Ferrol - Urban History
'A Tale of Two Cities'. The Memory of Ferrol, between the Navy and the Working class.*
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 Bib
'It was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever'
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
'Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor'
Augustinus, De Civitate Dei


Modern political culture was formed - amongst other things- by practices of power. It was devised in the cities, because the institutions of power were founded there and, in addition to this, cities posed new challenges for the provision, logistics and control of the population. Many cities of the Age of Enlightenment - particularly those built up on a military basis - were places where the new disciplinary technologies 1 that operated through a coercive organization of space, or the policies of memory 2 that attempted to manufacture consent were to be put to the test. There, elaborate scenographies were to be organized, in order to show off the ceremonial rituals of the state and the elite. Yet the population did not remain the passive recipients of these practices of power: instead they qualified them and created limitations for their application to everyday life, openly calling them into question during times of crisis,3 and reinterpreting the ideas of official political culture to suit their own ends.4 The history of the founding of Ferrol is a clear illustration of this. The city was designed 'ex-novo' by military engineers to serve the Spanish monarchy of the Age of Enlightenment, housing its naval base and dockyards. The principles of stratification on which society was based, and the need to defend the city from enemy attacks and to discipline workers led to the application of a spatial plan charged with violence and with the segregation of the Navy officers and the working-classes. Yet this organization of space demanded a highly costly coercive system, which clashed openly with working-class people when unfavourable economic and political circumstances reduced the financial and coercive capacity of the State.

IIn the long term, the changes brought about by international economics and geopolitics and by the art of war had a direct impact on the viability of the city. In addition, changes in political culture and class alliances led to a redefinition of the practices of power. In the 19th century, the naval base and the enclave economy of Ferrol became obsolete. Furthermore, the new political culture of the nation state and liberal democracy complicated even further the already complex task of controlling a working class which could eventually forge an alliance with the local bourgeoisie. Ferrol's spatial plan proved ineffective against enemy attacks or in disciplining workers, and hindered the growth of the city. The various projects aimed at reformulating the city's spatial plan were based on different policies of memory that attempted to reinterpret the city's history. The political culture of outright confrontation that led to the Civil War allowed for the updating of Ferrol's spatial plan thanks to the identification of a single - and 'accessible' - enemy both inside and outside. The pro-Franco Navy converted the political repression against the working-class people into a major issue in the victory against 'the red enemy': the II Republica. The Franco regime meant the return of a segregated and militarised Ferrol, whereas in the 1980s, European integration and the transition to democracy made this model obsolete. Ever since, the difficulties the city has encountered in outlining an alternative development project and tracing a policy of memory agreed by consensus have been directly linked, and are at once both the cause and effect of the lack of stability that exists in local politics.

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