This book is not a history of wrongdoing in Spain between 1800 and 1936, or even of its more narrowly defined form, crime. Its concern is with something akin, albeit different, namely the cultural construction of wrongdoing, and its legally defined manifestation, crime; and with the way in which such phenomena were experienced and understood in Spain of this period.
One of the most striking features of the cultural construction of wrongdoing in academic and criminological circles in Spain during this period is that there has been a predominant focus on the violent manifestations of wrongdoing. Constancio Bernaldo de Quirós, an early criminologist, in 1906 cited Spain as one of the highest on the list in Europe for the occurrence of violent crime (Bernaldo de Quirós 1906: 21). In intellectual terms, Bernaldo de Quirós was in dialogue with Durkheim, as evidenced by his 1904 pamphlet, ‘Una polémica sobre la normalidad del delito’, which was sparked off by Durkheim's Les règles de la méthode sociologique (Paris: Alcan, 1895) (Bernaldo de Quirós 1904: 9). In line with what is put forward in that text, Bernaldo de Quirós argues for crime being understood as ‘una inmoralidad’ which has incurred a penalty (Bernaldo de Quirós 1904: 11). As J. Carter Wood has noted (Wood 2004: ix): ‘law is only one of the social institutions that set the boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable, and these lines are continuously contested and shifting’.
The focus on violence shown in the example of Bernaldo de Quirós was far from an isolated occurrence. The recent historical survey by Gutmaro Gómez Bravo in a collection of essays on ‘Heroes of Wrongdoing’ demonstrates that the focus has fallen less on wrongdoing in itself than on its manifestations through violence. Gómez Bravo's essay in that collection is a bold historiographical review, reflecting not simply the violence that existed in Spain's history, but the changing and evolving attitudes to how it should be represented, discussed and formulated in academic study. In his article ‘De las costumbres violentas de la sociedad española’ (Gómez Bravo 2017), he surveys the thematic importance of violence as a means of understanding Spanish history, but always with an eye to those constructing as well as to the object under (re)construction.