The Federal Republic in Spain: Pi Y Margall and the Federal Republican Movement, 1868-74

By C. A. M. Hennessy | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

THE nineteenth century in Spain has been ill-served by historians. Events of the last twenty-five years have not tended to encourage research on the period after 1808 except in terms of contemporary political issues. Abroad, lack of research on this period can be explained by its complexity and confusion, by the difficulties of finding and consulting archival material but perhaps also by a feeling that Spanish problems have little relevance for nonSpaniards. Whatever problems faced European powers in the nineteenth and early twentieth century they were scarcely those posed by a widening gap between the political and real life of the country, by the adjustment to loss of empire and the constant drain of a rebellious colony as in Cuba, by a militant clerical party aiming to re-create an idyllic Catholic past, by a spoils system which pervaded all branches of public life, and by an overstaffed bureaucratic army whose officers were promoted for political services rather than military efficiency--factors which, taken with the country's poverty and its small middle class, made the establishment of stable parliamentary government impossible.

What were once regarded as mainly indigenous problems are not now so unfamiliar to non-Hispanic experience. Countries 'underdeveloped' as Spain was in the nineteenth century face similar difficulties in trying to apply liberal and democratic principles in a social context where the validity of these concepts is often called into question. Instances of soldiers entering politics as the guardians of social order and the arbiters of political life, claiming to represent the real will of the people against the corrupt rule of politicians (the twin Hispanic phenomena of caudillismo and the pronunciamiento and virtually confined to Spain, Portugal, and Latin America in the nineteenth century), have increased rather than diminished. It would obviously be unwise to press parallels too far, but phenomena unfamiliar and unrelated to our experience a little over a generation ago have now become widespread.

In contrast to the complexities of parliamentary liberalism the

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