Spanish Civil War

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


A military struggle between left- and right-wing elements in Spain. After the fall of Primo de Rivera in 1930 and the eclipse of the Spanish monarchy in 1931, Spain was split. On the one hand were such politically powerful groups as the monarchists and the Falange, on the other were the Republicans, the Catalan and Basque separatists, socialists, communists, and anarchists. The elections of February 1936 gave power to a left-wing Popular Front government, causing strikes, riots, and military plots. In July 1936 the generals José Sanjurjo and Francisco Franco in Spanish Morocco led an unsuccessful coup against the republic, and civil war began. In 1937 Franco's Nationalists overran the Basque region, which supported the Republicans in the hope of ultimate independence. Franco then divided the Republican forces by conquering territory between Barcelona and Valencia (1938). The Republicans, weakened by internal intrigues and by the withdrawal of Soviet support, attempted a desperate counter-attack. It failed, and Barcelona fell to Franco (January 1939), quickly followed by Madrid. Franco became the head of the Spanish state and the Falange was made the sole legal party. The civil war inspired international support on both sides: the Soviet Union gave military supplies to the Republicans, while Italy and Germany supplied men to the Nationalists. Bombing of civilians by German pilots and the destruction of the Basque town of Guernica (1937) became the symbol of fascist ruthlessness and inspired one of Picasso's most famous paintings. As members of the International Brigades, left-wing and communist volunteers from many countries fought for the Republican cause. The war cost about 750,000 Spanish lives.

Subjects: History.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »