Spain's First Democracy

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The significance of Spain’s Second Republic has been largely overshadowed by the cataclysmic Civil War that immediately followed it.  Stanley Payne brings his immense knowledge of Spanish history to bear on the five-year span of the Second Republic as a historic entity in its own right.  In Spain’s First Democracy, he argues that the Republic was one of the major national attempts at political democratization and reform in Europe between the World Wars and represented the most important effort to swim against the tide during Europe’s “era of fascism.”
    Payne’s detailed study places the Republic within the historical framework of Spanish liberalism and the rapid modernization of interwar Europe, which was unlike any other period in Spain’s history.  Payne discusses the Republicans’ efforts to establish Spain’s first democratic political systems and to institute major reforms within the Republic.  In highlighting reforms in politics and government, church-state relations, education and culture, public works, military affairs, and society as a whole, he assesses the successes and failures of these reforms as well as the reasons for their limitations.  He also examines the economic and foreign policy issues of the period.
    Focusing particularly on political conflict and social cleavage, Payne brilliantly explores the sources and character of the political polarization that developed as a result of the assaults on the Republic from the Left and the Right.  He identifies the main political actors in this schism and their role in the eventual breakdown of the Republic.  Tracing the progressive collapse of the Republican polity in the first half of 1936, Payne stresses the importance of political violence in the democracy’s downfall.
    In restoring perspectives that have been ignored or bypassed, Payne presents a consistent and detailed interpretation of Spain’s Second Republic, demonstrating its striking parallels to the Weimar Republic in Germany.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Stanley Payne is] America’s most prolific historian of Spain.” —Paul Preston, New York Times Book Review

“Payne’s scope in this book is very impressive.  The totality of the political and social struggle during this period is his greatest success—the Second Republic as a process.” —Robert Kern, University of New Mexico

The emergence and early success of the Second Republic in Spain was the most unusual, and probably the most positive, political event in Europe during the first years of the Great Depression. Payne presents a detailed, but highly readable account of what went right and what went wrong, culminating (with the beginning of the Civil War) in the concluding chapter, "Why did the Republic fail?" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299136741
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 7/19/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley G. Payne is the Hilldale-Jaime Vicens Vives Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He is the author of The Franco Regime, 1936-1975; Spanish Catholicism; and A History of Spain and Portugal, all published by the University of Wisconsin Press; and of The Spanish Revolution.  

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Table of Contents

1 The Ordeal of Modernization in Spain 3
2 The Republican Transition, 1930-1931 23
3 The Republican Constitution 47
4 The Republican Reforms 81
5 Waning of the Left Republican Coalition 125
6 Economic Policy and Performance 148
7 Foreign Policy 156
8 Resurgence of the Right, 1933-1934 166
9 The Revolutionary Insurrection of 1934 189
10 Government by the Center-Right, 1934-1935 224
11 The Elections of 1936 257
12 The Left Returns to Power, February to May 1936 281
13 Breakdown, May to July 1936 321
14 Why Did the Republic Fail? 371
General Accounts of the Republic 387
Notes 389
Index 455
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