history

   The history and culture of contemporary Spain have been deeply affected by the emergence, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, of what came to be called "the two Spains": one reformist, secularizing, liberal and European; the other traditional, Catholic, authoritarian and nationalist. Though these categories are not watertight, the deep divisions within Spanish society which they attempt to describe were very real, and had consequences which continued to reverberate up to the end of the Franco regime in the 1970s. Closely allied to this division, and compounding its effects, was the isolation of the ruling élites from the populace at large. Between 1837, when a liberal constitution was enacted, and 1890, when universal (male) suffrage was implemented for the first time, all governments were elected on a restricted property or income franchise. The proportion of the population entitled to vote hovered around 5 percent, and even after 1890 it was only 25 percent. Thus the rift between élite and populace was paralleled by a further division within the latter, between those who belonged to the political nation and participated in its processes, and those who did not. Politics was therefore largely a matter of different oligarchies competing for office and the control of access to patronage, a situation portrayed in vivid detail in the novels of Benito Pérez Galdós (1843–1920). Liberal revolutionary movements such as that of 1868, which overthrew the monarchy of Isabella II, depended on a mass following for their success, but when those who had helped to bring about political change saw no real alteration in the distribution of power or wealth, frustration could boil over into bursts of generalized violence connected only tenuously, if at all, with any structured programme or ideology. Professedly liberal regimes, therefore, often found themselves implementing stern lawand-order measures against their erstwhile allies: the post-revolutionary government of 1868 soon found itself having to cope with armed insurrection by extreme radicals, as did the shortlived Republican government of 1873, and that of the Second Republic after 1934. This situation was further complicated by the politicization of the army. Military leaders who had been successful in the War of Independence against Napoleon, or had later won fame in the Civil Wars of 1833–9 and 1872–6, were encouraged to see themselves as the only group capable of bringing about structural change. Orderly transfers of power between different political interests were rare until 1875, more commonly being effected by army coups, of varying levels of violence, leading to the installation of a military strongman. Only after the monarchy ousted in 1868 was restored in the person of Isabella's son, Alfonso XII, with a new constitution (1876), did political hegemony pass to civilian parliamentarians. Even then, however, the oligarchic character of political life continued, with changes of government being effected by means of the turno pacífico (the managed alternation of the two main parties, Conservative and Liberal), rather than in response to the true wishes of the electorate.
   The artificial compromises represented by the turno pacífico reflected a belief among the élite that modernization could only proceed slowly in a country where political culture was grossly underdeveloped. In this respect, the Restoration settlement of 1876 was the logical consequence of various attempts throughout the century to preserve the assumptions of a conservative constitutional monarchy, working in partnership with the Catholic church, though not dominated by it, and carefully controlling the degree of permitted political activity. The result was that Spain never had a fully fledged bourgeois revolution. The bourgeoisie could arguably have achieved hegemony in the 1880s and 1890s, but by then the growth of working-class radicalism caused the middle classes to retreat from the full assumption of power. Anarchist-inspired terrorism, including the assassination in 1897 of the architect of the Restoration settlement, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, was symptomatic of the rejection of a system which had failed to tackle serious social and economic problems. The confidence of the élite was further shaken when the last remnants of the overseas empire were lost after war with the US in 1898. Throughout the last quarter of the century, there had been a growing sense of unease at the rise of new, energetic economies such as the US and Germany, particularly among Catalan industrialists. By the mid-1890s, 60 percent of Catalonia's export trade was to Cuba, a large proportion being occupied by cotton textiles, the volume of which increased nearly fourfold between 1892 and 1897. By 1904, this had been reduced to a third. The importance of Cuba, however, and of the remaining colonies, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, was not only economic but psychological. Their loss produced a major intellectual and cultural upheaval, with a great deal of introspective analysis of Spain's history, character and future direction, as well as sharp criticism of the corruption and artificiality of the Restoration system, by writers such as Angel Ganivet (1862– 98), Miguel de Unamuno (1864–1939), Pío Baroja (1872–1956) and Ramiro de Maeztu (1875–1936). This atmosphere of crisis was accompanied by increased working-class militancy. By 1917, industrial concerns had come increasingly to be accompanied by the pursuit of revolutionary aims, especially with the greater prominence of the National Confederation of Labour (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo—CNT). Founded in 1911, it increased its membership from 15,000 in 1915 to 600,000 by 1919. It constituted a political phenomenon almost unique to Spain, anarchosyndic-alism, that is, a militant anarchist movement channelled into an industrial trade union organization. The ending of the boom which Spanish industry had enjoyed during WWI, with the consequent fall in prices, made the employers determined to oppose union demands for higher wages, which in turn strengthened the willingness of relatively moderate unions such as the socialist UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores—General Union of Workers) to support the revolutionary strategy of the CNT. The period 1919–23 was one of considerable bitterness, which saw a ten-fold increase in assassinations and attempted assassinations, as armed gangs employed by both employers" and union organizations vied with each other in violence.
   The apparent inability of the government to control events led to disillusionment with civilian rule, and when General Primo de Rivera staged a coup in Barcelona, which had been the main centre of unrest, there was little interest among the public at large in defending the parliamentary system. Primo de Rivera was politically unsophis-ticated, and had no clear philosophy or agenda, but in the period of his dictatorship we may see some of the origins of the corporativist and authoritarian rhetoric of which Franco was later to make extensive use. Individual rights had to be subordinated to the state, which was defined in unitary, Castilian-centred terms. As Franco was to do later, Primo redefined democracy as something independent of parliamentary institutions, and rooted in traditional, pre-political communities. Unlike Franco, however, he did not succeed in repressing political life completely, nor did he have the complete loyalty of the army. By 1929, an alliance of conservative politicians and army officers was putting pressure on King Alfonso XIII to dismiss Primo, and in January 1930 he resigned. The monarchy did not long survive his departure, for it had been discredited by its association with, and tacit approval of, the regime. The municipal elections of April, 1931 produced an overwhelming victory in the provincial capitals, where the bulk of the popular vote was concentrated, for an alliance of Republican and socialist parties, and two days later the King left Spain for good. The new Republican government faced a series of daunting tasks, not least achieving consensus among the various political groupings of which it was composed. The Republican parties, characterized mainly by a blend of anticlericalism and political moderation, appealed to middle-class liberal intellectuals, but lacked a strong working-class following. Socialists and anarcho-syndicalists, on the other hand, had as their main priority the improvement of workers" conditions, particularly those of landless labourers in rural areas. The potential for conflict between the different agendas was therefore high. There was, nevertheless, one major area of agreement, though it did not embrace Catholic Republicans, which was the project of creating a secular state. Once the constitution was approved in December 1931, containing the declaration that Spain had no state religion, the government embarked on a programme of legislation over the next eighteen months which, among other things, legalized divorce, abolished state support for clergy salaries, dissolved the Jesuit order and nationalized its property, and excluded other religious orders from taking part in industry, commerce or education. Attempts to tackle the agrarian problem, however, proved more divisive. The Agricultural Reform Law (September, 1932) was intended to break up the large estates and redistribute the land, but its effectiveness was impaired by lack of finance. Furthermore, it proved all too easy for landowners to circumvent or ignore its provisions, and it failed to win support from smallholders and middleranking tenant farmers. Though too radical for conservatives, it was regarded by left socialists and anarchists as too slow and patchy in its operation, and in poorer rural areas there were illegal occupations of land and unauthorized timbercutting, leading to clashes with the police and Civil Guard. In one notorious incident, at Casas Viejas, eleven workers were killed.
   The fury provoked by this and similar incidents caused the abandonment of the Republic by the anarchists, who boycotted the elections held in November, 1933. In a parallel reaction, the socialists withdrew from electoral pacts with other parties and fought the election alone, an action for which they paid a high price, owing to the system of proportional representation adopted, which made such alliances a practical necessity. The result was a landslide victory for CEDA (Confederation Española de Derechas Autónomas—Spanish Confederation of the Independent Right), and the Radicals, who, despite their name, were politically conservative. The period November 1933 to February 1936 is known as the Bienio negro (The Two Black Years), when the Republic took a decisive turn to the right, and attempted to reverse some of the democratic gains which had been made between 1931 and 1933. Both socialists and anarchists therefore adopted a more revolutionary stance, culminating in the general strike of September, 1934, which in Asturias developed into an armed insurrection by miners, put down with great severity by the government. Tough law-and-order policies drove socialists and anarchists into alliance once more, and led to the formation of the Popular Front, which won a majority of seats in the elections of February, 1936.
   The victory of the Popular Front convinced right-wing elements in the armed forces that they should intervene to prevent what they regarded as the disintegration of the country. The failures of the Republic had been in those areas which were most calculated to provoke hostility among the military: the agrarian reforms could be presented as an attack on private property; the growing disorder was evidence of the Republic's failure to impose law and order; and the concession of autonomy to Catalonia and the Basque country seemed like the break-up of Spain. A number of senior officers therefore conspired to bring down the government by a military coup, and on 18 July, 1936, the garrisons in the north and in Spanish Morocco declared against the Republic, initiating a three-year Civil War. The war resulted in the victory of the insurgent forces led by General Franco, and the installation of a dictatorship which lasted until Franco's death in 1975. Though the regime was not totally monolithic, political life in the normal sense came to a virtual standstill. Trade unions and political parties, other than the National Movement, were illegal, and a rigorous system of censorship maintained a large measure of state control of intellectual and cultural life. The regime lacked a clear ideology, but one consistent strand of policy was the effort to ensure the continuing depoliticization of the masses by improving material prosperity. The attempt to achieve this by autarky in the economic sphere ended in failure, and new policies fostered by the technocrats associated with Opus Dei were implemented in the Stabilization Plan of 1959. In the 1960s, Spain's growth rate of 7 percent was second only to that of Japan, among developed capitalist nations. Well before Franco's death, public opinion was already pressing for political change. Increased prosperity, foreign travel, and inward tourist traffic, together with the prospect of entry into the European Economic Community (later the European Union), made the structures of Francoism seem glaringly anomalous in the modern world. Though there was potentially a danger of acute polarization and a recrudescence of the conflicts which had led to the Civil War, the shrewd political judgement of Adolfo Suárez and King Juan Carlos I ensured a relatively peaceful transition to democracy. In 1977, the first free elections since before the Civil War were held, and in 1982 democracy was further consolidated by the peaceful handover of power to the socialist opposition, the PSOE, after their overwhelming victory in the elections of that year. Despite the attempted military coup known as the Tejerazo in 1981, and the continuing problem of ETA terrorism, Spain is now a modern, pluralist state with solid democratic institutions, a member of NATO since 1981, and of the European Community since 1986.
   Further reading
   - Carr, R. (1980) Modern Spain, 1875-1980, Oxford: Oxford University Press (a concise history of the period since the Restoration).
   —— (1982) Spain, 1808-1975, Oxford: Oxford University Press (a revised a nd expanded edition of this classic study, first published in 1966 as a volume in the Oxford History of Modern Europe).
   - Grugel, J. and Rees, T. (1997) Franco's Spain, London: Arnold (an excellent account of the political and economic issues during the regime, with a good bibliography).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (one of the most accessible and comprehensive accounts of the political, social and cultural developments since the restoration of democracy).
   - Preston, P. (1986a) The Spanish Civil War, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson (a lively, compact account, with a very useful bibliographical essay).
   —— (1986b) The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, London and New York: Methuen (an indispensable guide to the politics of the transition).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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