25 Year Retrospective: Advances in the Social and Economic History of Madrid

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The past two days I had the privilege of attending this conference, which focused on the current state of historical research about the villa, province and capital that is Madrid. Personally, I preferred the talks that focused more on specific research to reach this aim, rather than ones that merely repeated the methodology of such research. That is not to say I do not appreciate where they have been, but I find it more fascinating to learn about where they are right now and figure there are many articles summarizing the same information and I can read them if I need a background on any given topic. 

We were invited to the congress because our professor for our class Minorias y Marginadas was one of the head coordinators and he thought it would be a good conference for us to attend. Although not all of the “charlas” conference talks focused on slavery so to speak, many if not all focused on addressing the parts of history that are normally glossed over, such as the role of artisans, women, children, ect. I was introduced to many new topics such as bandolerismo (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandolerismo), which makes the conference worth it for the exposure to such themes. 

One of the hardest things about such conferences is how long they last . We started on Thursday at 9:30 am and somehow were very far behind from the beginning. They factored in a three hour lunch which was promptly cut to an hour and a half, but we were still behind (At this point it was around 2 hours behind schedule). How does a conference get two hours behind schedule? It scarily simple.  Partially the answer is that the program strictly left 20 minutes per speaker, but those 20 minutes also included an introduction and somehow included the debate at the end of the session. That would mean that each presenter was only given 10 minutes to present his or her research instead of the allotted 20 minutes. Other reasons of course are that things like group debate or individual speakers go over such time limits. With 17 speakers planed for the day in four acts you can see how easily it was for them to get behind. 

Therefore at 7:30 we were still lacking 4 speakers, but I needed to catch the train home and felt like I was at the point where I could no longer retain any of the information I was receiving. I had already heard 13 different speeches. So sadly I missed the last four. Some of those last four appeared to be the most interesting because they are about visual culture… so I figure that with the program I can look up their most recent articles and give them a whirl. I returned bright and early on Friday to repeat the other day’s process and hear the remaining 8 charlas. 

I should mention one of the major perks to spending all day on campus, you get to know your classmates. Since I had packed a lunch, (cheap kate), while my classmates ate the menu’s del día I ate a delicious bowl of kate’s cookings. While we sipped on white wine, Eduardo shared all of his knowledge and vast library on Slavery in Spain and the rest of the world.  Then it was back to work!

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