Spain in the 20C

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  • Created by: Victoria
  • Created on: 02-12-12 17:18

Spain entered the C20 a divided and troubled natio

1.         Revolt and the intervention of the US had led to the loss of the bulk of her overseas Empire in 1898: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
2.         She had a corrupt system of constitutional monarchy under which elections were often fixed by local govt. officials (on one occasion a whole cemetery of 700 voted!). Police and thugs may deter hostile voters. Landlords and their agents the caciques would make it clear to their tenants or labourers that failure to vote for the right man would bring about eviction and dismissal. Votes might be bought.

3.         The system was further discredited by the King, Alfonso XIII, who seemed to take pleasure in forcing govt. reshuffles…the first 21 years of Alfonso’s reign from 1902-23 saw 33 entirely different govts.

4.         Strong nationalist/regionalist movements were emerging particularly the Catalan Lliga (based on the Catalan manufacturing and trading bourgeoisie) and the Basque Nationalist Party.        

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5.         In Navarre, Carlism remained strong (and the movement retained some strength throughout northern Spain). The Carlists were a throw-back to the middle ages who had fought 2 C19 civil wars in support of the junior branch of the royal family (Don Carlos).. in favour of a strong intolerant church and against parliaments and liberalism. This fanatically conservative and religious attitude in Navarre was partly an expression of the hostility of a sturdy race of relatively prosperous small peasant farmers to industrial life.

6.         There was a fierce church versus anti-clerical divide. With some exceptions the church was closely linked to the upper classes and very conservative. It had received considerable royal patronage in the late 19C, enabling it to build up a large network of converts, colleges and religious foundations. The Jesuits (male religious order who consider themselves to be soldiers of Christ) were particularly powerful, in control of immense resources.

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7.         Against the church lay the fierce anti-clericalism of centre and left-wing movements:

i.      The Liberals…who had some success in reducing its hold on education.

ii.     The Radicals…left-wing republicans whose leader the journalist Lerroux openly urged the killing of priests and sacking and burning of churches.

iii.   The socialists, based initially in Madrid and Bilbao, who saw a rapid rise of their trade union movement during the first 20 years of the century the UGT, Unión General de Trabajadores the leading union.

iv.   The extraordinary anarcho-syndicalist movement rooted in urban Andalusian migrant workers in Barcelona and in the peasantry of Andalusia: the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabaj). The CNT unions claimed 700,000 members by 1919. Anarchist hatred of the church was fanatical. An example of the fierce anti-clericalsim (and a pre-cursor of civil war events) was the Semana Trágica in Barcelona in 1909 when in an uprising provoked by additional conscription.

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8.         Social divisions in Spain were deep, partly in the cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao and Oviedo where significant industrialisation was taking place, but particularly in the countryside and particularly in the countryside of Andalusia and Estremadura. Here you had the phenomenon of Latifundia…large estates (situated in the region around Seville) whose owners often lived in Madrid which were worked by landless labourers (braceros) who lived in extreme poverty…unemployed for up to half of the year and paid a miserable wage. They often lived in a state of chronic hunger, relying on credit given by shops as there was no system of church or state relief.       
9.         The army presented a further problem. It was wounded and resentful after the disaster of the Cuban War 1896-98. It was overstaffed with 12,000 officers on the active list in 1912(peace time) for an army of about 100,000 men. 25,000 officers for an army of 200,000 men in 1923 (Moroccan War) and many were officers in the reserve. In 1931 (peace time) there were 690 generals (of whom about half were on the active list). Officers were poorly paid, often with little to do. It is hardly surprising that corruption was rife and many turned to talking politics.
10.       WW1, in which Spain did not participate, increased the cost of living and caused new strains eg. 1917:army officers set their own unions-Juntas de Defensa eg.1919, great Barcelona strike..put down by the army.     

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