This research is a multidisciplinary and transnational analysis of the United States (US) cultural diplomacy towards the Iberian dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s to encourage various modernisation projects which would:
a) Create the socio-economic and cultural conditions for a moderate democratisation that would not endanger continued American access to military facilities in this strategic bulwark in the Cold War.
b) Combine the promotion of development with the containment of communism.
One of the most important but least known elements regarding this issue is the US’ assistance in the field of higher education reform. Thus, this project proposes – through the investigation in archives of various countries and conducting a number of interviews with diplomats and international officials – to examine the American educational cooperation aimed at guiding through a cultural modernisation which would reduce social conflict and smooth the way for regime change in southern Europe.
Yet the crux of the argument is that this top-down educational revolution did not succeed in reinforcing the social order in Spain and Portugal. Rather, it intensified the anti-authoritarian and anti-American student upheavals. Thus, this is a relevant research topic because it helps to explain – including a variety of aspects of Transnational Studies, History of Education and Social History – the limits of higher education reforms designed from above by international technocratic experts with imperfect knowledge of the political conditions of the countries they sought to modernise. In addition, in analysing the reception and contestation of American modernising doctrine by Iberian students on the ground, this research calls for a new grassroots interpretation of development, which contributes to a broadening of the framework of who “counts” in an international history of modernisation. The final results of this research will be translated into two articles to be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and a book to be published by a prestigious publisher.