Events Calendar
Nov 20 - Dec 11
10:30 - 12:30
The Spanish Civil War 1936-39: Causes and Consequences
Short courses

4 weeks: 20, 27 November; 4, 11 December

Wednesdays: 10.30 – 12.30

Course code: 19TON370

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Between 1936 and 1939 Spain was gripped by civil war, as sections of the army, aided by the political 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 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, anticlerical attacks, and separatist tendencies – particularly in the Basque Provinces and in Catalonia.  The murder of Calvo Sotelo, a right-wing politician, was the last straw, and a coup d'etat led by Franco ensued in July 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, while 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.

Week Four:  The Franco Regime, 1940-1975.  Franco refused to ally with Hitler in World War 2, despite a bruising meeting at Hendaya in 1940, and by 1945 he had wholly distanced himself from the Axis powers.  Yet the regime remained authoritarian until the end, with a highly influential Roman Catholic Church.  We consider whether Franco's government had any positive achievements to its credit as the post-Franco era dawned.

Suggested reading

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

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

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

Sheelagh Ellwood, Franco (Longman, 1994).

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

Hugh Thomas, 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.


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