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Francisco Gracia Alonso 2009. La arqueología durante el primer franquismo (1939–1956). Barcelona: Bellaterra. ISBN 978-84-7290-462-0.

This new book by Prof. Gracia Alonso (University of Barcelona) is a detailed empirical study of the history of Spanish archaeology during the first seventeen years of the Franco dictatorship in Spain. This period has been identified, by the scholarship on the history of Spanish archaeology in the last twenty years, as having a singular identity, in terms of the processes taking place in the development of the discipline, especially in administrative terms.

Prof. Gracia's volume is characterised by factual detail and meticulous scholarship. The lack of references within the text, due to the radical decision by the publishers to cut all footnotes, however, gives the reader the false impression that this study has been undertaken in a vacuum with no previous research having taken place. Although an extensive bibliography is listed at the end of the book, its division into three blocks – books and book chapters, proceedings and articles – makes it even more difficult to identify the work by other authors that has partly been the basis of Gracia's volume.

The study is divided into three parts. Part One deals with the dismantling of the system created in the first third of the twentieth century. Chapter one explains the measures taken by both sides of the Civil War to safeguard archaeological and art objects from the devastating effects of war. In the second chapter the exile of the two main professors of prehistoric archaeology in Spain is analysed, and we are informed of what happened to them after they left Spain, and of what was the attitude towards them from those who stayed. Chapter three then examines the purges of museum personnel, through which the state administration ensured that all of those who remained in their jobs were faithful to the regime (or were well aware of the consequences of opposing it).

The second part of the book explains the new organisation of archaeology under the Franco regime. The author examines the practice of the General Commisariat of Archaeological Excavations (Comisaría General de Excavaciones Arqueológicas, CGEA) between 1939 and 1945 (chapter 5), the relationship between Spanish and German archaeologists during this period (chapter 6), the similarities with Fascist Italy and the contacts between Spanish and Italian archaeologists (chapter 7). Chapter 8 details funding by the CGEA to archaeological excavations between 1946 and 1956, and the negotiations with other administrative state departments to ensure this funding are described.

The final part of the book dissects the efforts to break with the status quo created during the two first decades of Francoist Spain. These efforts were undertaken by a group of professionals and aimed at removing from his post the man at the top of archaeological administration in Spain, Prof. Julio Martínez Santa-Olalla. This was done on three fronts. Firstly, through very active Spanish participation in the International Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences (CISPP after its French initials) (chapter 9). Secondly, 1954 is highlighted as a key year with the celebration of the IV CISPP in Madrid, and the celebration of the interview oposición) for the Chair of Prehistory at the University of Madrid, which was lost by Santa-Olalla (chapter 10). Finally, the end of the CGEA is scrutinized in chapter 11. In a concluding chapter we are then told about the aftermath of the disappearance of the CGEA.

This book has an enormous amount of data mainly gathered in archives. It does not only revisit research undertaken in the last two decades by others, but also provides a wealth of new evidence. The result is a largely descriptive volume, but one full of information. The reader finds out much about how politics influenced the administration of archaeology, though the analysis lacks a discussion on how politics influenced the direction of research and the interpretations made. The style is direct. Chapters do not have an introduction and lack conclusions. The baseline is that the data speaks for itself, and, one has to say that, to some extent, it does! Nevertheless, it would have made an easier read if the author had provided us with an overview of the main points under discussion and also had spelt out his contribution to the advancement of knowledge in this area.

Prof. Gracia's volume, in sum, is essential reading for those looking at the impact of politics on the administration of archaeology. It will also be useful for a broader public interested in the impact of the Franco regime on Spanish higher education and heritage administration.