Turriano-ICOHTEC Prize 2018

Lino Camprubí, Los ingenieros de Franco. Ciencia, catolicismo y Guerra Fría en el Estado franquista (Barcelona: Crítica, 2017).

The main goal of this book is to go beyond a history of science and technology under Francoism onto a history of Francoism through science and technology. Its principal thesis is that we cannot understand the building of the Francoist state, and its survival and transformation for almost 40 years, without considering engineers and scientists as active participants in the political economy as well as in diplomacy and international relations.

Due to the harshness of repression, historiography of science and technology in Francoist Spain has been traditionally centered around how the regime hampered research and has tended to show engineering (for instance Public Works) as a mere tool for dictatorial political power. Los ingenieros de Franco rather understands that the phrase “Franco’s engineers” as referring to those that built Franco and his regime. Not a tool for power, but a group of experts who put their knowledge and prestige at the service of the new state with the hopes of pushing their own plans for the country and for their disciplines. It was, moreover, a far from unified group, and different corps and traditions held divergent projects for the Spanish future. This book shows how political discussions in a dictatorship were often fought in technical terms.

A first part of the book deals with material objects and political economy, and it completely rewrites some important parts of the author’s Engineers and the Making of the Francoist State (MIT Press, 2014). A particularly striking example of the book’s methodology is its sharp attention to the coal silo built in 1953 for the Institute for Construction and Cement led by Eduardo Torroja. A detail study of this dodecahedral object, its materials and functionality, takes us to an entire model for the Spanish political economy that had science, autarky and Catholicism at its core. Other chapters look at churches, rural cities planned to transform the Spanish territory, prestressed concrete joists, hybrid rice varieties, and large dams.

A second part of the book focuses more on the role of scientists in shaping Spanish international relations during the Cold War. It explores the significance of standards for the European postwar reconstruction, the importance of migrating birds for scientific and conservation diplomacy, competing strategies to counter energy dependency throughout Francoism, the new meanings of surveillance at Gibraltar in the era of nuclear submarines, and how phosphate geophysics and the fertilizer world market were key in deciding the faith of the Western Sahara, an African colony to this day.

Without loosing its technical and academic rigor, Los ingenieros de Franco is geared towards a large audience of general historians and a general public concerned with politics, economics, the environment and the increasing role of science and technology in our current society.


Lino Camprubí

Universidad de Sevilla / Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

After conducting graduate studies at Sevilla and Cornell University, Camprubí obtained a PhD in History at UCLA in 2011. He was then a Research Fellow in the ERC project “The Earth Under Surveillance” (2012-2014) and, for the following three years, a Research Scholar in Department II of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. In spring 2016, was a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago. Since September 2017, Camprubí has been a Ramón y Cajal Fellow, first at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and now at the Universidad de Sevilla, as well as a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Research Group “Epistemes of Modern Acoustics.”

His first book, Engineers and the Making of the Francoist Regime (MIT Press, 2014), explores the significance of the history of science and technology for producing more accurate understandings of political economies. His second book, Los ingenieros de Franco: Ciencia, catolicismo y Guerra Fría (Crítica, 2017), extends that view onto the role of scientists in shaping international relations during the Cold War. Camprubí has published on phosphates and the Western Sahara, postcolonial nature conservation, energy dependency, and the history of the idea of the global environment. He is about to publish as co-editor two books (Technology and Globalisation: Networks of Experts in World History and De Hiroshima al Antropoceno: Estados Unidos y el nuevo orden científico mundial en España y el mundo) and a journal special issue: Experiencing the Global Environment.

His current main project looks at the coevolution of oceanography and geopolitics with the history of the senses and maritime spaces (particularly in the Cold War Mediterranean).