La guerra civil española
(The Spanish civil war)
Leading up to the war…
1923: General Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator
of Spain; Alfonso XIII was King of Spain, but his
government was corrupt and inefficient. He agreed
that General Primo de Rivera should take control.
1930s: Economic depression in Spain. Primo de Rivera
was unable to fix the country’s financial problems.
The army withdrew its support for him and he was
forced to resign.
April 1931: Elections in Spain – the “Republicans” (socalled because they wanted Spain to be a Republic,
instead of a monarchy) won. Alfonso XIII abdicated
(left the throne) and the monarchy was abolished.
However, the new government faced many problems…
Poor economy & high unemployment
Hostility between the new government and the
influential Catholic Church
Hostility between the new government and the army
The País Vasco and Cataluña regions of Spain wanted
independence, threatening to break the country apart.
War breaks out…
The Republicans were composed of
different factions (some more rightwing, some more left-wing) and
had a hard time uniting to
confront the problems facing Spain
as well as political challenges.
General Francisco Franco had been
viewed as politically dangerous and
had been sent to the Canary
Islands; however, he took control
of Spanish Morocco in 1936, then
moved on to mainland Spain,
determined to throw the
Republicans out of government.
Franco was a fascist: he was able to get support from Nazi
Germany and Fascist Italy, as well as from neighboring
Portugal (under the authoritarian Salazar government).
Those led by Franco were known as “Nationalists.”
The Republicans got help from the Soviet Union, but this
caused division among them, since some were not
communist. The Republicans also had support from
international volunteers, but not officially.
Franco’s coup was only partially successful, leading to
bloody fighting over control over Spain.
The Republicans viewed the struggle as democracy vs.
The Nationalists viewed the struggle as Christian
(Catholic) civilization, law and order vs.
communist/anarchist chaos.
“Guernica” – Pablo Picasso
This painting now stands as a symbol of the horrors of
war, especially for civilians…
The famous painting “Guernica” was painted by Pablo
Picasso in response to the bombing of the Basque town of
The town was bombed by German planes at the request of
Franco on April 26, 1937. It was the first military bombing
of civilians in history.
The town was considered a stronghold of Republican
resistance, as well as a Basque cultural center.
However, it did not contain targets of military importance,
except for a factory that was not hit with bombs.
Most of the men were away, fighting with the Republicans,
leaving mostly women and children in the town.
Federico García Lorca
Lorca was a poet,
playwright and theater
director who gained
international acclaim.
He had liberal views and
was outspoken about them.
He was killed in August,
1936 by anti-communist
death squads.
The end of the war
In 1939, Madrid, Cataluña and Valencia, the last
Republican strongholds, fell to Franco’s troops. On April 1,
Franco proclaimed victory.
Irregular guerilla warfare continued into the 1950s.
It is estimated that approximately 500,000 people died in
the Spanish Civil War, most of the at the hands of Franco’s
Franco remained head of state until his death in 1975.
Period of political, cultural and social oppression in Spain.
Life under Franco
Franco outlawed anything not in line with Catholic beliefs.
So, for example, it was illegal to get divorced.
All forms of education were run through the Church.
Franco outlawed the use of any language except Spanish.
Franco believed that Spain should remain as isolated from
the rest of the world as possible – tourism didn’t really begin
in Spain until the 1960s.
Married women had to have their husband’s permission to
work, own property, or travel away from home.

La guerra civil española (The Spanish civil war) - Stjohns