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Political Comedy and Social Tragedy

Spain, a Laboratory of Social Conflict, 1892–1921

Dr. Francisco J. Romero Salvadó is a Reader of Modern Spanish History at the University of Bristol and Senior Research Fellow at the Cañada Blanch Research Centre of Contemporary Spanish Studies (LSE). He has written extensively on the transition from elite to mass politics, the post First World War crisis and the Spanish Civil War. He is a recent winner of a British Academy Award (2014) and the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship Award (2015). His publications, which include Foundations of the Civil War: Revolution, Social Conflict and Reaction in Spain, 1916–1923 and La Larga Guerra Civil Española del Siglo XX, are detailed on the press website.

A prequel to the author’s previous monographs on the Great War and the Foundations of the Spanish Civil War, this book analyses the troubled and often violent path of Spain to modernity. During the nearly 30 years of history explored (1892–1921), the country appeared to be caught in a kind of Groundhog Day. It was rocked in the 1890s by an ill-fated colonial adventure and a spiral of anarchist terrorism and praetorian-led repression, mostly in Barcelona, which culminated with the murder of the Conservative prime minister, Antonio Cánovas, in August 1897. Twenty-four years later, Spain was undergoing a similar set of circumstances: a military quagmire in Morocco and vicious social warfare, with its epicentre in the Catalan capital, which resulted in the killing of the then Conservative prime minister, Eduardo Dato, in March 1921. The chronological framework highlights the gradual crisis, but also resilience, of the ruling Restoration Monarchy. Francisco Romero Salvadó pursues the thesis that this crisis could be largely explained by focusing on the correlation between two apparently contradictory conceptual terms, but which in fact proved to be supplementary: the extent to which the persistence of the political comedy embodied by an unreformed liberal but oligarchic order perpetuated a social tragedy.

Notwithstanding the peculiarity of the author’s approach, this study rejects any notion of determinism or exceptionalism. On the contrary, Spain was not an extraordinary case within the European context but constituted a laboratory par excellence of the turmoil which marked this age. Indeed, a watershed period of fast technological progress, economic modernization and cultural awareness clashed head-on with traditional constitutional and liberal states that found they were unable to retain their past hegemony in the dawning era of mass politics. The outcome was unprecedented social warfare which led in many cases to a reactionary backlash and the establishment of authoritarian formulas of governance.

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

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78976-006-4
Hardback Price: £85.00/$99.95
Release Date: June 2020
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-007-1
Paperback Price: £34.95/$49.95
Release Date: June 2020
Page Extent / Format: 400 pp. 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Highly illustrated



List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1: Who Killed Antonio Cánovas? Spain, a Laboratory of
Social Conflict

  • The Discreet Charm of the Liberal Monarchy
  • The Grand Charade
  • Propaganda by the Deed
  • Beyond the Myth: Anarchism in Spain
  • Propaganda by Injustice
  • Death at the Spa

Chapter 2: The Dawn of a New Century. Blood Wedding

  • Chronicle of a Foretold Defeat
  • The Challenge of Modernity
  • The General Strike of 1902
  • The Paralelo's Emperor and the Barceloneta's Kant
  • Alfonso XIII, El Rey de Espadas
  • From Rue de Rohan to Calle Mayor

Chapter 3: The Regeneration Chimera. Dancing with Corpses

  • Antonio Maura: Messiah or Tyrant?
  • The City of Bombs
  • The City in Flames
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice. Who Killed Ferrer Guardia?
  • Who Killed José Canalejas?
  • The Show Must Go On

Chapter 4: The Great War Cataclysm. The Hour of Revolution

  • The Twilight of an Era
  • 1917: The Year of Revolution
  • Neutrality: A Cruel Paradox
  • The Revolution Arrives in Spain
  • Bloody August
  • The Resilience of the Political Setup

Chapter 5: The Red Spectre. The Dawn of a New Era?

  • The European Civil War
  • The Party of the 100 Children
  • The CNT´s Finest Hour
  • The Resurgence of the Action Groups

Chapter 6: The Triumphal March of Reaction. The Year of the Three

  • The Red Mirage
  • The Rule of Fear
  • One Way Ticket to Madrid
  • A Ray of Light in the Horizon
  • The Lockout
  • General Miláns del Bosch's Fall

Chapter 7: Who Killed Eduardo Dato? The Twilight of the Political

  • Eduardo Dato's Last Government
  • Streets of Death
  • Three Catalan Anarchists on a Motorbike in Madrid
  • Groundhog Day



Reviewed in Italian by Marcella Aglietti in Spagna Contemporanea, 2021, n. 59.   

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