Events Calendar
Feb 27 - Mar 13
10:30 - 12:30
The Spanish Civil War, 1936-39
short courses

Dates: 27 February; 6, 13 March 2019

Wednesdays: 10.30 – 12.30

Course code: 18TON370

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Between 1936 and 1939 Spain was gripped by civil war. We trace the instability of early Twentieth Century Spain to the coup d'etat led by Franco in 1936 and discuss the internationalisation of the Spanish War. We consider why the Nationalists won and the authoritarian regime that lasted until 1975.

Between 1936 and 1939 Spain was gripped by civil war, as sections of the army, aided by the right, rebelled against the elected government helped by Mussolini and Hitler. Despite assistance from the USSR and the International Brigades, the republic succumbed and 39 years of authoritarian ruled ensued.

Week One. The instability of Early Twentieth Century Spain. We will discover the effects of strong regional differences, sharp economic and social divisions and an assertive military. General Primo de Rivera ruled from 1923 to 1923 under Alfonso XIII, until both submitted to a republic from 1931 to 1936. Finally in 1936 a radical republican regime was elected. Why were Spain's problems so intractable up to 1936?

Week Two. The most recalcitrant generals. Franco, Mola, Sanjurja and Goded were exiled as the government grappled with rising disorder, including anticlerical attacks, and seemed to encourage separatism – particularly for Catalonia. The murder of Calvo Sotelo was the last straw, and a coup d'etat led by Franco ensued in July 1936. Franco soon emerged as the rebels' leader, and decided to follow a cautious campaign after his failure to take Madrid in November 1936. We will ask why Franco become the rebels' leader, and why he abandoned the 1936 siege of Madrid.

Week Three. The internationalisation of the Spanish War. The USSR, France and the International Brigades aided the republic, and Portugal, Italy and Germany backed the insurgents. Britain remained uninvolved. Under these circumstances Franco was bound to win, especially given the aircraft of the Condor Legion which, for example, destroyed the Basque city of Guernica in April 1937. We consider why the Nationalists won the war.Atrocities were committed on both sides, but the Nationalists wrought a more savage revenge, as Franco established an authoritarian regime that lasted until 1975.

Suggested reading

Beevor, Antony, The Spanish Civil War (Cassell, 1982)  

Carr, Raymond, The Spanish Tragedy (Phoenix Press, 1986)

Carr, Raymond (intro), Images of the Spanish Civil War (Allen and Unwin, 1986) 

Ellwood, Sheelagh, Franco (Longman, 1994)

Lannon, Frances, The Spanish Civil War (Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2002)

Thomas, Hugh, The Spanish Civil War (Penguin, 1977)

Additional information

This course is suitable for all: some prior knowledge would be useful but is not essential. The course allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment. There will be discussion opportunities during the course.

Intended learning outcomes

  • An understanding of the two sides involved in the conflict.
  • An ability to grasp why the rebel side won.
  • An insight into how far the war sprang from purely Spanish issues, and how far from wider European and global ones.

    About the tutor

    Edward Towne graduated in European Studies from the University of East Anglia, and later achieved a PGCE from Cambridge, an MA in Early Modern English History from the University of London, and MSt in Twentieth Century British History from the University of Oxford. His professional career was spent teaching History in state and independent Secondary Schools, finally as Head of the History Department. Currently, Edward lectures independently to adults in a variety of organisations, and acts as a reviewer and tour leader on historical topics.


    United Kingdom



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