Front Page Titles (by Subject) Spain and the Imperial Myth - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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Spain and the Imperial Myth - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Spain and the Imperial Myth
“Spain: The Spanish Problem and the Imperial Myth.” Journal of Contemporary History 15(January 1980):5–25.
The year 1898 became known as the ‘Year of Disaster’ for Spain, as the Treaty of Paris brought to a head the ‘Spanish problem.’ At the signing of the Treaty, Spain surrendered the last shreds of a once vast overseas empire. Her navy lay in the bed of the Pacific or the Caribbean, sunk in two brief battles with almost contemptuous ease by the American fleet. The demolition of the Spanish illusion of grandeur threw a large part of the politically aware population into a state of shock and despair. The agonized reaction of so many Spaniards to the Disaster of 1898 contrasted sharply with the relative equanimity displayed towards the loss of the world's most extensive overseas empire, stretching from Cape Horn to the borders of present-day Canada, during the 1820s.
As Spain entered the nineteenth century, she was secure in her role as an imperial power, and just glimpsing the potential of industrialization. Here, says Blinkhorn, opens the room to doubt as to whether Spain's empire could ever have become the industrialized world power she perceived herself to be. Easy colonial wealth contributed to the Spanish bourgeoisie's persistent lack of economic enterprise and its ready acceptance of rural-aristocratic values. In summary, the Spanish rulers maintained a reactionary outlook in government clinging to illusions of days-gone-by, despite rapidly changing world affairs outside Spain. The full outcome of territorial loss of the 1820 revolution was never quite realized in Spain. Had the entire overseas empire been relinquished by 1830, it is at least conceivable not only that Spain's economic and social development might have been healthier. Given a decade or two, Spain might have adjusted more comfortably to a second-class status, which was finally and brutally forced upon her in 1898.
As Spain gradually came to accept that the independence of the Spanish-American mainland was an accomplished fact, her rulers' determination to cling fast to the Antilles and the Philippines only increased until it became a virtual obsession. From the 1860s the view prevailed in political circles that Spain's “greatness,” self-respect, prosperity, and internal peace depended in large part upon keeping her surviving colonies, and above all, Cuba.
This notion of Spain seeking to return to her former stature, when her governing elite clung to a fantasy of national greatness inspired by her imperial past and largely dependent upon her continuation as a colonial power, is central to any understanding of the malaise which was produced by the 1989 Disaster. It did not precipitate the downfall of the monarchy, but it did inject new life into Republicanism, which eventually seized power in 1931.