Submitting Institution

University of Cambridge

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Professor Sinclair's project on `Wrongdoing in Spain 1800-1936' explores the difference between cultural representations of wrongdoing and their underlying realities, and includes the digitization and cataloguing of c4500 items of popular Spanish material held at the University Library, Cambridge (UL), and the British Library (BL). This contributes significantly to the conservation, stewardship, and enhanced accessibility of this ephemeral material, increasingly valued and recognized as important in Spain as part of its social history and heritage. Digitization also makes this fragile material available to support teaching. An exhibition of this material and comparable material in English runs at the UL, Cambridge April — December 2013, strongly supported by a virtual exhibition. Public engagement events extend the understanding of the relevance of this material to modern Britain.

Underpinning research

Professor Sinclair has been a member of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Cambridge since 1971 and has held the position of Professor since 2002. The focus of this case study is the impact of her AHRC-funded project `Wrongdoing in Spain 1808-1936: Realities, Representations, Reactions", which began on 1 May 2011. The research underpinning this project, relating to the fundamental concept of the gap between the realities of wrongdoing, and its cultural representation, is articulated in three books (2001, 2007 and 2009).

Sinclair's 2001 book on Unamuno (1864-1936) broke new ground in establishing the range and quality of the familiarity of this philosopher and novelist with work in the sciences as well as his broad humanities culture, and included his understanding of what constituted wrongdoing (elaborated further in a chapter in a forthcoming Companion to Unamuno). Her 2007 study on Sex and Society in Early 20th-Century Spain (2007) (shortly to appear in a second edition) explored the history of the complex reception and development of both eugenics and sexual reform in Spain through the figure of Hildegart Rodríguez. The centrality of issues concerning the judgment of wrongdoing, specifically in relation to the murder of Hildegart by her mother led to the conceptualization of the Wrongdoing project. Her 2009 study, Trafficking Knowledge in Early 20th'Century Spain, focused on two areas relevant to the project: the cultural imaginaries involved in cultural exchanges, and the significance of literature produced for a popular market, particularly explored in Chapter 1.

The above publications were all sole-scholar pieces of research. In addition there is Sinclair's convening of two conferences, leading to the organization and editing of papers for two volumes in which she also published her own papers, the 2004 publication on Alternative Discourses in Early Twentieth-Century Spain (2004) (with Richard Cleminson, Reader in Spanish History, University of Leeds), and Eugenics, Sex and the State (2008) (with Richard Cleminson and Martin Richards, emeritus professor, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge). These meetings and their subsequent publications clarified the degree to which central areas of social and criminal judgment were constructed by and inflected by historical and geographical circumstance. The whole provided a platform of confidence for looking at the specifics of the popular material presented in the exhibition, and in a series of acts of public engagement.

References to the research

1. Sinclair, Alison (2001). Uncovering the Mind: Unamuno, the Unknown, and the Vicissitudes of Self (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001). 248 pp.


2. Sinclair, Alison (2004). Alternative Discourses in Early Twentieth-Century Spain:
Intellectuals, Dissent and Sub-cultures of Mind and Body
, special number of Bulletin of Spanish Studies 81 (6) (September 2004), edited by Alison Sinclair and Richard Cleminson, pp. 687-848.


3. Sinclair, Alison (2007). Sex and Society in early twentieth-century Spain: Hildegart Rodríguez and the World League for Sexual Reform. Cardiff: University of Wales Press (2007). 263 pp.

4. Sinclair, Alison (2008). `Social Imaginaries: the Literature of Eugenics', Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39 (2) (2008), in Eugenics, Sex and the State, special number on comparative eugenics edited by Richard Cleminson, Martin Richards and Alison Sinclair, 240-246. DOI information: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2008.03. Available online at


5. Sinclair, Alison (2009). Trafficking Knowledge in Early Twentieth-Century Spain: Centres of Exchange and Cultural Imaginaries. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer (2009). 223 pp.

6. Sinclair, Alison (2012) `Popular Faces of Crime in Spain' in Constructing Crime, ed. Christiana Gregorious (London: Palgrave), 145-161. ISBN 9780230299771

All of the above (except "6") have undergone peer-review.


Professor Sinclair is the PI of the AHRC-funded project (2011-2014) `Wrongdoing in Spain 1808-1936: Realities, Representations, Reactions', £695,000 + PhD studentship.

All outputs can be supplied by the University of Cambridge on request.

Details of the impact

The Wrongdoing project runs 2011-2014, so that the REF census date falls before its completion. However, even at this early stage the project has had considerable impact, via principally three routes:

1. Digitisation and Preservation of Fragile Material

The project has made a significant contribution to library resources by ensuring the conservation in digital form of fragile material (4500 items in the UL and BL) thus contributing to the preservation and presentation of cultural heritage. By the end of July 2013 digitization of all the material was complete and 69% of all the material had been catalogued. Catalogue items are available for consultation online by the public as soon as they are completed, and the links to the digital images will be available six months after completion of the cataloguing. The project has furthered work in the preservation of fragile material in the following ways: acting as pilot for the provision of virtual exhibitions in the UL; acting as pilot for the use of optical character recognition in relation to fragile material for the UL; purchase of more material (c1600 comedias sueltas of 19c theatrical material by UL, July 2013; training and professional development of Sonia Morcillo as expert cataloguer of this fragile material. [5.1]

2. Exhibition

The project includes an exhibition at the UL, April to December 2013, thus contributing to presentation of cultural heritage and enhancing the quality of the tourist experience. The exhibition, `Read all about it! Wrongdoing in Spain and England in the long nineteenth century' showcases items of popular literature being digitized and catalogued in the project, and puts them into play with comparable items from England. This contextualizes the Spanish material, and makes more immediate the suggestions of connexion with English history and culture, both historically and in contemporary life. By following a life-cycle from the education of the child to the retribution meted out to the wrongdoer, the exhibition maps out a well-structured narrative of choice and action, and social reaction in the two cultures. From its inception the project has been outward-looking, and has engaged regularly with non-academic audiences. Significantly the exhibition is accompanied by a virtual exhibition [5.2], which will continue to be available via the UL website. By the end of July 2013 there had been 4074 hits to this website, and 9577 visits to the physical exhibition [5.3]. The project also has and will continue to have widespread and public visibility through the Digital Library page of the UL [5.4].

The Cambridge exhibition derives its narrative from work being done by Sinclair, and is evident in the sections that track a life-cycle from childhood to final retribution. `Knowing Right from Wrong', relating to visual culture and material for children, (material published in item 6 (2012) of Section 2); two sections on parent/child frictions draw on the Vilaseca Memorial Lecture, given by Sinclair in 2011; work on bandits as heroes is published (2011) and submitted for the REF; `What you see is what you get' relates to Sinclair's work in eugenics as in items 2, 3, and 4 of Section 2); `Unnatural women' and `Monstrous criminals' were discussed in the Vilaseca lecture as were issues of reaction and reception of the culture of wrongdoing. The exhibition material has been presented to non-academic audiences: an open discussion in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin School of Art, 7.5.2013, including a Visiting Leverhulme Fellow, and staff in Art and Illustration; the Cambridge Bibliographical Society (including library staff) 15.5.13; visit of 30 ten-year old pupils (Parkwood Primary, Hackney) 21.5.13, with pre-exhibition discussion; visit of European librarians to conservation department of UL and exhibition 20.6.13; 40 sixteen-year olds from secondary school in Cumbria 24.6.13. A teacher with the Parkwood Primary visit commented "The pre- exhibition lecture/discussion was valuable, providing a focus for what followed. The children began to pay close attention in the `question and answer' session, seeming to follow the discussion" [5.5].

The exhibition has been reviewed in the Times Higher Education Supplement (2.5.13) , Culture 24, (29.4.13) [5.6], Visit Cambridge (29.4.13) [5.7] and in the Cambridge Evening News (30.4.13).


The project has already had impact within education. In the sphere of HE, it was the source for 8 hours of Master's teaching at the Universidad Juan Carlos, Madrid, February 2012 [5.8], to an international audience comprising students from Spain, Latin America and China. Talks to secondary schools on the representation of the Spanish bandit has contributed to access and outreach programmes, and school audiences at St Paul's Boys School, London (11.5.11), and Petchey Academy for Girls, Hackney (23.2.12), have been presented with the question of the construction of crime at the same time as the talk has been an illustration of the broad nature of work that can be entered into by those studying foreign languages. Positive feedback has come from both schools. A teacher from St Paul's wrote: "Thank you so much for taking the time to come to St. Paul's and speak to the boys. The Eurosoc talks are a great opportunity for them to meet academics, hear about interesting topics and find out about language-related subjects off the syllabus. Your talk about banditry was a perfect example of how the study of language can open up a variety of other fields and I have had some great feedback from the boys" [5.9] and a student from Petchey wrote: `I am a year 11 student at the Petchey Academy where you came and gave a lecture on spanish bandits a few months ago. i really enjoyed it and shared my knowledge i attained from you with my parents and convinced them to take me and my brothers to spain and also to escape this dreadful british weather' [5.10].

Sources to corroborate the impact

[5.1] Person 1 (Head of Hispanic Section, British Library)l

[5.2] Virtual exhibition website,

[5.3] Screen shot giving data of hits on digital library website 2.8.13; electronic visitor records of visitors at Milstein exhibition centre.

[5.4] UL Digital Library page ( Click on "Spanish Chapbooks"

[5.5] Parkwood visit teacher evaluation form filled in by Person 2 (Teacher, Parkwood Primary).



[5.8] Email 14.6.11 from person 3 (Directora del Máster en Comunicación y Problemas Socioculturales, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos).

[5.9] Email 13.5.11 from Person 4 (Teacher, St Paul's School)

[5.10] Email 11.7.12 from Person 5 (pupil, Petchey Academy)