In the 1930s, Spanish politics were polarized at the left and right of the political spectrum. The left-wing favored class struggle, land reform, autonomy to the regions and reduction in church and monarchist power. The right-wing groups, the largest of which was CEDA, a right wing Roman Catholic coalition, held opposing views on most issues. In 1936, the left united in the Popular Front and was elected to power. However, this coalition, dominated by the centre-left, was undermined both by the revolutionary groups such as the anarchist CNT and FAI and by anti-democratic far-right groups such as the Falange and the Carlists. The political violence of previous years began to start again. There were gunfights over strikes, landless labourers began to seize land, church officials were killed and churches burnt. On the other side, right wing militias (such as the Falange) and gunmen hired by employers assassinated left wing activists. The Republican democracy never generated the consensus or mutual trust between the various political groups that it needed to function peacefully. As a result, the country slid into civil war. The right wing of the country and high ranking figures in the army began to plan a coup, and when Falangist politician José Calvo-Sotelo was shot by Republican police, they used it as a signal to act.
On 17 July 1936, General Francisco Franco led the colonial army from Morocco to attack the mainland, while another force from the north under General Sanjurjo moved south from Navarre. Military units were also mobilised elsewhere to take over government institutions. Franco's move was intended to seize power immediately, but successful resistance by Republicans in places such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, the Basque country and elsewhere meant that Spain faced a prolonged civil war. Before long, much of the south and west was under the control of the Nationalists, whose regular Army of Africa was the most professional force available to either side. Both sides received foreign military aid, the Nationalists, from Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Portugal, the Republic from the USSR and organised volunteers in the International Brigades.
The Siege of the Alcázar at Toledo early in the war was a turning point, with the Nationalists winning after a long siege. The Republicans managed to hold out in Madrid, despite a Nationalist assault in November 1936, and frustrated subsequent offensives against the capital at Jarama and Guadalajara in 1937. Soon, though, the Nationalists began to erode their territory, starving Madrid and making inroads into the east. The north, including the Basque country fell in late 1937 and the Aragon front collapsed shortly afterwards. The bombing of Guernica was probably the most infamous event of the war and inspired Picasso's painting. It was used as a testing ground for the German Luftwaffe's Condor Legion. The Battle of the Ebro in July-November 1938 was the final desperate attempt by the Republicans to turn the tide. When this failed and Barcelona fell to the Nationalists in early 1939, it was clear the war was over. The remaining Republican fronts collapsed and Madrid fell in March 1939.
The war, which cost between 300,000 to 1,000,000 lives, ended with the destruction of the Republic and the accession of Francisco Franco as dictator of Spain. Franco amalgamated all the right wing parties into a reconstituted Falange and banned the left-wing and Republican parties and trade unions.
The conduct of the war was brutal on both sides, with massacres of civilians and prisoners being widespread. After the war, many thousands of Republicans were imprisoned and up to 151,000 were executed between 1939 and 1943. Many other Republicans remained in exile for the entire Franco period.
The dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1936–1975)
Spain remained officially neutral in World Wars I and II, but suffered through a devastating Civil War (1936–1939). During Franco's rule, Spain remained largely economically and culturally isolated from the outside world, but began to catch up economically with its European neighbors.
Under Franco, Spain actively sought the return of Gibraltar by the UK, and gained some support for its cause at the United Nations. During the 1960s, Spain began imposing restrictions on Gibraltar, culminating in the closure of the border in 1969. It was not fully reopened until 1985.
Spanish rule in Morocco ended in 1967. Though militarily victorious in the 1957–1958 Moroccan invasion of Spanish West Africa, Spain gradually relinquished its remaining African colonies. Spanish Guinea was granted independence as Equatorial Guinea in 1968, while the Moroccan enclave of Ifni had been ceded to Morocco in 1969.
The latter years of Franco's rule saw some economic and political liberalization, the Spanish Miracle, including the birth of a tourism industry. Francisco Franco ruled until his death on 20 November 1975, when control was given to King Juan Carlos.
In the last few months before Franco's death, the Spanish state went into a paralysis. This was capitalized upon by King Hassan II of Morocco, who ordered the 'Green March' into Western Sahara, Spain's last colonial possession.
Spain since 1975
Transition to democracy
The Spanish transition to democracy or new Bourbon restoration was the era when Spain moved from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco to a liberal democratic state. The transition is usually said to have begun with Franco’s death on 20 November 1975, while its completion is marked by the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE on 28 October 1982.
Between 1978 and 1982, Spain was led by the Unión del Centro Democrático governments.
in 1981 the 23-F coup d'état attempt took place. On 23 February Antonio Tejero, with members of the Guardia Civil entered the Congress of Deputies, and stopped the session, where Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo was about to be named prime minister of the government. Officially, the coup d'état failed thanks to the intervention of King Juan Carlos. Spain joined NATO before Calvo-Sotelo left office.
Along with political change came radical change in Spanish society. Spanish society had been extremely conservative under Franco, but the transition to democracy also began a liberalization of values and societal mores.
From 1982 until 1996, the social democratic PSOE governed the country, with Felipe González as prime minister. In 1986, Spain joined the European Economic Community (EEC, now European Union), and the country hosted the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Seville Expo '92.
In 1996, the centre-right Partido Popular government came to power, led by José María Aznar. On 1 January 1999, Spain exchanged the peseta for the new Euro currency. The peseta continued to be used for cash transactions until January 1, 2002. On 11 March 2004 a number of terrorist bombs exploded on busy commuter trains in Madrid during the morning rush-hour days before the general election, killing 191 persons and injuring thousands. Although José María Aznar and his ministers were quick to accuse ETA of the atrocity, soon afterwards it became apparent that the bombing was the work of an extremist Islamic group linked to Al-Qaeda. Many people believe that the fact that qualified commentators abroad were beginning to doubt the official Spanish version the very same day of the attacks while the government insisted on ETA's implication directly influenced the results of the election. Opinion polls at the time show that the difference between the two main contenders had been too close to make any accurate prediction as to the outcome of the elections. The election, held three days after the attacks, was won by the PSOE, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero replaced Aznar as prime minister.
On 3 July 2005, the country became the first country in the world to give full marriage and adoption rights to homosexual couples (Belgium has allowed same-sex marriage since 2003 and co-parenting since April 2006, and the Netherlands has allowed same-sex marriage since 2001 and now has a law in preparation to provide full adoption rights in equal conditions to opposite-sex marriages).
At present, Spain is a constitutional monarchy, and comprises 17 autonomous communities (Andalucía, Aragón, Asturias, Islas Baleares, Islas Canarias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Castile-La Mancha, Cataluña, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Community of Madrid, Region of Murcia, País Vasco, Comunidad Valenciana, Navarra) and two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla).