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Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective

Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective is a brief overview of Catalonia's history and its difficult relationship with Spain. By looking at the history of the Catalan people, Simon Harris lays out clear arguments as to why Catalonia has the right to decide its own political future now.

Simon Harris

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How much does the rest of the world know about Catalonia as a political entity with strong democratic traditions?

Written in English, Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective is a brief overview of the History of Catalonia with a particular focus on the Principality's often difficult relationship with a Castile-dominated Spanish state.

Author Simon Harris offers clear insights into the historical reasons why Catalans have a right to decide their future designed to inform the English-speaking world but his sharp observations will also surprise many Catalans.

Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective is a tightly-argued chronological analysis of the territory known as Catalonia and the people that occupy it. Its strategic position in the north-eastern corner of the Iberian peninsula between modern Spain and France has shaped its history and its fertile plains and mountain ranges located in an accessible corner of the Mediterranean have influenced its economy.

With emphasis on the development of its political institutions and the importance of its capital, Barcelona, as defining features, comparisons are made between Catalonia and the other Iberian nations, in particular, Castile and Madrid. I argue that chance had an important role to play in the creation of modern Spain and that Catalonia could quite easily have retained its sovereignty in the same way as Portugal did.

Although Catalans and Spaniards will find the arguments refreshing because parallels are drawn between Catalan and Anglo-Saxon democratic concepts, Catalonia Is Not Spain is specifically aimed at an English-speaking audience with a more superficial knowledge of the traditional tensions between the peoples of the Spanish state.

The argument is clear that a people with their own territory and political institutions have every right define themselves as a nation and take democratic decisions about their own political future independently of the opinions of the state of which they currently form part.

What do we need the money for

Given that time is of the essence and I want to publish before the projected vote on November 9th 2014, I will need to employ professional services for editing, proofreading, layout and design.

I will also preorder a sufficient number of copies in order to organise a presentation event in Barcelona and so that Catalonia Is Not Spain is available in major bookstores in Catalonia.

Furthermore, I plan to send copies of the book to key foreign journalists so their articles will be better informed from a historical and cultural perspective.

About the rewards

Free Kindle Version Of The Book With All Pledges!!!

E-Book Edition

A version of the book in PDF format sent to your email address

Book Without Shipping

Use this option if you live in or near Barcelona and expect to be able to attend one of the many presentation events I will be organising in the first week of November.

Shipping within Spain is included in this option.

Book With Shipping Included

If you live in any country apart from Spain, please choose this option and I will ship the book to you.

Shipping to the Iberian Peninsula is included and I will contact you regarding international shipping costs if you live elsewhere.

Double Deal

Receive signed copies of both Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective and my first book Going Native in Catalonia.

Book+Walking Tour

Depending on how many people choose this option, during November and December 2014, I'll be organising a programme of walking tours in English, Catalan and Spanish covering a lot of the sights associated with the political development of Catalonia - Plaça de Sant Jaume, El Born, Parlament de Catalunya, La Llotja etc.

There needs to be a minimum of three people and I don't like groups of more than 6 or 7 so if there's a few of you, why not sign up for this option together?

PS. We'll probably go for lunch somewhere afterwards!


Order 5/10 copies of the book and get a small reduction in price.

Shipping to the Iberian Peninsula is included and I will contact you regarding international shipping costs.

Organisation Option+Talk

The organisation option is 10 signed copies of the book delivered to your offices.

The talk which I gave to ESADE MBA students this summer takes approximately two hours and ideally should take place in your premises


I leave this option open to anyone who simply wants to contribute to informing the English-speaking world about the Catalan cause.

I will get in touch with you during the campaign to come to an agreement about how I can repay the favour.

Estimated calendar

I expect the book to be available on Amazon by late October and be able to do a presentation event in Barcelona in the first week of November.

+ Info

You can follow the progress of the book on my blog where I am publishing draft chapters
Catalonia Is Not Spain Book Blog

You can check out the latest updates at
Catalonia Is Not Spain Facebook Page
Simon Harris on Twitter

copyright: the photos used on this page are published under the Creative Commons license by Wikipedia users Lohen11, pere plz, kippelboy and clara polo


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  • Simon Harris

    Simon Harris

    almost 10 years

    Al llarg dels últims 25 anys moltissims. Crec que el primer va ser Història de Catalunya de Ferran Soldevila. Per aquest llibre ja tenia l'argument en ment i com referència he fet servir principalment una Història de Catalunya de 4 volumens dirigit per Albert Balcells i també uns quants llibres de historiadors anglesos principalment perquè no afavoreixen ni catalans ni castellans. Apart d'aixó molta internet buscant articles i videos en tres llengües.... També llegeixo dos diaris cada dia i veig molts documentals!

  • Ariadna


    almost 10 years

    En quines fonts t'has basat per escriure el llibre? Cites les fonts d'on extreus els continguts històrics?

  • Simon Harris

    Simon Harris

    almost 10 years

    La vaig trobar en Wikipedia sota la llicencia Creative Commons que et permet distribució lliure. Hi havien bastants però com que, tot i que vivim a Barcelona, nosaltres vam fer la Via a Reus volia una foto que recordava la meva experiència ... aquesta la captava millor. Quin dia més bónic. Som i serem! Una abraçada, Simon

  • DMiA


    almost 10 years

    Com has triat la foto de la Via Catalana? És el meu tram, la Via Augusta a Tarragona! No hi surto per 50m !!

  • Simon Harris

    Simon Harris

    almost 10 years

    Afortunadamente, en un tram largo de dos de las avenidas más importantes de la gran ciudad de Barcelona - Diagonal y Gran Via - si que habia sitio por 1,8 millones de personas.

  • David


    almost 10 years

    Acordaos de uno de los principios físicos fundamentales. La ley de la Impenetravilidad. "Dos cuerpos no pueden coexistir en el mismo lugar y el mismo espacio de tiempo" " o sea que 2000000 personas no caben en 240000 metros cuadrados..Tendrían que co

  • Simon Harris

    Simon Harris

    almost 10 years

    De momento, principalmente serà por Amazon pero también serà questión de patear calles y visitar librerias y distribudoras ... pero eso es para más adelante, tenemos que acabar de pulir el texto primero!

  • Pilgar


    almost 10 years

    A mar revuelto, ganancia de pescadores. Has encontrado una forma para vender tu libro?

  • Simon Harris

    Simon Harris

    almost 10 years

    Y la Corona de Aragón originalmente fue el Rino de Aragón y el Principado de Cataluña que mantuvieron sus cortes y fueros distintos. as tarde se amplio para incluir los Reinos de Mallorca y Valencia e incluso Sicilia, Napoles etc. La relación entre los territorios era confederal y no tuvieron ninguna relación politica con Castilla hasta 1469 cuando se casaron Fernando e Isabel. Aun así Cataluña mantuvo sus instituciones hasta despues de perder la Guerra de Succesión en 1714 y la la implantación de del Decreto de la Nueva Planta en 1716.

  • Bos


    almost 10 years

    Me ha gustado la magnifica forma que teneis de darle la vuelta a la verdad, de mentir sobre "vuestra historia" q siempre ha estado ligada a España, en concreto a la CORONA DE ARAGON.

    Cataluña es y sera española siempre por mucho que intenteis mentir

#21 / The Case of the Catalans in the House of Lords

"[..] and the Honour of the British Nation, always renowned for the Love of Liberty, and for giving Protection to the Assertors of it, was most basely prostituted and a free and generous People, the faithful and useful Allies of this Kingdom, were betrayed, in the most unparalleled Manner, into irrevocable Slavery.
—Journal of the House of Lords, vol 19, 20 (1715) with reference to Britain's shameful failure to fulfill its agreement with the Catalans

#20 / Free Kindle Version Included With Every Pledge To Catalonia Is Not Spain Book

Well we're into the last 10 days of the campaign and we're almost there ... less than €400 to go when I looked this morning.

As things were going so badly at the beginning, I cut some corners on costs so €2500 will be more than enough to complete the project.

This means that I can be a bit more generous and as a way of saying 'thank you' I've decided to add a free Kindle version of the book to every pledge ... that includes all the ones that have already been made.

A massive thanks to everyone!!!

PS. If all goes well the paperbacks should be available before the end of October and the digital (PDF and Kindle) versions quite a lot sooner!

If you haven't done so already,

#19 / Catalonia Is Not Spain Book Cover

I've been working on the cover for the Catalonia Is Not Spain book over the weekend and here's the result. The picture is La Diada by Joan Abelló and the Abelló Museum in Mollet del Vallès have kindly given me permission to use the painting that the great Catalan artist produced after the Catalan National Day in 1977, the first after the death of Franco.

One of the big difficulties is getting the blurb text right. Here it is :-

"How much does the world know about Catalonia and its role as a great medieval empire and one of Europe's first nation-states?

In Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective, author Simon Harris takes the reader through 1,000 years of Catalan history focusing on the Principality's often difficult relationship with Castile-dominated Spain.

Assimilation attempts by the Catholic Kings and… read more

#18 / Artur Mas Signs Decree and Calls Vote For November 9

At a solemn act at the Palau de la Generalitat at 10.30 in Barcelona this morning, Artur Mas signed the decree calling for the vote on Catalan independence that will be held on November 9th.

His first words were 'Catalonia wants to speak, wants to be hear and wants to vote'.

The question for the non-binding consultations are 'Do you want Catalonia to be a state? In the case of YES. Do you want that state to be independent?'

It is expected that Mariano Rajoy's government will meet on Monday and call on the Constitutional Court to block the vote.


#16 / Artur Mas Has An Ace Up His Sleeve - Artur Mas Té Un As en La Manga

Translation in Catalan below/Traducció en català abaix


Watching the lengthy interview with Artur Mas conducted by Josep Cuni on the programme 8 al Dia last week, the Catalan President seemed extraordinarily confident about the chances of holding the consultation. I knew he must have an ace up his sleeve but I had no idea what it was until a friend passed me an interesting piece of analysis today. I don't know how accurate this is but if it's true, it looks like we'll win the poker game.

Apparently, the Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Court) cannot suspend the Decret de Convocatòria (the decree for calling the consultation) precisely because it is a decree and not a law and this is also why the Llei de Consultes (The Consultation Law) hasn't yet been published.

read more

#15 / The Anti-Catalan Legacy of Felipe II

As far as the official history of Spain is concerned, the reign of Felipe II was, if anything, even more important than that of his father Carlos V, who by a slow process of piecemeal abdication from 1550 onwards left his son as king of Castile, Aragon and the Italian possession of Naples and Sicily as well as the Netherlands and newly conquered American and African territories. Felipe II became King of Portugal in 1581 and during his reign the Spanish began the exploitation of colonies as far afield as the Philippines, which were named after him. The expression "The empire on which the sun never sets" was coined during reign of Felipe II and reflects the extent and power of the Spanish empire at the time.

On the military front, the reign began well with victories against the French at Saint Quentin and Gravelines… read more

#14 / 1714 - The Case of the Catalans Consider'd

At the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, the Catalans actually pledged allegiance to the Bourbon pretender Philip of Anjou, future Felipe V.

They changed sides and began to support the Austrian Archduke Charles after the Pact of Genoa, which was signed with the English, who promised them military support and to guarantee the Catalan laws and constitutions.

Archduke Charles became Holy Roman Emperor and the English were not so keen on supporting him and also there was a change of government from Whigs to Tories. England pulled out of the war in 1713 after signing the Treaty of Utrecht, from which they got Gibraltar and Menorca.

The Catalans continued fighting but the attrocities committed by the Franco-Castilian troops of Felipe V against the Catalans during the Siege of Barcelona in 1714 preyed on the minds of many liberal Whigs. The case was brought up in Parliament and a number of books were published.

read more

#13 / Why I'm Disappointed by the Scotland Referendum Result

There's been a lot of talk about how the result of the Scottish referendum might affect the Catalan independence movement but to be perfectly honest I always thought it was irrelevant.

Perhaps a YES would have created a precedent and opened up the way for recognition of Catalonia and acceptance by the EU but equally it might have increased fear that more nation-states would break apart and so countries like France, Italy and Begium would have been even keener to block a Catalan referendum.

What is very clear is that the right-wing Spanish nationalist press in Madrid will have field day claiming that this is the end of independence movements for the forseeable future. This is also completely false. There is a strong grassroots movement here, the majority of political parties are in favour of a referendum and a date's been set. Even if Catalans don't manage to vote on November 9th, the Catalan people's desire to control their own future won't go away.

read more

#12 / Un Missatge Per Escocia

Sóc nascut anglès i fa 25 anys hauría estat unionista però viure aqui a Catalunya ha canviat les meves opinions sobre l'autodeterminació de petites nacions.

La meva identificació amb la cultura i llengua catalana ha estat total però en un nivell més practic, em sembla ridícul que s'ha de governar Escocia des de Londres o Catalunya des de Madrid perquè el polítics en els capitals anglèsos o espanyols no estan prou aprop de la gent d'Escocia o Catalunya per saber dels temes qu'els affectin i tampoc lis importen gaire.

Crec que hauria d'havar-hi govern de proximitat i que quan més petit més maco! Aixó no té res a veure amb ser anti-anglès ni anti-espanyol sino voler lo millor per la teva propia gent.

Per tant, jo vull un SI! tant per Escocia com per Catalunya!

.... Gràcies a Enric i Alexandre de Sants-Montjuïc per la Independència per les idees, filmació i bon rotllo!

#11 / A Message For Scotland

Being English born, 25 years ago I would have been a unionist but living here in Catalonia has completely changed my view on self-determination for small nations.

My identification with the Catalan culture and language has been total but on a more practical level, it just seems ridiculous to me that Scotland should be governed from London or Catalonia from Madrid because the politicians in the English or the Spanish capital are neither close enough to the people of Scotland or Catalonia to understand the issues affecting them nor care very much.

I think there needs to be government of proximity and that small is beautiful. This has nothing to do with being anti-English or anti-Spanish just about wanting the best for your own people.

So I'm hoping for a YES! for both Scotland and Catalonia.

.... Thanks to Enric and Alexandre from Sants-Montjuïc per la Independència for the ideas, filming and the great atmosphere!

#10 / La Diada - An Atmosphere of Tolerance

There's been a lot of talk in the right-wing press about anti-Spanish insults during yesterday's Diada. That certainly wasn't my feeling and isn't what I pick up from the independence movement in general.

Sumate is a group of Spanish-speaking Catalans who have no problem campaigning for independence for Catalonia whilst comfortably maintaining a pride in their own culture and language. Many of my football mates in Sant Andreu had no problem in supporting Spain during the recent World Cup whilst at the same time admitting they would vote 'Yes' to independence.

I was really pleased then when a friend sent me this photo of a guy on the Diada wearing a La Rioja shirt. It really sums up the feeling of happy tolerance that this movement is all about.

#09 / El 12 de setembre - El Dia Després

La nit abans de la diada, vaig tuitejar "Potser que la consulta es celebrarà però el govern central no la donarà per valida" al programa 8 al dia d'en Josep Cuni i ara, el día després del 11-S, estic completament segur que aixó és ho que passarà.

No hi ha dubte que el Tribunal Constitucional dictarà en contra de la convocació de la consulta però no sé si imposibilitarà la llei de consultes també. Si no m'en recordo malament, la llei de consultes permet que entitats civils convoquin consultes. Això vol dir que el govern la convocarà i també o poden fer l'ANC o Ômnium. Ho important és que d'alguna manera es farà.

La manifestació demostra clarament que l'ANC i Òmnium són perfectament capacitats per organitzar una consulta sobretot amb el suport tacit del govern. Encara que no sigui dins del marc legal espanyol serà legal sota la llei catalana i els catalans són prou civics per montar un enorme acte de desobedència civil pacificament.

read more

#07 / Paraules de General Joan Prim - Els Catalans, són o no són espanyols?

Paraules dites a les Corts Espanyoles per Joan Prim i Prats, el 21 de Novembre de 1850:

“Ministres d’Isabel Segona: els catalans, son o no son espanyols?. Sapiguem el que són i doneu el remei o la mort, peró que cessi l’agonia. Son espanyols?. Dons retorneu-los les garanties que els heu arrabassat, garanties que són seves, que tenen el dret a usar, perquè les han conquistat amb la seva sang. Si no els voleu com a espanyols, aneu-vos-en de Catalunya. Deixeu-los estar, que no us necessiten per a res. Però si considerant-los espanyols, els voleu fer esclaus, si voleu continuar la política de Felip V, d’omniosa memòria, feu-ho en bon hora i feu-ho del tot. Fermeu-los el ganivet a la taula, com va fer aquell rei, i tanqueu-los dins un cercle de bronze, i si aixó no és prou, sia Catalunya… read more

#06 / The Catalan Tax Deficit Has Existed For Centuries

As far back as the Reapers' War in the 1640s overtaxation has always been a source of friction between Catalonia and central government. Count-Duke Olivares overestimated the Catalan population to fund the Thirty Years War, in 1716 Felipe V introduced the special cadastre taxation system under the Nueva Planta Decrees, in the 19th and 20th centuries absolutist monarchs and dictators had taken advantage of Catalan revenues since the industrial revolution without reinvesting in infrastructures and democratic Spain was no different.

Way back in 1988, every Catalan paid an average of 377,000 pesetas in tax to central government but only recived 267,000 pesetas back making a tax deficit of 110,000 pesetas per person per year whilst other Spanish regions on average received a superavit of 47,000 pesetas a… read more

#05 / 1852 Map Shows Catalonia as 'Assimilated Spain'

This map dates from 1852 and is titled 'Mapa político de España en que se presenta

la división con la clasificación política de todas las provincias de la Monarquía según el régimen especial dominante en ellas', ie. A Political Map of Spain Showing the Division with the Political Classification of all the Provinces of the Monarchy According to the Special Regime Ruling in them. It was made by José María Alonso and is kept in the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid.

It clearly shows that,a century and a half after the Decreto de Nueva Planta and the abolition of Catalan political institutions, the inhabitants of the territories of the former Aragonese crown were not considered Spanish citizens with full rights. These territories were still considered “España incorporada o asimilada” (incorporated or assimilated Spain), in contrast to the “España uniforme o puramente constitucional” (uniform or purely constitutional Spain) centred around Castile.

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#04 / VictusGate - The Spanish Inquisition Returns!

The scandal that broke yesterday when the Instituto Cervantes cancelled the presentation of the Dutch translation of the historical novel 'Victus' by Albert Sánchez Piñol really doesn't surprise me at all and is actually one of the core reasons why I believe the only way forward for Catalonia is independence from Spain.

Victus is, in my opinion, a slightly trashy dramatisation of the events surrounding the Siege of Barcelona in 1714. I bought it and got bored because I much prefer dry history books to historical novels. ... but that's just me!

However, in the 200 or so pages I read I found the story to be relatively harmless. It attempted to bring a historical event to life by adding fictional characters and a bit of spice. In no way is Victus political even polemical.

Consequently, I was amazed to read that the Instituto Cervantes had blocked the presentation event in Holland. To be perfectly honest, it just seemed petty.

read more

#03 / Catalanophobia!

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about anti-Catalanism ... I'm not making it up!

*In a historical and political context, anti-Catalanism expresses itself as a xenophobic attitude towards the Catalan language, people, traditions or anything identified with Catalonia and the political implications of this attitude. In its most extreme circumstances, this may also be referred as Catalanophobia. Several political movements, known for organizing boycotts of products from Catalonia, are also actively identified with anti-Catalanism.

Anti-Catalanism in its most virulent form is mostly associated with far-right Spanish political parties. Groups such as España 2000 object strongly to the autonomy enjoyed by Catalonia, claiming that the granting of autonomy to Catalonia and other regions will lead to the breakup of Spain. A former saying amongst… read more

#02 / Homage to Catalonia?

Fun fact: in 2003, Orwell's Homage to Catalonia was published uncensored in Spanish for the first time. But they censored the title: it's called Orwell en España!

Thanks to my friend Roger Evans for the information!

#01 / The War of Succession and the Països Catalans

A Facebook friend from Mallorca shared this post from another FB friend of hers, Bartomeu Mestre. I hope they are both happy about me sharing this here but the point that the Franco-Castilian troops were not only attacking Catalonia but also Valencia and the Balearics is so crucial that it mustn't be forgotten. I'll try to weave some of these ideas into the section covering the war and also remember to point out that Mallorca didn't fall until 1715


Escric amb una justificada indignació. En el programa DIVENDRES d'ahir, Agustí Alcoberro, director del Museu d'Història de Catalunya, va explicar la Guerra de Successió. Ho va fer, damunt d'un mapa retallat i, entre simplismes, va arribar a sentenciar: "A mi m'agrada dir que la guerra va començar a Vic i va acabar a Cardona" (sic).… read more

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