A man of ideas

Evoke the university atmosphere surrounding Miguel de Unamuno during his time as a professor and chancellor at the University of Salamanca

Figure of the frog on the skull (2020)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Unamuno arrived in Salamanca aged just 27. The author, recently married, had just seen off the competition to become a professor of Greek language at its distinguished university. He would maintain links with the institution for the rest of his life.

In 1900, he was appointed chancellor of the University of Salamanca, a post he would retain until 1914. He continued to teach, and, with the arrival of the Second Spanish Republic, returned to his position of chancellor after a period of exile. The political tensions during the early months of the Spanish Civil War saw him subjected to appointments and dismissals by both sides. Before he passed away, he donated his valuable personal library to his beloved university in an act of great generosity.

New Age magazine cover (May 10, 1918)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

A stranger in the University of Salamanca

In 1891, after obtaining his doctorate and applying for numerous job openings, Unamuno joined the University of Salamanca as a professor of Greek language. Recently married, he moved with his wife to the city on the Tormes river, where they raised a large family.

Unamuno sitting in his office (April 1905)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The years in the chancellor's house

In 1900, the minister Antonio García Alix appointed Unamuno chancellor of the University of Salamanca. Unamuno then moved with his family to the chancellor's house, which is now a House-Museum of his life. They lived there until 1914, when he was removed from office by the minister Francisco Bergamín y García.

"I return to this melancholic office in the chancellor's house of the old University of Salamanca, to this modest, gloomy little corner, in perpetual darkness, to this cell, where I lived for so many intense hours over 14 years, and from where I planned and initiated so many and such difficult campaigns"

Rectory house, currently Unamuno House-Museum, 2020, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Miguel de Unamuno with two students (May 26, 1905)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Dissemination of an ideal

A professor at the University of Salamanca for more than 40 years, Unamuno was an innovator. His teaching method differed from that of the other educators at the Salamancan institution. He wished to instill in his students the discipline of truth and freedom through culture.

"You have to make us professors, teachers. I wish for you all to come here bursting with freshness, without the taint of 15 or 20 exams, bringing to these cloisters not a desire for grades, but a thirst for truth and a desire for lifelong knowledge"

Portrait of Federico de Onís (February 23, 1910)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Children of the spirit

Unamuno said that his students were children of his spirit. Legions of students passed through his classes over the years. Some of them became notable literary and cultural figures, such as the poet Gerardo Diego Cendoya and the philologist Federico de Onís Sánchez.

Portrait of María de Maeztu (December 31, 1908)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

María de Maeztu Whitney, a pioneering educator

Founder of the Lyceum Women's Club (Lyceum Club Femenino) Maeztu was one of Unamuno's students at the University of Salamanca. Faced with the reluctance of the other lecturers and the insults of some of her classmates, Maeztu broke down barriers. Her friendship with the aged professor was a lasting one.

Miguel de Unamuno at the University of Salamanca (July 1934)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The course of life

The other university staff showed a certain reluctance to Unamuno's vision for education. With his innovative methods, he tried above all to instill in his students the dignity and nobility of human beings as students of life and citizens of the world.

Faculty of Philology (night) (2020)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Entering and leaving class

Fond of walking through his beloved Salamanca, Unamuno went for a walk every morning from his house to the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, of which he became dean. There, he would give his classes until midday, when he would again set off on his walks, via Compañía street.

Historical General Library (2020)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Aulas históricas

On his arrival at the university, a young Unamuno taught in what is today the Historic General Library (Biblioteca General Histórica) of the University of Salamanca, the location of literary studies.

Miguel de Unamuno at the University of Salamanca (1922)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The need to teach

In 1924, military dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera exiled Unamuno and removed him from his academic positions, suspending his employment at and salary from the university. It would be six years before he came back, returning to his post as a professor and once more being appointed chancellor with the return of the Republic.

"Something of mine goes with each of you"

Miguel de Unamuno with Niceto Alcalá Zamora and other companions (September 29, 1934)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Homage to a wise man

In September 1934, homage was paid to Unamuno on his retirement. The events were even attended by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora y Torres, President of the Republic. Following an emotional speech by Unamuno, a bust of the teacher by sculptor Victorio Macho was unveiled in the Faculty of Philosophy.

The last lesson of D. Miguel de Unamuno, Miguel de Unamuno, September 29, 1934, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
Unamuno Miguel De 1864-1963, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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"Save us, young people, true young people, those who do not stain the pages of your study books with blood or bile"

Tribute to Miguel de Unamuno in London (February 27, 1936)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Oxford, 1936

In February 1936, the man of letters traveled to England, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford. In London, he presided over a crowded banquet in his honor. In 1934, he had also been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Grenoble.

Portrait of Miguel de Unamuno as rector of the University of Salamanca (1924) by Vidal González ArenalUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

An eternal chancellor

Following his appointment as chancellor, Unamuno was appointed lifelong chancellor in 1931. The harsh consequences of the Spanish Civil War led to Unamuno's dismissal by both sides, which he referred to as Hun or the other (hunos y hotros, a play on the Spanish expression unos y otros). However, for the University of Salamanca, he is and will always be the eternal chancellor.

Library of the Unamuno House-Museum (2020)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Giver of freedom

Unamuno believed that culture was the only way of freeing the population. Before he died, he donated his personal library—consisting of more than 6,000 texts—to the University of Salamanca. The books can now be found in the House-Museum of his life, where they are used by students and researchers.

"Freedom isn't a state but a process; only a person with knowledge is free, and the more he knows, the more free he is. Only culture grants freedom. Do not proclaim the freedom to fly, rather give wings; do not grant the freedom to think, rather give thoughts. Culture is the freedom that must be given to the public. Only by imposing culture will an individual become master of himself, and this is the foundation of democracy"

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