rockefeller Foundation (New York); Norwegian Ministry of Children and Family Affairs; Institute of Historical Research (London)


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