The University of Southampton
Special Collections

Los niños project

Los niños: a Heritage Lottery Fund project

Los niños: Exiles from the Spanish Civil War DVD
Los niños: Exiles from the Spanish Civil War DVD

In 2008, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the University of Southampton, in partnership with Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, a grant of £47,000 for a project under its Your Heritage scheme. Led by Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez and Professor Chris Woolgar, the project recorded life story interviews documenting an important facet of the Spanish Civil War and its consequences. Approximately 4,000 children came to Southampton in May 1937 by boat from Santurzi/Santurce, the port of Bilbo/Bilbão, fleeing the war and its consequences, and the experiences of these niños formed the core of the project. They were part of a movement which saw some 20,000 children leave the war zone, dispersed to countries across Europe and overseas.

The Spanish Second Republic was established in 1931, with an ambitious agenda to eliminate deeply-rooted social and cultural inequalities. The republican programme encompassed land and education reform, improved rights for women, restructuring the army, and granting autonomy to Catalonia and the Basque Country. Threatened by far-reaching change, diverse political groupings aligned themselves in the so-called ‘two Spains’. The ensuing civil war lasted three years, with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy helping one faction, Communist Russia the other, with Chamberlain’s Britain leading a policy of appeasement among Western democratic nations. In this bitter conflict, there was a third Spain, which did not want to take up arms, but to live in peace. War, hunger, revolution, counter-revolution, denunciations, persecution, summary trials and executions, and mass repression often resulted in the disintegration of family and community life, desolating a country and forcing thousands of its people into exile.

The project looked at the experiences of the children who came to Southampton and the UK, their lives here, the question of return to the Iberian peninsula, and the complex questions that arise from transnational migration in time of conflict. The interviews were carried out by volunteers. The project created a touring exhibition, an archive of interviews which are held in the Special Collections Division, an online gallery, a printed publication and a DVD for use in schools.

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