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The Faith and the Fury

Popular Anticlerical Violence and Iconoclasm in Spain, 1931–1936

Maria Thomas has recently completed her PhD at Royal Holloway University of London. She has also studied at the London School of Economics and at Cardiff University. Her research interests include anticlericalism, religion, secularisation and political violence in 1930s Spain. She is the author of various journal articles on these topics.

The five-year period following the proclamation of the Republic in April 1931 was marked by physical assaults upon the property and public ritual of the Spanish Catholic Church. These attacks were generally carried out by rural and urban anticlerical workers who were frustrated by the Republic’s practical inability to tackle the Church’s vast power. On 17–18 July 1936, a right-wing military rebellion divided Spain geographically, provoking the radical fragmentation of power in territory which remained under Republican authority. The coup marked the beginning of a conflict which developed into a full-scale civil war. Anticlerical protagonists, with the reconfigured structure of political opportunities working in their favour, participated in an unprecedented wave of iconoclasm and violence against the clergy. During the first six months of the conflict, innumerable religious buildings were destroyed and almost 7,000 religious personnel were killed.

To date, scholarly interpretations of these violent acts were linked to irrationality, criminality and primitiveness. However, the reasons for these outbursts are more complex and deep-rooted: Spanish popular anticlericalism was undergoing a radical process of reconfiguration during the first three decades of the twentieth century. During a period of rapid social, cultural and political change, anticlerical acts took on new – explicitly political – meanings, becoming both a catalyst and a symptom of social change. After 17–18 July 1936, anticlerical violence became a constructive force for many of its protagonists: an instrument with which to build a new society. This book explores the motives, mentalities and collective identities of the groups involved in anticlericalism during the pre-war Spanish Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War, and is essential reading for all those interested in twentieth-century Spanish history.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies


Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-546-5
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $74.95
Release Date: August 2012
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-013-2
Paperback Price: £24.95 / $34.95
Release Date: June 2019
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


List of Abbreviations

Preface by Series Editor Paul Preston

Introduction: History, Representations and Challenges

I. The Construction of Anticlerical Collective Identities before 1931
II. Expectation, Mobilization and Grassroots Secularization during the Second Republic
III. Profiling the Protagonists of Anticlerical Violence
IV. “We have come to place you at liberty and to burn the convent.” Gender, Sexuality and Anticlerical Violence
V. Anticlerical Violence as a Building Block
VI. The Physiognomy of Anticlerical Violence

Conclusions: Protest, Change and Revolution


Maria Thomas never fails to provide a broader analysis, to use a specific event to draw more general conclusions, or to showcase her detailed knowledge of the most recent historiography of the Spanish Civil War.
Professor Julián Casanova (University of Zaragoza), The Volunteer, December 2013:

Thomas’s compelling and well-written account leads to several interesting and surprising conclusions.
Professor Sebastiaan Faber (Oberlin College), Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, vol. 38, issue 1, December 2013

Though it seems only the most casual non-academic reader may still assume modern anticlerical and iconoclastic violence are irrational, pre-modern, or random, this book is an exceptionally well written and wonderfully researched treatment of these phenomena during the Second Republic and Civil War, replete with harrowing anecdotes. This is a highly recommended, very enjoyable contribution to our still growing understanding of the nightmare of the Spanish Civil War.
Professor Enrique A. Sanabria (University of New Mexico), Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Volume XCI, Number 7, 2014

Overall, Thomas has produced an excellent study on the Spanish anticlericalism of the 1930s (…) In her thorough analysis she successfully examines the complexity and social dynamics of anticlerical violence in a clear and vivid manner.
Reviewed in neue politische literatur 3/2013

My overall impression of The Faith and the Fury is certainly positive. It is an indispensable book for all those who are interested in the history of anticlericalism in Spain: this is a pioneering study (…) about a question of vital importance to the understanding of Spanish contemporary history.
Julio de la Cueva (University of Castilla-La Mancha), Revista de libros, December 2014

An extremely interesting book for anybody who wants to find out more about violence during the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War.
Hispania Nova: Revista de Historia Contemporánea, January 2015

The book’s ideas are grounded in a rich critical apparatus and a great effort in compiling empirical evidence. This means that not only is this the best study of anticlerical violence and iconoclasm in 1930s Spain to date, I would also be bold enough to say that it is one of the most enriching and intriguing books published on the Civil War this year.
José Luis Ledesma, Segle XX. Revista catalana d’història, 7 (2014)

In my opinion, there is no doubt that The Faith and the Fury can be placed rightfully among the great books of reference when analysing the phenomenon of anticlericalism in contemporary Spain.
Ramiro Trullén Floría, Spagna contemporanea, 2014, n. 46

Thomas’s book deserves to be read widely, for it will change our understanding, not just of the brief intense anticlerical assault, but of the Civil War, and of Spanish history, society, and politics in general.
Bruce Lincoln in The Volunteer,

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