Joseph Pérez, born in France but one of the pre-eminent chroniclers of imperial and modern Spain, has received the Prince of Asturias Award in Social Sciences for 2014. The 83-year-old Pérez is currently professor emeritus at the Iberian and Latin American studies unit of the University of Bordeaux 3, an institution where he has taught and written throughout entire career.
In honoring Pérez, the Prince of Asturias Foundation cited his work in knocking down some of the misunderstandings about Spain and Latin America:
Joseph Pérez has specialized in the study of the Spanish monarchy and Spanish society and culture in the modern era. His work has revolutionized our way of interpreting episodes that are crucial for understanding the history of the West and Spanish American independence. Both heir and excellent successor to the Annales school of French Hispanic studies, he has contributed to dismantling many prejudices about the institutions and conflicts of the time, enriching the analysis of European history.
Pérez was born in Laroque d’Olmes, a French town near the Spanish border, of immigrants from Bocairent, Valencia. He studied literature at the University of Paris and began his teaching career at Bordeaux in 1956, where he has remained—including a stint as rector from 1978 to 1983 – almost ever since. In 1979 he founded la Maison des Pays Ibériques, to promote research the Iberian and Latin American countries.
In his only notable absence from Bordeaux, between 1989 and 1996 he directed Casa de Velázquez in Madrid, one of five schools located abroad by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. In
Pérez has been a prolific author, including his signature early work on the revolt of the Comuneros in 16th century Castille. Other works include biographies of Spanish monarchs, an examination of the Spanish Inquisition, and several books on the Jews of Spain.
The Asturias prizes, awarded since 1980, are aimed at endeavors that “contribute to encouraging and promoting scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of mankind’s universal heritage.”
Awards are also given in the areas of the arts, communications and humanities, international cooperation, literature, sports, technical and scientific research, and concord, as well as special prize for a town in Spain’s Principality of Asturias.
While many winners of the Asturias prize have a distinctly Iberian cast, past winners in the social sciences, including our most recent Social Science Bites interviewee, Saskia Sassen, have been quite global, ranging from Paul Krugman (2004) and Mary Robinson (2006) to Tzvetan Todorov (2008) and the archaeological team that unearthed the Warriors of Xi’an (2010).