The End of the Spanish Empire, 1898-1923

The End of the Spanish Empire, 1898-1923

The End of the Spanish Empire, 1898-1923

The End of the Spanish Empire, 1898-1923


This is the first full account in any language of Spain's disastrous war with the United States in 1898, in which it lost the remnants of its old empire. It is also the first comprehensive analysis of the ensuing political and social crisis in Spain from the loss of empire through the First World War to the military coup of 1923. Balfour's study essential reading for anyone interested in the roots of the Spanish crisis in the first half of the twentieth century.


Everything is broken in this unhappy country; there is no government, no electorate, no political parties; no army, no navy; all is fiction, all decadence, all ruins . . .

So wrote a mournful Spanish newspaper, El Correo, on 7 February 1901, two years after Spain lost the last of her old colonies in America following a catastrophic war with the United States. The Disaster of 1898, as the defeat was soon called, came as a profound shock to most Spaniards, many of whom had deluded themselves that America was no match for Spain. For some thereafter, it became the original sin from which derived the crisis of Spain in the first part of the twentieth century. For quite the opposite reason, the Spanish-American War of 1898 is a landmark in the history of the United States and of those Spanish colonies which broke away from the metropolis as a consequence. Yet while there is no shortage of American and Cuban histories of the war, there are hardly any global accounts based on Spanish sources. Still less are there any comprehensive studies of the consequences on Spain of the loss of Empire. None the less, 1898 looms almost as large in Spanish historiography as that other fateful and much more trumpeted year of 1492.

This book seeks to fill that gap. Its main focus is on the Disaster and its domestic repercussions yet it also locates these within the wider parameters of early nineteenth- and mid-twentieth-century Spanish history. Although touching on these chronological extremities, it is set almost entirely within the period of 1895 to 1923, that is from the outbreak of the last independence struggles in the Spanish colonies to the end of the liberal monarchy or Restoration system. It is axiomatic to the analysis which follows that the loss of the Empire contributed to the fall of this political system.

The book is framed on one hand by a prologue which sets out to paint the imperial background before this period and on the other by a short epilogue which describes the survival of a residue of imperial ideology until the middle of the twentieth century. The structure that has been adopted is mainly chronological; Chapter 1 is a largely narrative account of the colonial wars and the Spanish-American War. Chapter 2 deals with . . .

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