The Past on the Line


While it has long been recognised that borders are prime sites for the defining and redefining of nations and states, it is only comparatively recently that it has been thought worthwhile to examine closely the social reality of those actually living on international borders. This paper looks at some of the oral history –‘the stories they tell about themselves’ – of the inhabitants of a part of the Portuguese-Spanish border; specifically an area of the frontier between the Portuguese region of Trásos-Montes and the Spanish region of Galicia. Tales of bandits, of smugglers, of the Spanish Republican maquis and of the police of both sides reveal the often surprising fluidity of who is 'us' and who is 'them', as well as perhaps helping us to understand just how much the new 'Europe without Frontiers' is rhetoric and how much is – or might become – reality.

How to Cite

Kavanagh, W., (2000) “The Past on the Line”, Ethnologia Europaea 30(2), 47-56. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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William Kavanagh (Universidad San Pablo-CEU, Madrid)



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