1The emergence of Basque nationalism in the early 20th century goes back to historical divisions and the political-legal relations between the Basque provinces and the Castilian crown. Whereas Basque institutions established their origin in a remote past, pre-dating the Castilian crown, the latter declared that they derive from royal power.2 The bloody conquest and annexation of the Navarre crown by the Castilian crown during the 16th century was followed by social riots that called the institutional power, and sometimes clearly the central power, into question. In the aftermath of the 1789 French Revolution the suppression of pre-revolution Basque institutions, and changes in local government regimes, were countered by Basque protest. In the peninsular Basque Country3 throughout the 19th century the Carlist Wars pitted the nobility and urban bourgeoisie against the peasants, and the liberalist model against traditional forms of government preferred by the peasants. The defeat of the Carlist party led to the creation of a wide movement for the restoration of the fueros (charters compiling local or regional public and private law), and their ultimate suppression is remembered in the literature as one of the saddest moments of Basque history. Finally, another decisive event which marked the history of the Basque political conflict was the military uprising of Franco, the subsequent war, repression and forty-year dictatorship.The public accusation of Biscay and Gipuzkoa as being ‘traitor provinces’ because of their proseparatist positions was the clearest example of this heritage of confrontation between the state and the Basque Country.

Historically, we can thus assert that some major historical events have brought Basque institutions into conflict with Spanish (and French) institutions. Even though those conflicts, partly embedded in a European cycle of social unrest, do not follow a consistent nationalist logic, they remained in the Basque memory and became a direct breeding ground for the rise of nationalism later on.

The national conflict: historical and language confrontation

1 This chapter was written by Dr. Julen Zabalo.
2 One prominent representative in this long-standing debate, on the pro-Castilian side, was J.A. Llorente; the answer came, above all, from Francisco Aranguren (see Fernández Pardo, 1990).
3 The term ‘peninsular Basque Country’ refers to southern territories under Spanish sovereignty, whereas the term ‘continental Basque Country’ refers to northern provinces under French legislation.