University of Bath

Stolen or Removed? Reframing the debate on Spain’s tens of thousands of lost children

In this seminar, Dr Peter Anderson from the University of Leeds discusses the 'abduction' of the children of political opponents during the Franco era.

25 Jan 20181.15pm
25 Jan 20182.05pm
Evening street view and traffic in Valencia, Spain
In recent years, historians as well as activists have been arguing for a line of continuity between the political and criminal ‘abductions’.

Dr Peter Anderson's paper looks at the history of the removal of around 30,000 children from political opponents by the Franco regime during and shortly after the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Officials placed these children in Catholic care homes loyal to the regime or in the families of supporters.

From the 1950s to the early 1990s, these political removals morphed into a criminal enterprise as corrupt doctors and nursing staff seized between 180,000 and 300,000 babies from vulnerable parents and sold them into adoption. In recent years, both scandals have sparked a major debate in Spain and historians, as well as activists, argue for a line of continuity between the political and criminal ‘abductions’.

The paper shows that the existing literature has emphasised the domestic context of new Francoist and eugenic policies that sought to ‘steal’ children from opponents. As a result, Dr Anderson argues, the origins of the regime’s actions in the long-term development of child removal policies in Spain and around the world have gone unnoticed. His research seeks to trace the broader history, make connections with other child-removal scandals and to give voice to the silenced.

This talk is organised by the research cluster Politics of Culture and Memory and is chaired by Senior Lecturer Nina Parish.