The Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea Library, the principal archive of Gipuzkoa, is home to a lot of great online sources for anyone with an interest in Basque Studies.

Luminous Guide

One such source is an early travel guide (of sorts), written for British forces taking part on the Liberal side in the First Carlist War (1833-39), and published in 1836 in Baiona (Bayonne). Titled, in the rather long-winded fashion of the day, A Luminous Guide for the British Cooperative Forces in Spain on the Principal Subjects Connected with Particular Information Relative to the Basque Provinces, the book was authored by Sotero de Goicoechea, a lieutenant in the Liberal forces of Bilbao.

 

Luminous guide extract 1

“Curious English, Spanish and Basque Vocabulary of Different Most Useful Words,” with the author pointing out that he uses the Basque of Markina, it being the only place where “purest Basque” is spoken in Bizkaia.

After a brief summary of the current political situation from an unabashed pro-Liberal perspective,  Goicoechea provides a general introduction to Bizkaia: its physical and human geography, some of its customs (music and dance), and system of governance. He then goes on to describe specific towns in the province in more detail, concentrating on their location and social and economic status. Particular emphasis is also given to the area in and around Bilbao. The guide then lists the distances, in English miles, between selected towns, before providing the names and prices of inns, restaurants, and coffee houses, and even detailed pricing of wine and basic provisions. Finally, the book provides a basic dictionary including everyday terms that these British troops may need to know with various translations from English into French, Spanish, and Basque.

This is not really travel literature as such, but what the book does offer is a snapshot of everyday life in Bizkaia in the 1830s. To read the full text, click here.

To learn more about the social and political singularity of Bizkaia at this time, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition, by Gregorio Monreal Zia. This is a comprehensive account of the specific legal structure that Bizkaia enjoyed within the Kingdom of Spain.

To read a pro-Carlist account of the First Carlist War, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign in Navarre and the Basque Provinces, by C.F. Henningsen. This is a first-hand account of the conflict between the spring of 1834 and summer of 1835 written by a English volunteer in the Carlist ranks.