Engineers and the Making of the Francoist Regime

From Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology

Engineers and the Making of the Francoist Regime

By Lino Camprubí

How engineers and agricultural scientists became key actors in Franco's regime and Spain's forced modernization.





How engineers and agricultural scientists became key actors in Franco's regime and Spain's forced modernization.

In this book, Lino Camprubí argues that science and technology were at the very center of the building of Franco's Spain. Previous histories of early Francoist science and technology have described scientists and engineers as working “under” Francoism, subject to censorship and bound by politically mandated research agendas. Camprubí offers a different perspective, considering instead scientists' and engineers' active roles in producing those political mandates. Many scientists and engineers had been exiled, imprisoned, or executed by the regime. Camprubí argues that those who remained made concrete the mission of “redemption” that Franco had invented for himself. This gave them the opportunity to become key actors—and mid-level decision makers—within the regime.

Camprubí describes a series of projects across Spain undertaken by the civil engineers and agricultural scientists who placed themselves at the center of their country's forced modernization. These include a coal silo, built in 1953, viewed as an embodiment of Spain's industrialized landscape; links between laboratories, architects, and the national Catholic church (and between technology and authoritarian control); vertically organized rice production and research on genetics; river management and the contested meanings of self-sufficiency; and the circulation of construction standards by mobile laboratories as an engine for European integration. Separately, each chapter offers a fascinating microhistory that illustrates the coevolution of Francoist science, technology, and politics. Taken together, they reveal networks of people, institutions, knowledge, artifacts, and technological systems woven together to form a new state.


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262027175 312 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 40 figures


  • By placing dams, rice seeds, irrigation maps, and concrete buildings of worship and research in the center of the study, Camprubí carves out a space for engineering history between cultural and economic history. In this respect this important and well-researched book will serve as an inspiration to historians examining other geographical contexts and periods.

    Technology and Culture


  • This is a strikingly original account of the role of engineers, scientists, and their laboratories in developing new enterprises and institutions under the early Franco regime—no other recent work on mid-twentieth century Spain quite rivals it.

    Stanley G. Payne

    Hilldale-Jaume Vicens Vives Professor of History Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of The Franco Regime, 1936-1975

  • Camprubí has radically revised our understanding of Spanish science and technology during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Heretofore seen as a haphazard collection of projects, Francoist science policy was developed by engineers, whose plans were informed by an ideal of technical rationalism. Policy choices were outcomes of debates among opposing groups of engineers. The result is a coherent narrative that illuminates the engineers' casting of the early Franco regime's notion of autarky in scientific and technological terms, which in turn makes intelligible the transformation of the pristine corporatist state into a regulatory one based on the same presuppositions of technical rationalism.

    Thomas F. Glick

    Professor of History, Boston University, and author of Einstein in Spain

  • Lino Camprubí presents an illuminating study on the relationship between Franco's concept of national redemption and the material reconstruction of Spain in the aftermath of the civil war. By using a set of engaging thematic case studies–from cement to genetic rice and hydropower–the author assembles a consistent narrative on the role of technical rationality, as embodied by scientists and engineers, in building up and securing the Francoist dictatorial regime. This book dwells on the shared territories of science, technology, and politics, and encourages the use of historical knowledge as a tool for understanding today's democratic societies.

    Maria Paula Diogo

    Full Professor, Faculty of Science and Technology, NOVA, Lisbon, Portugal

  • Camprubí has written a fascinating story about the crucial roles of engineers and scientists in the Franco regime's effort to develop a technological nationalism, which allowed the dictatorship to endure for almost four decades. He gives a vivid account of how civil engineers, often in close collaboration with the Catholic Church, built new towns and constructed dams and other infrastructure transforming the nation's territory while agricultural scientists developed new, more productive seeds contributing to an increasingly autarkic economy.

    Arne Kaijser

    Professor of History of Technology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm