Guide to visit the museum

Third floor

18th century to 21th century

The transformation of the countryside


Wine press (23)

Despite the harsh situation that follows the War of the Spanish Succession, over the 18th century there is an economic recovery that lays the foundations for the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century.

The wine press exemplifies the transformation of the rural world, with the specialization of crops and the application of new techniques. The vine is the most important crop of the time, flourishing all over the country, even on the most difficult land. The grape is designed for the production of wines and spirits, which leads to the growth of an industry that expands in response to demand from overseas markets. That is the beginning of an industry that is still very much alive in Catalonia today.

The activation of agricultural production also stimulates the traditional industries such as forges, paper mills or woollen mills. That whole process of growth receives a fresh impulse from 1778, with the possibility of direct trade with the American colonies. The profits are invested in new industries for producing printed cotton fabrics, the indianes, the cornerstone of industrialization.



Loom (26)

The incorporation of the steam engine from 1830 is the definitive step towards the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia. The factories colonize the cities and sprawl out along the major rivers to take advantage of the flow of water, whilst in 1848 the first railway line on the peninsula is inaugurated, between Mataró and Barcelona, for goods transport.

The textile industry is the driving force of Catalan industrialization. Looms driven by steam are lined up in huge mills, where hundreds of people work amidst a tremendous din. Working conditions are harsh: long days, scant hygiene and a high accident rate, with no protection of any kind against illness. Wages, which can barely guarantee subsistence, are even lower for women, who are a majority in the textile industry, and children, who start work at a very early age.

As happens all over industrial Europe, the first workers’ associations appear to channel their demands and are often violently repressed.

Cultural recovery


Jacint Verdaguer’s L’Atlàntida (28b)

Durant the second half of the 19th century there is a great flowering of culture linked to the recovery of the Catalan language and culture, a movement known as the Renaixença. In showcase 28b you can see extracts from novels written in Catalan by authors of the day, such as L’Atlàntida by Jacint Verdaguer.

After more than a century of prohibitions of the use of Catalan, the Renaixença launches a process of defence of Catalan language and identity which will continue through the 20th century. The recovery of traditions and the rediscovery of the historical and artistic heritage are also part of that process, since they are included in the search for a cultural identity. All of that is driven by a strong associative movement, characteristic of the end of the 19th century, where quite different interests such as song, training, sport, folklore or history are mixed with national and class demands. This is also the time of the first feminist movements, with figures such as Dolors Monserda, author of La fabricanta,which, from conservative positions, call for improvements in the situation of women workers.

An explosion of modernity


Gaudí chairs (30d)

The concentration of population in the industrial cities of the 19th century leads to the demolition of the Mediaeval walls and the development of new districts. Among them, the Barcelona Eixample becomes the showcase of the wealthy industrial bourgeoisie of the city, with new buildings in Modernista style.

Architects and artists identify with the new aesthetic, as do traditional craftsmen such as furniture makers, glaziers or jewellers. Modernisme is everywhere, even in decorative elements and furniture, like the chairs designed by Gaudí for Casa Batlló, in Passeig de Gràcia.

The style, linked to movements such as Art Nouveau in France or Free Style in England, creates Bohemian circles around cafes and taverns such as Els Quatre Gats, a haunt of Picasso’s when he lived in Barcelona.

Political Catalan nationalism


Presidential chairs and table from the old Barcelona Provincial Council (XX)

In the early 20th century the first Catalan nationalist parties are founded and soon achieve recognition in the Spanish parliament. The main success is the creation of the Mancomunitat, which federates the four Catalan provincial councils to manage education, culture, health and infrastructures. It is the first institution since 1714 to recognise the personality and unity of Catalonia.

But those first years of the 20th century are scarred by social conflicts, with continuous outbreaks of violence. Strikes and demonstrations are harshly repressed, white the industrialists react to threats to their property by hiring gunmen to use against the trade union leaders. Social and political conflicts provide the excuse to proclaim a military dictatorship led by Primo de Rivera, who persecutes workers’ movements and Catalan nationalism

The recovery of self-government


Statute showcase (35b)

On 12 April 1931 the first municipal elections after the fall of the dictatorship are held and bring a resounding victory for the Republican candidates. Encouraged by the victory of his party, on 14 April Francesc Macià proclaims the Catalan Republic in Barcelona, whilst in Madrid the Second Spanish Republic is proclaimed. Under pressure from the provisional central government, Macià renounces his project in exchange for the granting of an autonomous government for Catalonia.

And so work begins on drafting a statute of autonomy, the legislative framework for the organization of the government in Catalonia. The document is approved in a referendum after a widespread social mobilization. Although the articles are later trimmed by the parliament in Madrid, the parliament of Catalonia is at last constituted in 1932 and Macià leads the first government of the modern Generalitat.

This is a period of progressive initiatives, such as the granting of the vote to women, but also of ideological clashes, in an international context dominated by the rise of fascism, which causes a deep rift in society and brings down the Republican project

The Civil War


Battle of the Ebro trench (36)

The uprising by the army against the government of the Second Spanish Republic on 17 July 1936 marks the outbreak of the Civil War. The south-eastern part of Spain falls to the rebels, with the support of the most conservative sector. Elsewhere the coup is foiled thanks to the cooperation between the forces of order loyal to the Republic and the trade unions.

The war drags on for three years and has severe effects on the civilian population. Problems of supplies are compounded by confrontations between the different political and trade union forces, as well as the bombing of the civilian population, especially by Hitler’s and Mussolini’s air forces, which support the rebel side led by Franco.

In December 1938, after the defeat of the Republican army in the Battle of the Ebro, Franco’s troops occupy Catalonia. More than 450,000 people are driven into exile across the French border, fleeing repression by the regime. Some find shelter in other countries, but most remain in France. With the outbreak of the Second World War, former Republican soldiers join in the defence of France and thousands of them end up in Nazi concentration camps. They are not acknowledged by the Spanish government

The Franco regime

Yoke and arrows (27c)

Yoke and arrows (27c)

Yoke and arrows (27c)

The Civil War ends officially on 1 April 1939, the beginning of a dictatorship that lasts until the death of General Franco in 1975. The first decades are strongly marked by rationing and shortages, the result of an isolated economy.

The regime exercises a strong political and social control and imposes a conservative morality under the watchful eye of the Church. The yoke and arrows, emblem of the Spanish Falange, are part of the symbology of Francoism and represent the single party of the regime. The parties and trade unions opposed to Francoist ideology are made illegal and their members hounded. The most important case is the execution of the president of the Generalitat, Lluís Companys, in 1940.

Nationalisms are persecuted in order to promote the image of a uniform Spain. In Catalonia, as in the Basque Country or Galicia, the local languages are banned once again and the institutions established during the Republic are dismantled.

Any hope of the fall of the regime after the end of the Second World War fades rapidly with the arrival of the Cold War, thanks to Franco’s opposition to communism.

The economic growth of the sixties


Seat 600

With the changes in international politics, from the sixties the borders are opened to tourism and foreign investment, especially in industry. This is an attempt to project an image of economic progress and social welfare. Catalonia, where this sector is concentrated, begins to recover economically and attracts new waves of workers from Andalusia, Extremadura and Galicia. The emblematic example is the opening of the SEAT factory in Barcelona. One of their cars, the SEAT 600, becomes the first car a large part of the population can afford.

Despite the control and the repression, new opposition to the Franco regime emerges in workers’ collectives, student groups and even neighbourhood associations. The demands are many: from the recovery of democratic freedoms and labour rights to civic aspects such as equality for women or sexual orientation, by way of national demands in the case of Catalonia. Demonstrations, concerts and publications are often violently repressed by the police and the army.

Catalonia today


Election posters (41)

After the death of Franco in 1975, the road to the democratic transition opens up. Social pressure in favour of change and the internal division of the regime guide the process to the formation of a provisional government and the drafting of a new constitution.

In the middle of the process, in 1977 the government of the Generalitat is restored with the return from exile of President Tarradellas. The approval of a new statute and the constitution of the new Parliament with the elections in 1980 launch a new period of self-government.

At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st we are living a new diversity in language, culture and religion through the settlement of newcomers from all over the world. Society has become more diverse and adopted new references. It is facing great economic changes: from the economic growth of the first years of European integration and the impulse of the Barcelona Olympic Games to the great depression that has brought about the loss of the industrial fabric and countless jobs. The political debate remains open, especially on social issues and the position of Catalonia in relation to Spain.