Spain: Monarchists and Republicans

Monarchists and Republicans

The nationalist and liberal upsurge that swept over Spain and its overseas empire during the Peninsular War was focused, somewhat incomprehensibly, on the person of Ferdinand VII. After his restoration Ferdinand, through his reactionary measures, drove the forces that had placed him on the throne into opposition. At home, the liberal and radical groups attacked the very institution of the monarchy; overseas, they brought about the independence of the Latin American nations. By 1825 all Latin America except several territories in the West Indies had gained independence. In Spain itself, Ferdinand's refusal to honor the 1812 constitution led to the revolution of 1820, put down in 1823 by French troops acting for the Holy Alliance.

Shortly before his death (1833), Ferdinand altered the law of succession in favor of his daughter, Isabella II, and to the detriment of his brother, Don Carlos. Isabella succeeded under the regency of her mother, Maria Christina, but her succession was contested by the Carlists in a bitter war that raged until 1839. Her turbulent reign (1833–68) was marked by a series of uprisings, military coups, new constitutions, and dictatorships and ended with her abdication. Politics was largely a matter of personalities—among these Espartero, Narváez, Prim, and O'Donnell were outstanding—but factions generally fell into three groups: the extreme reactionaries, who included the Carlists; the moderates and progressives, who theoretically favored a constitutional monarchy, but who tended to rule dictatorially when they came into power; and the republicans. The Catalonian and Basque separatists favored whichever party happened to oppose the central government.

After the abdication (1868) of Isabella, the Cortes set up a constitutional monarchy and chose Amadeus, duke of Aosta, as king. Unable to obtain the cooperation of all factions, Amadeus abdicated in 1873. The short-lived first Spanish republic (1873–74) was torn by another Carlist War (1872–76) and by the cantonalist movement in the south, notably in Cartagena, which attempted to establish authorities independent of the central government. The Bourbon Alfonso XII, son of Isabella, was placed on the throne by a coalition of moderate parties, and in 1876 a new constitution was adopted.

By the end of the 19th cent. the Socialist and Anarcho-Syndicalist parties began to gain a wide following among the lower classes, particularly in industrial Catalonia, rural Andalusia, and in the mining districts of Asturias. Strikes and uprisings, usually suppressed with great brutality, became characteristic features of early-20th-century Spain. The church, which was aligned with the landowners, aroused often violent anticlerical feeling among the revolutionary, and even among liberal, elements. The loss of most of the remainder of the Spanish Empire in the Spanish-American War (1898) prompted a period of self-examination that produced a cultural renaissance.

Under Alfonso XIII (reigned 1886–1931), Spain remained neutral in World War I. But wartime trade had increased industrialists' profits. Great social and economic unrest marked the postwar period. Colonial rebellions in Morocco were a recurring problem. In 1923 a new outbreak in Catalonia was suppressed and resulted in the establishment of a dictatorship under Primo de Rivera. Widespread opposition forced Primo de Rivera's resignation in 1930; in 1931, after a great republican victory in municipal elections, Alfonso XIII was deposed and the second republic established. Under the new president, the moderate liberal Alcalá Zamora, the regime instituted progressive reforms, including the distribution of church property, but met widespread opposition from rightist groups and also from the extreme left. There were serious separatist and Anarcho-Syndicalist uprisings in Catalonia. The government shifted to the right after the 1933 elections, and in 1934 a miners' uprising in the Asturias was put down with much bloodshed.

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