Ramiro de Maeztu

Ramiro de Maeztu y Whitney (May 4, 1875 – October 29, 1936) was a prolific Spanish essayist, journalist and publicist. His early literary work adscribes him to the Generation of '98. Adept to nietzschean and social darwinist ideas in his youth, he became close to Fabian Socialism and, later, to Distributism and Social corporatism during his spell as correspondent in London, from where he chronicled the Great War. During the years of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship he served as Ambassador to Argentina. A staunch militarist, he became at the end of his ideological path as one of the most prominent Far-right theorists against the Second Republic, leading the reactionary voices calling for a military coup. Member of the cultural group Acción Española, he spread the concept of "Hispanidad". Imprisoned by Republican authorities after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he was killed by leftist militiamen during a saca in the midst of the conflict.

Ramiro de Maeztu
Maeztu in 1934
Ambassador to Argentina
In office
February 1928  February 1930
Member of the Cortes
In office
Personal details
Ramiro de Maeztu y Whitney

(1875-05-04)4 May 1875
Vitoria, Spain
Died29 October 1936(1936-10-29) (aged 61)
Madrid, Spain
Political partyPatriotic Union
National Monarchist Union
Spanish Renovation

Career overview

Ramiro de Maeztu y Whitney was born on May 4, 1875 in Vitoria, the capital of Alava province. He was the son of Manuel de Maeztu Rodriguez, a Cuban engineer and landowner born in Cienfuegos with ancestry from Navarre. While in Paris he had met her mother, Juana Whitney, born in Nice and daughter of a British diplomat, when she was sixteen years old.

He was among the young Spanish intellectuals deeply affected by their country's humiliating defeat in the Spanish–American War of 1898, along with José Martínez Ruiz ("Azorín"), Pío Baroja and others forming the literary Generation of '98.[1] His first collection of essays was published in 1898 under the name Hacia otra España ("Towards a Different Spain").

An early advocate of Socialism,[2] he became disillusioned by the Great War while serving as the London correspondent for several Spanish newspapers, traveling in France and Germany.

After returning to Spain, Maeztu rejected many of his friends and argued that human reason alone was not enough to solve social problems, and argued for the importance of strong authority and tradition rooted in the Roman Catholic Church. These ideas were embodied in his 1916 book, Authority, Liberty, and Function in the Light of the War, first published in English, and later in Spanish as La Crisis del Humanismo (1919).

Maeztu became one of the most prominent defenders of the regime of Miguel Primo de Rivera, and called for Spain to "recover its 16th-century sense of Roman Catholic mission."[3] In 1926 his literary essays were published in Don Quijote, Don Juan y La Celestina, and in 1928 he served as Spanish ambassador to Argentina.

In 1930 he joined the National Monarchist Union along other defenders of the dictatorship such as José Calvo Sotelo, the son of the dictator José Antonio or Eduardo Callejo de la Cuesta.[4]

Along with Pedro Sainz Rodríguez and others, Maeztu founded the right-wing, monarchist Acción Española political movement in 1931.[5] In 1934, his final published book was written, Defensa de la hispanidad ("In Defense of Spanishness"), advocating "a return to pure Spanishness" and strongly condemning Liberalism and the French Revolution's slogan "Liberté, égalité, fraternité", which he countered by his own motto: Duty, hierarchy, and humanity.

On October 29, 1936, Maeztu was murdered by Republican soldiers in the early days of the Spanish Civil War while near Madrid.[6] The following last words are attributed to him: "You do not know why you kill me, but I know why I'm dying: For your children to be better than you!"[7] His political thoughts had a profound influence on Chilean historian Jaime Eyzaguirre.[8]

His younger sister was the Spanish educator and feminist, María de Maeztu who founded the Residencia de Señoritas and the Lyceum Club in Madrid, and his younger brother was the painter Gustavo de Maeztu who has a museum named for him in the Palace of the Kings of Navarre in Estella, Spain.

Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset dedicated his book Meditations on Quixote (1914) to Maeztu — "A Ramiro de Maeztu, con un gesto fraternal."[9]


  • (1899). Hacia otra España
  • (1911). La Revolución y los Intelectuales
  • (1916). Inglaterra en Armas
  • (1919). La Crisis del Humanismo
  • (1920). Del Espíritu de los Vascos
  • (1926). Don Quijote, Don Juan y La Celestina
  • (1934). Defensa de la Hispanidad
  • (1935). La Brevedad de la Vida en la Poesía Lírica Española

Works in English translation

Further reading

  • Blanco Aguinaga, Carlos (1970). Juventud del 98, Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno.
  • Blas Guerrero, Andrés de (1993). La Ambigüedad Nacionalista de Ramiro de Maeztu, Institut de Ciències Polítiques i Socials.
  • Cierva, Ricardo de la (1987). La Derecha sin Remedio (1801-1987), Barcelona: Plaza y Janes.
  • Crawford, Susanna Wickham (1962). The Concept of Liberty in the Essays of Ramiro de Maeztu, Washington University.
  • Fernandez-Barros, Enrique (1974). "Ramiro de Maeztu on Money and Wealth in America," Modern Age, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, pp. 53–63.
  • Iribarne, Manuel Fraga (1976). Ramiro de Maeztu en Londres, Cultura Hispánica.
  • Iribarne, Manuel Fraga (1981). El Pensamiento Conservador Español, Barcelona: Planeta.
  • Flores, María José (2002). Ramiro de Maeztu y Whitney: Un Intelectual Herido Por España, Unipress.
  • González Cuevas, Pedro Carlos (2005). El Pensamiento Político de la Derecha Española en el Siglo XX, Tecnos.
  • Landeira, Ricardo (1978). Ramiro de Maeztu, Twayne Publishers.
  • Marrero, Vicente (1955). Maetzu, Madrid: Rialp.
  • Marrero, Vicente (1986). El P. Arintero y Ramiro de Maeztu, Editorial San Esteban.
  • Nozick, Martin (1954). "An Examination of Ramiro de Maeztu," PMLA, Vol. 69, No. 4, pp. 719–740.
  • Palacios Fernández, Emilio (1982). Ramiro de Maeztu, la Labor Literaria de un Periodista (1897-1910), Diputación Foral de Álava, Departamento de Publicaciones.
  • Rocamora, Pedro (1974). "Ramiro de Maetzu y la Generación del 98," Arbor, Vol. 341, pp. 7–22.
  • Valmala, Antonio de (1908). "Ramiro de Maeztu." In Los Voceros del Modernismo, Barcelona: Luis Gili.
  • Villiers-Wardell, Janie (1909). Spain of the Spanish, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Wilson, Francis G. (1964). "Ramiro de Maeztu - Critic of the Revolution," Modern Age, Vol. VIII, No. 2 [Rep. in Order and Legitimacy: Political Thought in National Spain, Transaction Publishers, 2004].


  1. Nozick, Martin (1971). Miguel de Unamuno, Twayne Publishers.
  2. Comentale, Edward P. (2006). T. E. Hulme and the Question of Modernism, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p. 88.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica: Ramiro de Maeztu
  4. Porto Ucha, Ángel Serafín; Vázquez Ramil, Raquel. María de Maeztu. Una antología de textos. Madrid: Editorial Dykinson. p. 99. ISBN 978-84-9085-383-2.
  5. Boyd, Carolyn P. (1997). Historia Patria: Politics, History, and National Identity in Spain, 1875–1975, Princeton University Press, pp. 225–226.
  6. Arredondo, Christopher Britt (2005). Quixotism: The Imaginative Denial of Spain's Loss of Empire, SUNY Press, p. 91.
  7. González Cuevas, Pedro Carlos (2003). Maeztu: Biografía de un Nacionalista Español, Marcial Pons Historia, p. 359.
  8. "Jaime Eyzaguirre (1908-1968)". Memoria Chilena (in Spanish). Biblioteca Nacional de Chile. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  9. Ortega y Gasset, José (1914). Meditaciones del Quijote, Madrid: Publicaciones de la Residencia de Estudiantes.
  10. Shaw, George Bernard (1916). "The Alleged Confusions of Mr. Bernard Shaw," The New Age, Vol. XIX, No. 7, pp. 197-198.
  11. Lavrin, Janko (1918). "The Dostoyevsky Problem," The New Age, Vol. XXII, No. 24, pp. 465-466.
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