The communist, feminist, utopian revolutionary who Kickstarted the first submarine

Ictineo II. Image by wikimedia user Cookie.

Ictineo II. Image by wikimedia user Cookie.

A curious vessel sits atop a few struts in the Barcelona harbor. Passing tourists could be forgiven if they thought the small, wooden craft was a prop from the golden age of film or a quiet monument to the work of Jules Verne. It is neither. This ship, built from olive wood and clad in copper, is perhaps the most remarkable seagoing vessel of its time. She is Ictíneo II, the first true submarine.

Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol was a Catalonian revolutionary, utopian iconoclast, and proto-feminist writer who argued that the government, rather than the church, should oversee marriage licenses. He founded several newspapers–which were often shut down after a few issues–including  La Madre de Familia “to defend women from the tyranny of men” and Spain’s first communist newspaper, La Fraternidad. 

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