Historical Context

The Spanish Civil War

During the First World War (1914–1918), Spain underwent the difficult transition from a farm-based economy to an industrial one. The rise of industry brought with it a working class, centered in the cities, which struggled against the traditional monarchy. In 1922, to retain control of the country, King Alfonso XIII asked a general of the army, Miguel Primo de Rivera, to take control of the government and run it as a military dictatorship. He ruled as dictator until 1925 and then as Prime Minister until the revolution of 1931 when Alfonso left the throne and went into exile and a new government was formed by a coalition of left-wing groups. This ruling group, the Republicans, included Liberals, Socialists, and Anarchists. They ruled the country from 1931 until 1936 but not well. Poverty and violence were everywhere. In 1933, a new political party, the Falange, rose in opposition to the government. Led by Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of the former dictator, the Falange was a Fascist group that followed the policies Benito Mussolini was using to control Italy.

With the public frustrated because of the many reforms that the Republicans had instituted in their five years in office and the Falange party pressing with serious political opposition, there came a third threat: the military, led by Francisco Franco, planned a revolution that would restore King Alfonso to power.

To suppress the rebellion, the Republican government arrested and killed a leading Falangist party member in 1936, charging him with the death of a policeman. The public outrage over this act led the Nationalists, which included the army and the Falange party, to call for revolution. Further government acts of suppression ensued, followed by further acts of rebellion. By the end of the year and for the two years that followed, Spain was a chaotic and bloody mess, with the Republican and Nationalist parties struggling for control and loyalists of each side murdering the other side’s supporters whenever the chance arose. Many countries...

(The entire section is 848 words.)