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About this book

Today, Spain is a modern society with an important profile in the European Union. This image contrasts strikingly with the reality of Spain just one hundred years ago. After the loss of almost all her overseas empire in 1898, Spain faced the new century handicapped by her international isolation, backward economy and a stagnant and elitist political system.
Twentieth-Century Spain tells the gripping story of this country's long and often painful struggle towards modernity. During this period, Spain has seen two monarchies, one republic, two dictatorships and one of the bloodiest civil wars in Europe's recent history.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
Any traveller to Spain can easily notice its dramatic regional disparities. The contrasts are such that this traveller might well believe himself to have visited different countries. Indeed, Spain is a state formed by different nations with diverse cultures, climates, traditions and even languages. They emerged during the long eight-hundred-year struggle to expel the Moors from the peninsula, the legendary medieval feat known as la reconquista (‘the reconquest’). In 1474, the Catholic rulers, Isabel and Fernando joined by marriage the two most important of these kingdoms, Castilla and Aragón. Yet it never went beyond a marriage of convenience and their heirs were never kings of Spain as such, but sovereigns of a commonwealth of nations whose parliaments and ancient laws they swore to uphold in return for their allegiance. In fact, the vast empire of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in America and Asia was only part of the Crown of Castilla. The nation of Spain was only to emerge in 1715 with the victory of the Bourbon candidate to the throne during the War of Succession. In this conflict, the Castilians succeeded in crushing the regions of the periphery which had backed the Habsburg claimant. Yet the imperial outposts on the continent were lost as well as the island of Menorca and the strategic rock of Gibraltar. However, although Spain was now centralized under Bourbon hegemony, the harsh peninsular topography with its many long rivers and mountain chains made the creation of an integrated national market difficult and perpetuated the reality of distinct nations evolving with different languages, traditions and economies.
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó

2. The Liberal Monarchy: the Politics of Notables, 1898–1923

Abstract
It could be argued that the twentieth century began in Spain two years earlier than in the rest of Europe. Indeed, the year 1898 proved a watershed. Almost overnight, the nation lost its vast overseas empire. The magnitude of this disaster has to be understood in the context of an era in which the possession of colonies was seen as the hallmark of a vigorous nation. Hence, in an age marked by imperialist expansion and ‘Social Darwinism’, the loss of the empire reduced Spain from the status of Great Power to that of a second-rate nation. The defeat had an immediate effect on the peninsula. Rather than a military setback, the colonial disaster was felt as a deep psychological trauma. Spaniards were awoken brutally from the self-delusion that the country was still at the centre of world affairs. News of the shocking military setbacks were swiftly followed by the sad spectacle of the return of thousands of emaciated and sick soldiers crammed on the decks of ships. They were in such an appalling physical condition that many were hardly able to make their way home.1 It was this widespread feeling of impotence and decline that gave birth to the movement of criticism against the ruling system known as ‘Regeneracionismo’ (regeneration). In 1898 the ideological hegemony of the regime sank together with the Spanish fleet. Yet despite suffering a crushing blow, the lack of organization and the dispersion of the opposition forces enabled the survival of the ruling notables for another twenty-five years.2
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó

3. From Dictatorship to Republic, 1923–31

Abstract
The establishment of a dictatorship in Spain in September 1923 should be viewed in the wider context of the general European situation. The social and economic distress produced by the Great War, the spread of Bolshevik ideas and the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Central Powers, initiated a period of massive class struggle and political turmoil which heralded the arrival of mass politics and the death-knell for the oligarchic Liberal orders on the continent. It was not so much the threat of revolution, which had clearly subsided by the early 1920s, as the fear caused by the growing strength of the organized labour movement and the challenge presented by the advent of genuine democracy which persuaded the ruling economic and social classes to support authoritarian formulas. Ironically, one of the more bizarre consequences of the Bolshevik Revolution was that the interwar years were an era of virtually uninterrupted working class defeats.1 The destruction of the Soviet regime in Hungary in the summer of 1919 and its replacement by Admiral Horthy’s dictatorship inaugurated an era of political and economic reaction which swept Europe during the 1920s and 1930s.
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó

4. The Second Republic: A Brief Exercise in Democracy, 1931–6

Abstract
The establishment of the Republic was greeted with enormous joy by enthusiastic crowds. It was popularly nicknamed la niña bonita (‘the pretty girl’). Many seemed to believe that almost magically overnight all the pending and highly conflictive social and economic problems inherited from the monarchy could be solved and a modern, progressive and egalitarian nation created. And yet, the new regime could not have come at a worst moment.
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó

5. A Modern Crusade: the Spanish Tragedy, 1936–9

Abstract
The Republic proved in the summer of 1936 that it was far from a failure. Unlike many other European countries whose constitutional regimes in the interwar years were overthrown without hardly a struggle, Spain fought back. The Republic did not fail but was ‘failed’ after a vicious conflict which lasted for almost three years.1 In this context, Spain became the last and fiercest battle in a European civil war which had been under way since the Bolshevik triumph of 1917.2 International participation and the ideological zeal which surrounded both sides conferred upon the war the character of a crusade. Whereas for the rebels, theirs was a movement to defend the values of traditional and Christian Spain against godless Bolshevism, for the Republic, it was a battle for democracy and Socialism against political immobilism and Fascism.
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó

6. Franco, Regent for Life, 1939–75

Abstract
In the spring of 1939 Spain resembled a country occupied by a victorious foreign army.1 After almost three years of vicious war the economy was in tatters, the transport system had collapsed and there were critical shortages of food and fuel. These appalling conditions did not deter the triumphant Nationalists from embarking upon an unprecedented programme of economic and political reaction. For most of the population, the period until the early 1950s was known as los años de hambre (‘the hunger years’): worsening living standards, widespread misery and rationing of basic staples. Yet protection for the interests of the social elites whose privileges had been threatened by the Republic’s reforms was a priority. Wages were slashed, strikes treated as sabotage and made punishable by long prison sentences and the labour movement regimented under Falangist control.
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó

7. The Triumph of Democracy, 1975–98

Abstract
After Franco’s death, Spaniards were gripped by a mixture of uncertainty, great expectations and fear. Although an overwhelming majority hoped that a passage to a modern democratic regime might be managed peacefully, very few dared to predict the country’s political development. Everyone was aware that there existed powerful elements at the extremes of the spectrum who were unlikely to relinquish their maximalist positions. In such a context, the skill, determination and goodwill of both the main opposition leaders and the king and his government were to be crucial in accomplishing a negotiated and relatively tranquil transition. Yet the dismantling of the old Francoist apparatus and the building of a democratic system cannot be seen as purely a piece of engineering from above based on the negotiations between political elites. Important though these factors were, it was the radical cultural and economic transformations of the last fifteen years of the dictatorship which were vital.
Francisco J. Romero Salvadó
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