The First World War constituted a turning point in modern European history. It was a devastating conflict which produced massive economic dislocation, social distress and discontent throughout the continent. Hitherto the existing governing elites had managed to cling to power through a variety of liberal political systems which in fact disguised the monopoly of power enjoyed by the privileged propertied classes. After the First World War that would no longer be possible. It heralded the arrival of a new era, that of mass politics. Europeans would irretrievably move away from the world of 1914 as the dominant forms of hierarchical, clientelist and elitist politics broke down. The ruling orders were confronted with the unwelcome prospect of more genuine democracy, and from 1917 with the fast-advancing threat of socialism. The war initiated a period of ideological militancy and political mobilization without precedent in Europe since 1848.
Spain was not an exception. In fact, the Spanish case has to be regarded as a regional version of the general crisis which engulfed Europe during those years. The impact of the Great War inflicted a deadly blow on the Restoration monarchy which had ruled the country since 1875. The Spanish governing classes struggled in vain to keep the country free from the conflict. The official neutrality of the state did not save its political system. Spain did not enter the war, but the war entered Spain and its economic and political impact eroded the fragile foundations of a political system which had so far been based on the passivity and subservience of the population.
A chronological order has been adopted for the narrative so as to facilitate a sense of evolution. The analysis traces developments from the outbreak of hostilities in Europe to the subsequent disintegration of the ruling political system in Spain throughout the years of the conflict. The first chapter is an introduction in which particular emphasis is placed on the fact that foreign problems played an important part in the growing loss of hegemony of the Restoration monarchy. The second examines the socio-economic impact and the ideological split in the country produced by the war. The third and fourth chapters have particular importance. The period covered, December 1915-April 1917, has traditionally been ignored by most historians, yet it