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School of Modern Languages & Cultures
Department of Hispanic Studies

Identity in the Spanish-Speaking World

Spanish history: Republic and Civil War

April: Victories by Republican parties in municipal elections lead to the proclamation of the Second Republic, greeted with widespread enthusiasm. A provisional government is established and the king (Alfonso XIII) goes into exile.
June: Parliamentary elections are won by a coalition of moderate republicans and socialists, which presides over the promulgation of a new constitution and begins a programme of reform — especially of agriculture and land ownership; the economy and workers’ rights; education and culture; the armed forces. The role of the Church in education is reduced, and a Statute of Autonomy for Cataluña is agreed.
Constitución Española de 1931

August: A military revolt in Sevilla against the Republic (led by General Sanjurjo) fails. In Cataluña, the anarchist trade union CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) has also staged the first of many strikes and uprisings, which will continue throughout 1932-36.
September: The autonomous government of Cataluña (the Generalitat) is established.

January: An anarchist uprising in Casas Viejas (Cádiz) is put down brutally by Civil Guards.
October: José Antonio Primo de Rivera founds a nationalist right-wing party, the Falange.
November: The collapse of Manuel Azaña’s coalition leads to a general election, producing a series of conservative governments involving the CEDA (Confederación Española de la Derecha Autónoma, a coalition of conservative Catholic parties). Many of the reforms of the previous two years are shelved or reversed.

March-June: Strikes, anti-government protests and disturbances in Cataluña, Madrid, the Basque Country, Zaragoza and Andalucía.
October: A major revolt by miners in Asturias is ruthlessly crushed by troops under the command of General Franco. A Catalan nationalist rising against the central government is suppressed, resulting in the imprisonment of Luis Companys, President of the Generalitat, and fellow ministers.

September: Formation of the breakaway communist party, POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista).

February: The left-wing coalition Frente Popular (Left Republicans, Socialists and Communists) wins a general election and declares an amnesty for those involved in the 1934 risings. Agrarian reform is renewed, autonomy is restored to Cataluña, and statutes of autonomy for the Basque Country and Galicia are planned.
March: The Falange is banned and Primo de Rivera arrested. There is street fighting between left- and right-wing groups.
May-June: There are strikes and demonstrations in various cities, while senior army officers plan a coup d’état.
July: Following the murder by Falangists of Lieutenant Castillo of the Republican armed police force (Guardia de Asalto), José Calvo Sotelo (leader of the right-wing monarchist opposition) is killed in revenge by members of the Guardia de Asalto. The military conspirators (Mola, Goded, Franco and others) seize on this as a sign that the government has lost control and begin their uprising in Spanish garrisons in Morocco on 17 July, spreading the revolt to mainland Spain on 18 July. The rebels quickly gain control of most of Andalucía, Galicia, Navarra and areas to the north and west of Madrid. The Government hesitates, but Madrid, Barcelona, the Basque Country, Asturias and most of the east of the country remain loyal: the coup is only a partial success, Spain is divided and a civil war has begun. The Nationalists establish a rebel government in Burgos and push their forces towards Madrid, while in Republican areas power is being taken over by revolutionary committees and militias. In both zones, reprisals are ruthless.
August-October: While Britain, France and the USA push for a policy of non-intervention, Germany and Italy support the Nationalists and the Soviet Union supports the Republic. The first International Brigade volunteers arrive to fight for the Republic. Nationalist forces take Badajoz, Talavera, Irún, San Sebastián, Toledo.
September: Franco’s fellow generals appoint him Head of State and Generalísimo of the Nationalist forces. The Republican government establishes a more disciplined Popular Army.
October: The Republican parliament approves the Basque autonomy statute and the state of Euzkadi is established.
November: A heavy Nationalist assault on Madrid is successfully resisted (with the help of the International Brigades). Primo de Rivera is executed. Germany and Italy officially recognize Franco’s government and step up their military aid.

January-March: Nationalists take Marbella and Málaga. Fighting around Madrid is inconclusive, with heavy casualties at the battles of Jarama and Guadalajara.
April: Nationalist forces launch an offensive in the Basque Country (including the bombing of Guernica by German aircraft), finally taking Bilbao in June. Franco consolidates his political control by amalgamating the Falange and the Carlist Traditionalists into a single party (Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista).
May: Street fighting between POUM/CNT and Communists in Barcelona precipitates the fall of the Socialist PM Largo Caballero and an increase in the influence of the Communists in the Republican government (bringing greater centralization and a shift in priorities from revolutionary action towards military victory).
July: Spanish bishops issue a document expressing support for Franco (following which the Vatican recognizes Franco’s regime). Republican counter-offensives around Madrid (Brunete) are inconclusive.
August-October: A Republican offensive in Aragón (Belchite) is reversed with heavy casualties. Nationalist forces take Santander and Asturias, completing their occupation of the north of Spain.
December: A Republican offensive on Teruel (Aragón) is initially successful but is eventually reversed.

January-March: Franco begins to put in place the structures of an authoritarian state, including the system of sindicatos verticales (state-controlled trade unions), the outlawing of strikes, the Ley de Prensa (Press Law, imposing strict censorship on all publications), and (in February 1939) the Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas (Political Responsibilities Act, declaring all opposition to the Nationalist cause a criminal act).
March-April: Nationalist forces drive eastwards and reach the sea, cutting the Republican zone in two.
July-November: Republican forces launch a massive offensive across the Ebro, but by November have suffered heavy losses and are forced to retreat. The International Brigades withdraw from Spain.

January: Nationalist troops sweep through Cataluña and take Barcelona. The Government and hundreds of thousands of refugees flee across the French border ahead of the Nationalist advance, which completes the conquest of Cataluña in February. The Statute of Autonomy is abolished.
March: After the failure of attempts by the anti-communist Consejo de Defensa Nacional (National Defence Council) in Madrid to negotiate a last-minute peace deal with Franco, Nationalist forces take the capital and occupy all remaining Republican territory (Valencia, Alicante, Cartagena).
April: Franco declares the complete triumph of the ‘national’ forces over the ‘red army’. Up to half a million people have died in the war, and another half a million have gone into exile. Hundreds of thousands of supporters of the Republic will be put on trial, and at least 50,000 executed.
May: Franco stages a spectacular victory parade in Madrid.


Ideas, slogans and symbols





revolución, transformación

Cruzada, tradición

bandera republicana

bandera nacional

nacionalismos, pluralidad

nacionalismo, unidad



democracia, libertad

orden, autoridad

igualdad, solidaridad, derechos

servicio, sacrificio, disciplina

lucha de clases

jerarquía, estado paternalista

secularismo, materialismo

catolicismo, espiritualidad, fe


antimarxismo, antisemitismo



‘La Internacional’, ‘Himno de Riego’

‘Cara al sol’, ‘Marcha Real’

puño cerrado

brazo en alto

¡Viva la República!

¡Arriba España!, ¡Viva Franco!

¡No pasarán!

¡El Alcázar no se rinde!

M.P. Thompson
Feb 2011

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