Spain in the 19th Century: Bourbon Restoration, Industrial Capitalism, and European Migration

The Bourbon Restoration (1874-1902)

The Canovist System

The new monarchy adopted the Canovist system, a political system created by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo. It established a system that allowed political parties to alternate in power and promised political and social stability. One of the first objectives was the pacification of Spain. This put an end to the Carlist war in 1876, and in 1878, the Pact of Zanjon ended the Cuban Ten Years’ War. To guarantee stability in the new regime, the Constitution of 1876 was drafted. It proposed a constitutional monarchy, assigned shared power to the Cortes and the king, established bicameral Cortes (Congress and Senate), gave broad powers to the monarch (who named the government), and declared a confessional state. The Constitution of 1876 was moderate with an extensive Bill of Rights and forms of suffrage. However, it was open enough to allow either the conservatives or the liberals to rule, without the need to modify it. To put an end to the military pronunciamentos, the army was made subordinate to civil power.

Bipartisanship and the Turno Pacifico

Under the new bipartisan system, two political parties were created to share power in the government: the Conservative Party, led by Cánovas, and the Liberal Party, led by Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. Both parties were in favor of the monarchy, the Constitution, private ownership, and a centralized, unitary state. However, the conservatives supported maintenance of the existing social order and favored the confessional state (a state with an official religion), while the liberals were more secular and supported comprehensive social reforms. The two parties alternated in power using a system called the turno pacifico (peaceful alternation). The parties marginalized by the system (the Carlists, democrats, republicans, and socialists) could only aspire to have minority representation in parliament. During the regency of Maria Christina (1885-1902), the system of alternating power was consolidated through the Pact of Pardo, and in 1890, the liberals introduced universal male suffrage.

Caciquismo and Electoral Fraud

The alternation of power between conservatives and liberals was secured by caciquismo, a form of social coercion in rural areas in which individuals controlled an electoral constituency through their economic power. The caciques were both conservatives and liberals. They were powerful local figures who manipulated election results through all kinds of vote-rigging: altering official records, buying votes, threatening voters, etc.

The Crisis of 1898

In 1895, Spain found itself faced with a nationalist movement in Cuba as a result of poor Spanish administration regarding political reforms, autonomy, and control of the economy. The nationalist movement had the support of the United States, which suffered from heavy taxes that impeded its trade with Cuba. In 1898, after the sinking of the US battleship Maine in Havana, the USA declared war on Spain. By the time the War of Cuban Independence had ended and the Treaty of Paris was signed (1898), Spain had lost all of its remaining colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines). The crisis of 1898 provoked feelings of frustration and pessimism in Spain. Regenerationist movements emerged, calling for a real democratic state and the end of caciquismo and corruption.

The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism

The Second Industrial Revolution (1880-1914)

In the final third of the 19th century, new energy sources emerged and were developed. The invention of Gramme’s industrial dynamo in 1869 made it possible to generate electricity in hydropower plants, while the invention of the alternator and the transformer in 1897 made it possible to transport electric current. Electricity had many applications in industry (for powering machines), transport (railways, trams, etc.), communication systems (telephones, telegraphs, radios, etc.), entertainment (phonographs, cinemas, etc.), and lighting. Oil extraction began in the United States in the mid-19th century, and the invention of the combustion engine led to its use as fuel for cars (1885), an essential means of transport in the 20th century. During this period, new industrial sectors emerged: the chemical industry (dyes, medicines, etc.), the aluminum industry, and the automotive and aviation industries. In addition, there was a huge rise in the production of goods (furniture, electrical appliances, etc.). Traditional industries, such as textiles, steel, and coal mining, also continued to develop. The great technological leap that occurred in the late 19th century was due to the union between scientific research and industry. Large laboratories were created and funded by industrial companies, the state, or foundations. Scientific discoveries were quickly applied to materials and devices that revolutionized daily life, including the light bulb, vacuum cleaner, camera, radio, telephone, plastics, medicines, etc.

A New Way of Organizing Production

In 1903, Frederick Taylor revolutionized production methods when he invented scientific management, or Taylorism. Manufacturing focused on mass production as the best way to increase productivity, reduce the time taken to make things, and lower manufacturing costs. These new work methods were based on assembly lines, in which each worker performed a specific task in the production process in order to make labor as profitable as possible. Mass production began in the United States, and the Ford Motor Company was one of the first companies to use an assembly line in its car plant (Fordism). This led to standardized mass production and lower production costs, which allowed consumption to be extended to broader sectors of the population.

Banking and Industrial Concentration

The high capital investment required for technological innovations stimulated the relationship between banking and industry, and banks started to fund the industrial process. Industry was becoming concentrated in fewer companies, which were getting bigger and bigger. In order to restrict competition, the major companies signed agreements to set prices and establish areas of influence. This led to the creation of cartels, trusts, holdings, and monopolies (the exclusive rights of companies to sell a product).

Trade Domination and International Finance

In the late 19th century, industrialized countries dominated world trade. Europe carried out half of the world’s exports and received three-quarters of the world’s imports. It also controlled shipping routes, the major commercial ports (London, Antwerp, Hamburg, and Marseilles), and had large fleets and stock markets. The increased volume of trade was made possible by advances in transport (transcontinental railways, the opening of the Suez and Panama Canals (in 1869 and 1914, respectively), and new sales methods, such as installments, mail order, etc. Europe, and later the United States, dominated the world financially. Their enormous wealth allowed them to invest capital across the world: they lent money to states and invested in land, industries, and transport. These investments provided banks and individuals with huge profits.

European Migrants in the 19th Century

The Population Explosion in Europe

Throughout the 19th century, agricultural reforms, industrialization, and advances in medicine and hygiene (e.g., vaccines and drugs) had caused a huge reduction in the death rate in Europe. However, the birth rate did not decline at the same pace until the start of the 20th century. The gap between the birth and death rates caused a population explosion, first in industrialized countries and then across the whole continent. The European population doubled, and a portion of this population migrated to other continents.

Transoceanic Journeys

Migration was made possible by new means of transport, especially transoceanic steamships. Travel times decreased dramatically. At the start of the 19th century, the journey from Europe to the Americas took a month, but by the start of the 20th century, the same journey took just over five days. Thousands of people from all social classes sailed on the ships. Some passengers were assigned to the upper cabins, which had bunks and restaurants, but most traveled in holds. These were the cheapest tickets, but cost them most of their savings.

Poor Migrants and Colonial Elites

: The people who left Europe did not all belong to the same social class. The majority were poor peasants, people without a trade and middle-class people in search of better opportunities. There was a difference between migrants from countries with large colonies such as Britain, who settled in the new lands as farmers or became part of the colonial administration, and those from countries without colonies (e.g). Poland, Italy, etc.), whose conditions in the new lands were worse and many of whom became ordinary wage earners.