Constructing a Rurality: Valencia, 1750–1920

Friday, January 5, 2018: 4:10 PM
Wilson Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Julia Hudson-Richards, Penn State University Altoona
Within Spanish society, Valencia represents somewhat of a paradox. Currently, Valencia is Spain's third largest city, and even in the late 18th century, the city's population itself had grown to at least 75,000 people within the city walls; other, smaller cities peppered the plains between the mountains and the sea. But the relationship between urban and rural in the three provinces of Valencia, Castellón de la Plana, and Alicante was characterized by tremendous fluidity between the city and the countryside.

In this paper, I examine the role of the rural in Spain, and in Europe more broadly. Further, I argue that the construction of rural identity in this region was in large part an economic project, related to the emergence of global markets in foodstuffs. As agrarian capitalism expanded throughout the region, the idea of Valencian rurality became intimately connected to Valencia's success in the expanding world market. Beginning in the 18th century, with the publication of Antonio Cavanilles's Observaciones sobre la historia natural, geografía…del Reyno de Valencia, through the beginning of the twentieth century, it was profitable to connect the region, also known as the "Levante Feliz," with harmonious social relations and the production of luxury foods like citrus. In this paper, I contrast images of Valencian rurality with discussions of real life in the countryside, to show that not only was the Levante not quite so "feliz," but that the divisions between the rural and the urban were not quite so stark.