The Spanish Civil War

23 July, 2017

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies published an Arabic translation of A Short History of the Spanish Civil War (304 pp.), by Spanish historian Julian Casanova, in November, 2017 (an English version was published by IB Tauris in 2012). The book, translated by Omar Al-Tell, offers Arabic language readers to a pivotal period in inter-war Europe. Beyond that, the history of the conflict narrated in the book is inseparably linked to the history of Morocco, the home to many of the soldiers who fought on Spanish battlefields.

Why War?

Casanova's Introduction seeks to answer why the Spanish Civil War became an inevitability. In it, the author argues that the country’s Guerra Civil was the result of the failure of the junta which toppled Spain’s elected government to impose law and order and to fundamentally the republican form of government. The junta leaders’ desire to overturn the nascent “Second Republic” was not shared uniformly by all sectors of the army. Consequently, regimented, armed formations found themselves supporting opposing political aims.

Following his introduction, Casanova gives readers of the book a chronology of the hostilities to grip Spain throughout the 1930s: from the electoral victory of the Republicans in 1931, to the conclusion of hostilities and the consolidation of the Franco regime in 1939. The book gives an overview of how the Spanish Civil War played out across all of the Spanish territories, from Catalonia, Castile and Aragon to the Canary Islands and the Basque Country. The geographic diversity of the country, claims Casanova, is what gave rise to what the author called “the Two Spains”: the junta found support in Castile and Leon as well as in the northwestern tip of Iberia, in Galicia and in the towns of Andalusia and the Canary Islands. The Republicans, meanwhile, held on to strongholds in the main industrialized and urban centers of Spain, including Catalonian and Asturian cities. One crucial fact underscored by Cazanova’s book is the economic might of the Republican side during the early stages of the conflict, as banks did not side with the junta at first, and the republicans even held on to control to Spain’s gold reserves.

Later, the book explores the involvement of the Catholic clergy in what would become a “crusade” for Spain’s soul, between devout pro-Franco soldiers and a godless and largely communist anti-junta faction. By the time that this conflict was decided in favor of the pro-Franco faction, Spain was reaping the whirlwind of fascism rolling through Europe. The conclusion of Casanova's book is given over to showing how a Francoist regime survived even the downfall of other fascist regimes elsewhere in the continent, before it voluntarily unraveled itself and paved the way for electoral democracy once the junta’s leading general had died.

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