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History Lessons Forum: Men, Facts, Stories

We address in this forum the historical development of the environments (cultural, political, economic ...) in which Humanity has developed throughout the past, a historical analysis of the moments that marked their evolution and that of the relative societies on which they acted.

We serve a triple front

Singular personalities that with their actions shaped the meaning of our society

Events, supervening or induced, which in turn brought about substantial modifications in the lifestyles of those who experienced them

How contemporary witnesses to events, or historians of any age, understood and composed the account of some events or the course of lives that in his opinion deserved to be remembered. 

John E. Gelabert

Adjunct Professor at the University of Santiago (1976-1988) and Professor of Modern History (1988-2018) at the University of Cantabria. Fellow of the Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica "Francesco Datini" (1974), Fulbright (1983) and British Council (1984). Visiting professor at The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.), École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris) and Center for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (Cambridge). Author of books, articles and various collaborations on the Spanish and European history of the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries.


Discover all the publications, session summaries and other documents related to the activity of this forum:

22 2020 September

Speaker: Alvaro Delgado-Gal, Writer and director of the "Book Magazine"

Moderator: Juan E. Gelabert González, Professor of Modern History, University of Cantabria


The story is usually explained in two ways. One: as a process whose causes have character, let's put it this way, material. The economic facts, the struggle between the parties for power or changes in the social and legal organization prevail in the foreground. Two: ideas (of freedom, justice, equality, religious, national dominance) take the lion's share. The first vision is often contrasted with the second.

In the rapporteur's opinion, this is a mistake. A “naturalistic” conception of man should also include ideas. Ideas, within human behavior, are no less primary than the desire to eat.

6th October 2020

Speaker: Laureano Castro Nogueira, Doctor in Biological Sciences, Professor of Baccalaureate and Professor-tutor, UNED

Moderator: Juan E. Gelabert González
, Professor of Modern History, University of Cantabria


In this forum session, we analyze, among others, the following issues:
- The evolutionary mechanism: consequences of the Darwinian algorithm.
- Human evolution: stages and main features.
- Two essential elements in the evolutionary success of our species: tribal-scale cooperation and cumulative culture.
- Human cooperation: conflict between cooperation within groups and between groups.
- Our evolution as cultural organisms: the role of teaching.

Last November 18 we celebrated in Fide, within the framework of the History Lessons forum: Men, facts and stories, the session on the limitations of republican democracy: the hard-fought and disputed elections of 1936.

We have in the session with the intervention of Manuel Alvarez Late, Professor of History of Political Thought and Social and Political Movements, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and moderated by the Director of the Forum, Juan E. Gelabert Gonzalez, Professor of Modern History, University of Cantabria.

Fide organized this session with the aim of delving into one of the most resistant and complex debates on the history of Spain in the XNUMXth century, which refers to the quality of republican democracy in the XNUMXs.

Some have argued that it was the first great democracy in contemporary Spanish history and that, despite its problems, it was the victim of those who did not want the modernization of the country and abhorred economic reforms and social justice. Others have seen in it a regime of violence, disorder and coercion that would have prevented the normal development of democratic freedoms, becoming rather the door to a revolutionary process through which, sooner or later, the so-called bourgeois left would have been cornered. and surpassed by the social revolution. Historians who are furthest removed from partisan memoirs and least willing to be carried away by a tricky presentism have thoroughly investigated various aspects of the operation of the Second Republic and have managed to dismantle various myths on the right and left.

Today it can be affirmed, without any doubt, that the history of the politics of the Second Republic can be approached without drama and with a reasonable objective distance. However, the publication of the research on the February 1936 elections provoked some surprising reactions in that they showed the resistance of some historiographic and media sectors to accept the weight of evidence and data regarding the weaknesses of the democratic culture. in Spain in 1936. The session will address the problems of building a pluralist democracy, within the framework of the political cultures of interwar Spain, analyzing the main characteristics of the last and controversial electoral consultation before the outbreak of the civil war .

Manuel, author -together with Roberto Villa García- of 1936. Fraud and violence in the elections of the Popular Front, He presented in the session, the most relevant aspects of his analysis on the electoral process that led to the arrival of the Popular Front to power. He did so by pointing out from the beginning the peculiarities of the electoral law itself, whose precise influence on the political outcome of the process he insisted on highlighting. He briefly synthesized the scenario (1934-1936) in which the actors who emerged from the 1933 elections unfolded, to then influence the turbulent environment that was unfolding from this moment, with particular attention to the events of 1934.

With the help of a simple table in which the results achieved by the formations that had attended the elections were collected, Manuel presented the final translation in seats of the peculiarities of the system that the Republic had enshrined in the law of May 8, 1931. The polarization into two blocks offered no room for doubt.

After the intervention, the debate was opened in which numerous questions were raised, ranging from the possible analogies between that past and the present; the conditions of access to the deposits that guard the ad hoc documentation; levels of fraud; the powers of the presidency of the Republic in the development of political action, among others.

On December 14, 2021 we celebrated in Fide, within the framework of the Discussion Forum History Lessons: Men, Facts and Stories, the session on the crisis of the third century in Rome and the creation of a new order (235-284 AD)

We have in the session with the intervention of Adolfo Dominguez Purse, Professor of Ancient History, Autonomous University of Madrid and moderated by the Director of the Forum, Juan E. Gelabert Gonzalez, Professor of Modern History, University of Cantabria.

Fide convened this session with the aim of analyzing, among others, questions such as how and why the so-called crisis of the s. III, the main historical moments and people involved, the internal and external dangers (disintegration and external threats), the changes in the conception and ideology of imperial power and the path to a solution with Diocletian.

They had the opportunity to analyze what the “crisis of the s. III ”, which put in check the model of imperial power in Rome that emerged with the reform of Augustus and which, with more or less ups and downs, lasted until 235 AD In the years from 235 to 284 the Roman Empire was shaken by a series of coups d'état that the lecturer did not hesitate to describe as "pronouncements." Plunged into a state of "anarchy" of which the endless series of emperors (more than thirty) that mark the period is good proof, the Empire is witnessing the breakdown of the model in force until then characterized by orderly successions and the pre-eminence of the Senate . No less significant is the appearance of emperors from the periphery (Maximinus the Thracian; Philip the Arab). This could be explained by adducing the pressure that the "barbarians" (particularly the nascent Persian, Sassanid power) exert on the borders, pressure that would end up giving as a result in the time of Diocletian (284-305), he too a peripheral, a kind of federalization of the Empire (the so-called Tetrarchy) as a provisional solution to the complicated situation that only the arrival of Constantine "the Great" (year 306) managed to stop.    

Through this historical process mentioned, it was possible to reflect on this important period that supposed an absolute reorientation of what, until that moment, had meant Rome, opening the way to new social, political and ideological models.

On March 29, 2022 we celebrated in Fide, within the framework of the History Lessons forum: Men, facts and stories, the session on The Art of Government of Philip II and the Lepanto Campaign.

Fide convened this session with the aim of analyzing the main judgments about what could be (from the point of view of historians) an example of the danger or the virtue of following a policy based on religious principles, a skilful strategy, a model of realpolitik, or nonsense.

The Battle of Lepanto (1571) takes place at the end of a particularly critical period in the reign of Philip II. From 1568 onwards, the king's problems accumulated: revolt of the Moors of the kingdom of Granada (1568); tension with England due to the capture in the English Channel of money sent to Flanders (1568); rebellion of the English Catholics who demand the help of the King of Spain (1569); Ottoman offensive culminating in the capture of Cyprus (1570)..., and to all this is added the contemporary deployment of the army in Flanders with which it is intended to put an end to the revolt that arose there. It is therefore not easy to make decisions in this context. The monarch must be able to deal with enemies and allies based on interests that are not always acceptable to each and every one of the parties that make up their European domains. What does seem certain is that for once the Turkish threat reaches such proportions as to be able to bring three Catholic powers (Spain, Venice and the Papacy) to an agreement to combat it. The interests of each partner are however diverse. Venice is especially affected by those of an economic nature. Spain and the Italian territories (Naples, Sicily) fear for their own territorial integrity and the safety of navigation. Pius V embodied an ideal of a united Christendom (or Christian Republic) under the leadership of the papacy, both on the southern front against the Turk, and on the northern, against heresy. In fact, it was the Pope who asked Felipe II to act on both fronts at the same time.

The military victory of 1571 was indubitable from this point of view. For the first time since the fall of Constantinople (1453) a Christian army inflicted a resounding defeat on an Ottoman force. From other points of view, the panorama is no longer so rosy. The League disintegrated with the same speed with which the Turkish army was rebuilt, capable in 1574 of taking Tunisia. Philip II understood the urgency of addressing the southern front at this precise juncture and acted accordingly. In addition to the reputational gain, the monarch also secured substantial financial compensation, as indeed were the papal concessions (crusade, subsidy, excused) granted the day after the signing of the League (May 20, 1571).


Recommended reading:


  • J. Rodriguez-Salgado, Philip II, the "Paladin of Christianity" and peace with the Turk, Valladolid, 2004.
  • Manuel Rivero Rodrguez The battle of Lepanto. Silex, Madrid, 2008.


Last April 19 we celebrated in Fide, within the framework of the History Lessons Forum: Men, facts and stories; the session on Understand-calmly-the history of racialization processes

The History Lessons Forum welcomed the intervention of Professor J.-F. Schaub, professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris). His approach had an interesting pedagogical profile, in the sense of trying to make the young generations understand a phenomenon in which Europe itself was immersed practically from its very beginnings as an organized society. He pointed out how human judgment works and acts based on what it perceives by sight, and that, consequently, it finds in the difference a first criterion for categorizing the other. In his opinion, however, it would only be possible to speak of racism as an operational historical concept at the moment in which the characters -of all kinds- that derive from physical appearance are considered hereditary, typical of a «race». It should not be surprising, then, that societies such as the European ones, historically articulated according to differential principles (mainly: noble and non-noble) would have welcomed other binary forms of opposition, forms that over time acquired a trinitarian profile that the dessert ended up prevailing, especially in Iberian societies. Along with the noble (of "race") and the non-noble, the "ennobled" appeared; to the free and to the slave the manumitted was united; the legitimate son was attached to the legitimate son and the bastard; etc. Each and every one of these combinations implies the presumption of a "stain" that is perpetuated, and that only with the advent of liberal thought allowed Europe to get rid of such prejudice.

Recommended reading:

SCHAUB, JF and SEBASTIANI, S. (2021Race and history in Western societies (XV-XVIIIe siècle)

On May 17th we celebrated in Fide, within the framework of the History Lessons Forum: Men, facts and stories; the session on Prehistory of sovereign debt, 1350-1700

The History Lessons Forum hosted last Tuesday the intervention of the John E. Gelabert, Professor of Modern History at the University of Cantabria and co-director of this forum. Professor Gelabert's intervention presented an overview of the evolution of public credit in general and of sovereign debt in particular from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the XNUMXth century. He did so by taking examples from France, England, Spain and the United Provinces, pointing out the evolutionary sequence of each one of the cases and the common factor in the appearance of all of them, that is, the challenge caused by the successive armed conflicts in the struggle for supremacy within the European state system. The conference tried to show to what extent the relays in this struggle for supremacy were guided by the financial conditions in which the states faced these conflicts, and specifically their ability to dispose of abundant and cheap credit.

The attached bibliography should serve to expand the information on the subject.

Recommended reading:

  • Brewer, John. The Sinews of Power. War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783, New York, 1989.
  • Epstein, S.R. Freedom and growth. The development of states and markets in Europe, 1300-1750, Valencia, 2009.
  • Murphy, Ann L. Demanding 'credible commitment': public reactions to the failures of the early financial revolutionThe Economic History Review, 66, 2013, pp. 178-197.
  • Roseverare, Henry. The Financial Revolution, 1660-1760, London-New York, 1991.
  • Rowlands, Guy. The Financial Decline of a Great Power. War, Influence, and Money in Louis XIV's France, Oxford, 2012.

Bravo Castañeda, G. "Another historiographical myth ?. The crisis of the third century and its terms in the new debate ”. Historical Studia. Old history, 30, 2012, pp. 115-140.


The crisis of the third century is first and foremost a historical problem, which has occupied the attention of historians for decades, if not centuries. But the traditional historical problematic (army, currency and slaves at this time) has been largely replaced by a new debate: are there new sources of information? Is there a new historiographical myth here? Was there really a crisis? If so, how do you name the different crisis situations? In order to answer these questions, knowledge of ancient, literary and archaeological sources is necessary, but the analysis of the various theories elaborated on their interpretation is also useful. Furthermore, historians, in the new debate, cannot dispense with other data, in particular the results of archeology, which have radically modified the historiographic discourse on the crisis in recent decades. In this sense, one could speak of a true paradigm shift among historians, to which other avenues of research have also contributed. In short, here you will find up-to-date information on the elements and reasons for this debate.


More information >>>

Brown, P. The world in Late Antiquity. From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad. Madrid, 1990.


A pioneering work that explains the world of today like few others.

With this extraordinary book, Peter Brown coined for posterity the concept of Late Antiquity, indispensable for understanding European history, by casting a new look at the cultural, religious and social changes between 200 and 700 AD. His vision, rich, colorful and removed from the often repeated idea of ​​the decline and fall of the empire, shows to what extent this crucial period profoundly marked the divergent evolution of the West and the Middle East. We are still living the results of this profound contrast.

More information >>>

Fernandez Ubina, J. The crisis of the third century and the end of the ancient world. Madrid, 1989.


Critique and balance of the most important studies carried out on the crisis of the third century and the end of the ancient world, based on the analysis of their different - and contradictory - interpretations.

More information >>>

Illustration: Javier Montesol

Contemporary impressionist painter interested in the urban landscape, Goyesque prints and bullfighting. 

Despite his training at the Faculty of Economics of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​he belongs to the generation of the so-called "New Spanish Comic" that during the 70s built a new language and graphic expression. He participated in the creation of emblematic magazines such as "Star" and "Cairo" and at the end of the eighties in a new way of commercializing Art as "Supermer'Art". He left comics in the nineties to dedicate himself to painting, exhibiting regularly in Spain and France, the country where he will reside from 1992 to 1999, the year in which he returned to Spain. In 2012 he published the graphic novel "Speak Low" which signifies his return to comics.

Academic coordination: Queen Victoria Dal Lago Demi


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