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The reign of Alfonso XIl acceded to the throne in 1902 in a political environmentcharacterised by the crisis of Cánovas del Castillo’s political system,the influence of regenerationism and the deaths of Cánovas (1897) and Sagasta (1903). When studying his reign, historians usually look at two stages, divided by the crisis of 1917.

The continued practice of party rotation (1902-1917). Up until the year 1917, the two-party rotational system was maintained between the Conservative Party, led by Antonio Maura, and the Liberal Party, led by José Canalejas. Both engaged in ‘regenerationist’ politics, which were unsuccessful in their attempts to end the despotism of the time and make social improvements.                                                                  The main problem of the period was the war against Morocco. The treaty signed at the Algeciras Conference (1906) divided Morocco into two protectorates: one in the north of Morocco under French control and the other in the south under Spanish control.                                              Spanish occupation of its protectorate led to a war with the inhabitants of the Rif; a war that in 1909 required reservists to be called up, the majority of whom were fathers. This set off violent protests in Barcelona, which became known as the Tragic Week of 1909. The harsh repression by Maura’s conservative government caused the liberals to break their pact of rotation with him.

The crisis of the Cánovas system (1917-1923)
Military. The Army demanded that wages be increased and that army rank be determined by seniority, not by merits in battle.                                                                                        Politics. An assembly of Catalan parlamentarians demanded decentralised state with autonomous regions.                Society. Left-wing political parties and trade unions carried out a general strike on 13 August to protest the rise in prices and overthrow the  government. 

When the crisis was finally over, in the period from 1919 to 1923 Spain experienced a period of political decline and was forced to form unity governments made up of members from all the different parties. These governments did not last long and faced several domestic and foreign challenges.                On a domestic level: social conflict increased as a response to the economic crisis that came after the First World War and as a result of the Russian Revolution. Both of these events led to violent clases between workers and bosses, and numerous strikes.                                                                                      Abroad: Spain suffered a brutal defeat in the Rif War against Morocco in what was known as the Disaster at Annual, resulting in 10000 deaths and widespread public commotion, negatively influencing public opinion.

Dictatorship and the end of the monarchy  
The Military Directory (1923-1925). In this stage, Primo de Rivera suspended the constitution, disolved the Cortes, prohibited political parties, suppressed the labour movement and defeated the Moroccans after the Alhucemas landing (1925).                                                                                              The Civil Directory (1925-1930). The military victory in Morocco and the economic boom of the 1920s helped Primo de Rivera maintain power until 1930.                                          In January of 1930, due to the 1929 economic crisis, the rise in unemployment, the spread of the labour  ovement, nationalist problems and rejection by many intellectuals, Primo de Rivera was forced to resign.                               
Alfonso XIll tried to go back to the parlamentary system, first with the government of General Dámaso Berenguer and later with Admiral Aznar. However, the citizens’ disapproval of the king’s support for the dictatorship led to significant Republican victories in the 1931 municipal elections for several major cities. The king went into exile on 14 April 1931 and the Second Republic was declared.


The Republic and the Constitution of 1931                              After the Second Republic was proclaimed, a provisional government was formed, made up of Republicans, socialists and nationalists who held elections for the Constituent Cortes in June 1931. The left-wing parties won a majority and drafted a new constitution.
The Constitution of 1931
It established a wide range of rights (expression, assembly, association) and popular sovereignty, separation of powers, universal male and female suffrage, regional autonomy through a statute of autonomy and separation of church and state. It also defined Spain as a ‘Republic of workers’.            The Republic then went through three stages: the Reformist Biennium, Conservative Biennium and the Popular Front.
Reformist Biennium (1931-1933)
Once the constitution was approved, Niceto Alcalá-Zamora was elected president of the Republic, and Manuel Azaña led a coalition government made up of left-wing Republicans and socialists. Azaha’s government was ambitious in its push for political reform, which was designed to solve the societal problems of the period.                                                        Political reforms. The government began a process of political decentralisation, passing a statute of autonomy for Catalonia and initiating projects on similar statutes for the Basque Country and Galicia.                                                              Military reform. It reduced the number of military officials and sought to guarantee their loyalty to the Republic by forcing the retirement (with a full salary) of any official who would not swear loyalty to the Republic.                        Economic reforms. In 1932, the Cortes enacted an agrarian reform programme, under which large private landholdings that were underexploited were confiscated and distributed among peasants or divided into cooperatives.                    Social reforms. Labour conditions for workers improved. A forty-hour workweek was established, wages were increased and insurance was provided.

The influence of the Church was reduced, civil marriage and divorce were established, thereby eliminating the payment to priests, and in schools the religious orders were barred from teaching.                                                                                    Cultral reforms. There was a strong push for public education, creating 10 000 schools and increasing the number of teachers.                                                                                      These reforms led to protests by both the right an the left, the former considering them too radical and the latter upset that the reforms had not done enough. As a consequence, Azaña was forced to resign and elections were called for November 1933.
Conservative Biennium (1933-1936)
The elections in 1933 led to a victory of the political right and centre. The government was formed by the centrist Radical Republican Party, led by Alejandro Lerroux, who gained the parlamentary support of the Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA in its Spanish acronym), à coalition of right-wing parties.                                                                    The new government halted the majority of the previous reforms, which led to an increase in strikes and more actions by left-wing parties. CEDA then demanded positions in the government.                                                                                  This sparked the October Revolution of 1934, which was most intense in Asturias and Barcelona.                                          In Asturias: miners led a social revolution and besieged the city of Oviedo for two weeks. The government brutally quashed the uprising with the support of the Spanish army of Africa.                                                                                                  In Barcelona: the autonomous government proclaimed a Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic. After the movement was halted, the government disolved the statute of autonomy and the Generalitat.
Dissatisfaction among the left due to the harsh repression and imprisonment of thousands Of people, economic problems and corruption scandals involving several politicians of the Radical Party (the Straperlo scandal), led to yet another election in February 1936. T.

The Popular Front (February-June 1936)
The new government, led by Manuel Azaña and later by Santiago Casares Quiroga, granted amnesty for all political prisoners of the 1934 revolution and brought back the reforms that had been halted during the Conservative Biennium, in particular the agrarian reform. These actions led to a growing political radicalisation. On the left side of the political spectrum, the radical faction of the PSOE gained momentum. On the right, an ultra right-wing party called the Falange Española was founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of the former dictator, who sought to impose a fascist regime.
Political violence reached its peak in what was known as the Tragic Spring of 1936, consisting of a wave of attacks and street violence between staunch falangist, communist and anarchist activists. The most conservative sectors of the Army, who had been conspiring against the government since the victory of the Popular Front, decided to end the Republic through a coup d’état, led by General Emilio Mola.
The assassination of José Calvo Sotelo in Madrid on 13 July 1936
paved the way for a military insurrection.
Military uprising
The coup d’état began in Melilla, Tetuan and Ceuta on 17 July 1936. The next day it spread throughout Spain, having success in rural areas, yet failing in the more industrialised urban areas. The country was divided into two zones, the Republican zone and the ‘Nationalist’ zone, and the military coup turned into a long Civil War.
In Spain, the uprising was supported by conservative soldiers, landowners, high bourgeoisie, monarchists, Carlists and many Catholics. On the other hand, the legal authority of the Republic was supported by soldiers with a progressive mentality, landless peasants, petit bourgeoisie, Republicans, and left-wing parties.

Abroad, countries wanted to block foreign forces from entering the war as a way to prevent another world war. With this goal in mind, the Non-Intervention Committee was formed. However, they could not prevent the insurgents from receiving support from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and the Republicans from receiving support from the USSR and International Brigades, made up of volunteers from several countries.
Evolution of the Republicans and insurgents                          The Republican zone
A social revolution took place that made land and industries collective and led to great disorder. Anticlerical sentiments grew and the statute of autonomy for the Basque Country was passed. The government, controlled by the Socialist Party, was led by Largo Caballero, with the support of all left-wing parties. 
It then passed to Juan Negrín, and was weakened by the division between the anarchists, who wanted to carry out a revolution to win the war, and the communists, who wanted to win the war to then launch a revolution.
The Nationalist zone
This zone was controlled by the insurgents who suspended Republican reforms. General Francisco Franco, who had been appointed “Generalisimo’ of the army, concentrated civilian and military power and unified all of his supporting forces into one single party, the Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las JONS and concentrated all of their efforts towards winning the war, which they did in the end.
The war’s repercussions
The war caused more than 380000 deaths and 350 000 political exiles. It destroyed industries, transport, buildings and infrastructures. It led to the triumph of the most conservative social groups and the Church, which supported the insurgents. It also led to cultural impoverishment, due to the exile of many artists and intellectuals. Franco imposed a dictatorial political system.