The Spanish Civil War Key Issues

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The Spanish Civil War

Key Issues

Why did a civil war break out and who was to blame for this?

Assess the importance of various political, social, economic and religious problems:

  • the failure of the monarchy, and then of Republican attempts to govern;

  • separatism and the wish of various parts (Catalonia and the Basque Districts) for greater autonomy;

  • antagonism between left and right;

  • the gap between the aristocracy and the peasants;

  • lack of economic development and modernisation;

  • the Catholic Church and its position in Spanish life

Why could Spaniards not reconcile their differences short of going to war and at what point did the conflict become inevitable?
Why did the Nationalists win the war?

Assess the importance of:

  • The substantial aid the Nationalists received from Germany and Italy, in contrast with the more limited Soviet help received by the Republic.

  • Military organisation and tactics.

  • The economic and financial factors which favoured the Nationalists.

  • The more cohesive society of Nationalist Spain under Franco compared with the Republic, which remained a battleground of conflicting ideologies.

What were the consequences of the war for the Left, for the Right, for Spain?

Was Franco’s Spain a fascist dictatorship along the lines of Mussolini’s Italy, or merely a conventional military regime of the type which Spain had periodically experienced in the preceding hundred years?
Course Outline

1 The Restoration system (18751923) and the Primo de Rivera dictatorship (192330)

  • Politics without democracy? The Constitutional Monarchy

  • Inequalities in Spanish Society

  • Oligarchy and caciquismo

  • The impact of the ‘disaster’ of 1898

  • Developing crises, 191323

  • The Primo de Rivera dictatorship

2 The Coming of the Second Republic

  • The republican Pact of San Sebastián, August 1930

  • The municipal elections of 12 April 1931

  • The revolutionary committee assumes power, 14 April 1931

  • The agenda of the Provisional Government (AprilJune 1931)

  • Largo Caballero’s agrarian decrees

  • Azaña’s army reforms

3 The Constituent Cortes, July 1931September 1933

  • The general election of June 1931

  • The triumph of the centreleft (Socialists, Left Republicans, Radicals, Radical Socialists)

  • The Republican Constitution of 1932

  • Agrarian reform

  • The Catalan Statute

  • Church and State - anticlerical moves

  • Educational reforms.

  • The resignations of Alcalá Zamora and Maura

  • Azaña becomes prime minister

4 RightWing Responses to the Republic
(a) Accidentalism

  • The Catholic Church’s attitude to the incoming Republic

  • Gil Robles and the formation of the Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA), January 1933

(b) Catastrophism

  • Alfonsist monarchism: backing for a military coup

  • The failed Sanjurjada

  • The reemergence of Carlism

  • José Antonio Primo de Rivera and the Falange

5 The Bienio Negro, November 1933September 1934

  • Why the centreright won the elections of November 1933:

  • Splits on the Left

  • The female vote

  • The need for CEDA support

  • The slowing down/reversal of Republican reforms

  • The failed agricultural strike of June 1934

  • The Catalan Esquerra - A threat to Spanish Integrity?

6 Anarchist Rejection of the Republic

  • The strength of the anarchist movement

  • The adoption of ‘putschist’ tactics: the failure of the armed rebellions of 193234

  • The significance of the Casas Viejas affair, 1933

  • Abstention in the 1933 election

7 The Radicalisation of the Socialists, 193334

  • The differing stances of Besteiro, Largo Caballero and Prieto

  • The electoral defeat of November 1933.

  • Largo Caballero’s attempt to construct a Workers’ Alliance (Alianza Obrera) with non-system groups

  • The October Revolution of 1934: Asturias

8 Reaction and counterreform, from October 1934 to February 1936

  • 3 CEDA ministers enter Lerroux’s Radical government

  • Putting down the October rebellion (Catalonia, Asturias)

  • Counterrevolution? The policies of the LerrouxGil Robles administration.

  • Gil Robles’ bid for power: the Straperlo scandal and the ousting of Lerroux.

9 The Popular Front in Power, February 1936

  • The election results: the Left’s narrow victory

  • A minority Republican government

  • The ousting of President Alcalá Zamora

  • The challenge to Republican order: strikes and land occupations.

  • The threat from the Falange.

  • The military plot.

  • The assassination of José Calvo Sotelo.

10 The Outbreak of Civil War

  • The military rebellion of 18 July 1936 in North Africa and mainland Spain.

  • The failure of the rebels to capture the big cities

  • The response of the Republic: the Martínez Barrio, Giral and Largo Caballero administrations.

11 What were the main events of the Civil War?

  • Turning points

  • Militarily, the Spanish Civil War may be divided into eight phases:

  1. the rebellion and taking up of positions, July 17-30, 1936;

  2. the Nationalist march from the south, August-October 1936;

  3. the battles around Madrid, November 1936-March 1937, which ended in stalemate;

  4. the Nationalist conquest of the northern Republican zone, April-October 1937, which tilted the balance of power;

  5. the Republican offensives in Aragón, October-December 1937, and the ensuing Nationalist counteroffensive of January-February 1938;

  6. the Nationalist offensive in Aragón, March-June 1938, which divided the remaining leftist zone in two;

  7. the Battle of the Ebro, July-November 1938;

  8. the Nationalist conquest of Catalonia, December 1938-February 1939, leading to the end of the war at the close of March 1939.

12 The Problems of the republic

  • The impact of the Summer 1936 Revolutions

    • The disadvantages of collectives and militias

  • Conflict between Communists, socialists, anarchists and the POUM over revolution versus War

  • Absence of strong leadership in respect of political and military decisions

  • The May days in Barcelona in 1937

  • Increased Communist and Soviet control from 1937

    • Suppression of opposition

13 Why did the Nationalists win?

  • Military Organisation

    • Army of Africa

    • Unified military command

    • Militias soon absorbed into the army

    • Trained junior officers

    • Good communications

    • Successful offensives

  • Foreign Aid

    • Airlift from Morocco to mainland

    • German Condor Legion Italian troops

    • Aid continued throughout the war

    • Few strings attached to aid Air superiority by 1937/8

  • Political factors

  • Financial/economic factors

    • International credit

    • Food producing areas

    • Industrial resources from 1937

14 Why did the Republicans lose?

  • Military Organisation

    • Problems of militias

    • Independent fronts

    • Lack of trained junior officers

    • North cut off from rest of Republic

    • Failure of 1937 offensives

    • Political disputes

  • Foreign aid

    • Soviet aid, but with political strings and reduced from 1938

    • Otherwise only International Brigades

    • Non-intervention in practice favoured the Nationalists

  • Political factors

  • Financial/economic factors

    • Lack of credit

    • Food shortages

    • Problems of collectives

15 What were the results for Spain of Franco’s win?

  • Economic results

  • Social Results

  • Political results

  • International results

Past Questionsspain_results2 001.jpg

Analyse the causes of either the Spanish Civil War or the Korean War.

Analyse the causes and results of one of the following: Chinese Civil War (1945-49); Mexican Revolution (1910-1940) and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Compare and contrast the reasons for, and impact of, foreign involvement in two of the following: Russian Civil War; Spanish Civil War; Chinese Civil War.

Examine the impact of foreign intervention on either the Chinese Civil War or the Spanish Civil War.

Evaluate the role of ideological differences in two civil wars each chosen from a different region.

With reference to two civil wars each chosen from a different region, discuss the view that civil wars are usually caused by economic problems rather than by political or religious differences.

Why did foreign intervention occur so frequently in civil wars of the twentieth century and what impact did this intervention have on two civil wars each chosen from a different region?

To what extent did outside intervention contribute to the outcome of two civil wars, each chosen from a different region?
Reading List

Farmer, A & Sanders, V. An introduction to Modern European History 1890-1990 (Access to History, Hodder & Stoughton 2000)

Main text:

Ribeiro De Mensese, Filipe Franco and the Spanish Civil War


Romero Salvado, Francisco J. The Spanish Civil War: Origins, Course and Outcomes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

Lannon, Frances The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 (Osprey, 2002)

Durgan, Andy The Spanish Civil War (Palgrave, 2007)

Browne, Harry: Spain's Civil War (Longman Seminar Studies, 2nd Edn, 1996)

Graham, Helen The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2005)

Forrest, Andrew The Spanish Civil War (Routledg, 2000)

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