Spain, 1914-1918: Between War and Revolution

By Francisco J. Romero Salvadó | Go to book overview

2

THE OUTBREAK OF WAR

Spain and her official neutrality

The outbreak of the First World War was to make it increasingly more difficult to continue the constitutional sham in every European state. Such a devastating conflict brought about enormous social and economic strains which altered the relation of forces in most countries. Food shortages, economic dislocation, social distress, scarcity and inflation led to a political awakening and ideological militancy of the masses. Under those pressures, the existing forms of hierarchical, clientelist and elitist politics broke down. At the end of the war, the traditional governing elites found it impossible to put the clock back and return to the world of 1914.

Spain, if spared the human slaughter, experienced as much of the effects of the conflict as the other European states. Her official neutrality could hardly hide the intensity of the debate between the supporters of the Central Powers and those of the Allies, nor could it check the increasing militancy and ideological awareness produced by the impact of the war on the daily lives of the Spaniards. Having rested so far on the political apathy of most Spaniards, the Restoration system entered a period of crisis; a crisis of hegemony produced by the inability of the governing elites to face successfully the arrival of mass politics and its subsequent challenge to clientelism and patronage as a source of power.

The First World War destroyed the foundations of the Canovite status quo. Ironically, a war in which Spain did not intervene was to have a decisive influence on her contemporary history. 1 Most dynastic politicians were determined to keep Spain out of the conflict regardless of the price. They succeeded in doing so but it was beyond their power to prevent the conflict from entering Spain.

The very day that hostilities broke out on the continent, the Conservative cabinet declared Spain officially neutral. On 25 August Prime Minister Dato wrote to his former chief Maura noting that the lack of commitments to either side facilitated the country’s neutral status. Yet he also pointed out other very revealing facts:

-5-

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Spain, 1914-1918: Between War and Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Outbreak of War 5
  • 3 - The Romanones Administration 27
  • 4 - The Romanones Administration 60
  • 5 - The Gathering Storm 85
  • 6 - Two Parliaments in One Country 100
  • 7 - The Hot August of 1917 120
  • 8 - The End of an Era 135
  • 9 - The Year 1918 150
  • 10 - Epilogue 179
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 230
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