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The Spanish Civil War. Explain some of the causes and consequences
The Spanish civil war was a major conflict between the Republicans and Nationalists, which was fierce and bloody as over 500,000 people were killed. It began in July of 1936, and waged on until April of 1939. Although later conflicts have overshadowed it, the Spanish civil war remains one of the bloodiest conflicts of our modern era as well as one of the most consequential as resulted in a brutal dictatorship that lasted for almost forty years after. Aside from the dead, the war left thousands of citizens homeless and persecuted; no living Spanish citizens were left unaffected by the war. Aside from the consequences that came after the war, this essay will also cover the most significant causes of it that came beforehand.
As Forrest (2000) tells us, the background narrative of the war go far back to the year of 1898 when Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines – each economically valuable Spanish colonies – were lost to the United States. This led to still-grudging army officers to set up their own unions in 1917, the year in which there was a general strike in response to the inflation and internal conflict which had come to the country. Anarchism was growing fast, and Forrest lists the unrests there were between workers and capitalists, catholic and atheists, anarcho-syndicalists and conservatives, regionalists and centralists, and landless labourers and landowners. Industry captains resented the landowners’ hold on political power and landless labourers were brutally repressed by the Civil Guard and hated the conservative small holders, Catholics, and allies of landowners. Then also came the movement of ‘regenerationism’ as a reaction against the local political corruption (such as rigged elections), the followers of which sought to restore justice to Spain.
Then in 1921 came a military defeat in Morocco, which cost the Spanish forces over 10,000 men (Sheelagh 1991). Sheelagh describes how, in the succeeding events, military governor General Miguel Primo de Rivera was summoned by King Alfonso XIII to form a government after Rivera intervened to safeguard the throne once rumours circulated that the Moroccan offensive had been undertaken on Alfonso’s personal initiative without the approval of the Minister for War. Although the monarchy remained intact, power passed to Rivera and his cabinet of military men. He closed the parliament and banned political parties, but in the following years there came increasing demand for a return to constitutional government. In 1930, he found himself to be alienated from even those who had initially collaborated with him. He resigned and withdrew from politics into exile in France (Sheelagh 1991).
Forrest (2000) details what happened in the short while after: Rivera’s successor General Berenguer restored political parties but resisted the increasing pressure for restoration of democracy, continuing the unpopularity which the monarchy faced. The elections of 1931 showed overwhelming support for Republicans and Socialists, and Alfonso XIII stepped down. As a result, the Second Republic was born; it was ‘one of the few occasions in Spain’s history until then that change had been effected without military intervention’ (Sheelagh 1991).
The Second Republic aimed to modernize the Spain by transforming the social, political, and economic structures associated with the old regime (Esenwein 2005). In two years the left-wing governments had expanded education, reduced the Church’s role in social affairs and restructured the military. Esenwein explains how the left-wing orientated liberal Republic’s greatest challenge came from the Spanish right, especially the Catholic community following the government’s anti-clerical orientation. Defenders of religion and traditional social values formed political parties such as the CEDA (Spanish Confederation of Autonomous...
Bibliography: Ellwood, Sheelagh M., 1991 The Spanish Civil War (Historical Association Studies) Basil Blackwell Ltd
Esenwein, G. R., 2005 The Spanish Civil War: A Modern Tragedy Routledge
Forrest, A., 2000 The Spanish Civil War (Questions and Analysis in History) Routledge
Preston, P., 1986 The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 Butler & Tanner Ltd
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