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The Generation of 98.

At the end of the 19th century the concept of “Spain” was about to change. In 1898 Spain suffered the loss of its last remaining colonies in America and the Pacific: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. After a long war in Cuba, the war against the United States began. The old-fashioned Spanish fleet was forced to fight against the American battleships, which consequently led to the Spanish defeat.

At this point Spain had to accept that it was not the same as it once was. The isolationism which it had seen itself subjected to collided with the modern world in which memories of the Empire seemed antiquated. The decadence that had begun with the Habsburg dynasty and continued with the Bourbons, except certain periods of prosperity, which the Spanish had turned their back on for three hundred years, reached its lowest point. This added to the fact that Spain was a country economically weakened and socially divided by the succession of civil wars that had devastated Spain throughout the entire 19th century, from Napoleon´s invasion to the Carlist wars.

Faced with this situation the Spanish intellectuals began to analyze the meaning of the idea of “Spain”. In front of them was a continent that had developed with prosperity: Europe. The diverse European countries had agreed on a new colonial distribution of Africa and Asia. The most prosperous of all was the British Empire. The Franco-Prussian war demonstrated that the fight for dominance in Europe remained firmly in England´s hands. France was relegated to second place, although it managed to conserve certain privileges inherited from Napoleon III´s Empire. Two new states appeared after the dismembering and unification of previous states. On one side Germany, led by Prussia, which found itself joined to some of territory separated from the former Austria-Hungary Empire. On the other side Italy appeared, which united all of the smaller states of the Italian Peninsula. It provided a map of the countries which would eventually take part in the First World War.

The principal characteristic of this generation was the observation of the problems of “Spain”, and the study of the concept of Spain´s generation. The majority of the writers were from the peripheries of Spain and they all saw Castile as the generator of Spain. However at the same time Castile faced an economical and intellectual crisis which worried them.

The most well-known authors of this generation were: Antonio Machado, Miguel de Unamuno and Ramón María del Valle-Inclán.