Spain 1898-1914 Spain 1918-1923

Spain during World War I

Easily defeated in the Spanish-American War, Spain had the reputation of being militarily weak, economically backward and politically unstable. The country therefore stayed out of the various alliances which got most of Europe's countries involved in World War I. In 1914, when the war broke out, Prime Minister Dato proclaimed Spain's neutrality. Public opinion was split; the more conservative elements were Germanophiles, the leftist organizations Francophiles.

Economically, Spain profitted from a war that was so disastrous for the belligerent nations. As the economies of the other countries switched to war economies, i.e. focussed on the production of war essentials, Spain's industries found markets deserted by their competitors, a demand outnumbering the supply. The government was able to considerably reduce it's debts. On the other hand, Spain's economy had to cope with a considerable drop of imports. There were shortages of certain goods, which affected the lifestyle of the underprivileged. War profiteers hoarded grain in order to sell it at peak prices. Spanish state revenue throughout the war remained stable at about 1,200 million Pesetas; expenses (1,374 million Pesetas in 1913) peaked at 2,200 million Pesetas in 1917.
The old caciquism no longer worked, as the Catalonian Lliga Regionalista had acquired sufficient parliamentary seats to block either liberal or conservative governments; now governments had to rule with the Lliga's support; the old system, by which the conservatives and liberals took turn in government, did no longer work.
In 1917, in the aftermath of the Russian February Revolution, and in the face of domestic inflation, strikes increased in number and size. Confidence in the democratic system was low, as during the election of 1916 voting attendance was below 50 % and many parliamentary seats were uncontested. Even during the war, administrations frequently changed. Reacting to the Russian Revolution, King Alfonso XIII. openly declared his support for Germany, an act which caused mass demonstrations in protest and which lead to the resifnation of prime minister COUNT ROMANONES (1917).
A GENERAL PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY held in Barcelona in 1917 decided to introduce constitutional reforms. Conservative forces in government and army pursued a confrontation course toward the assembly. Summer 1917 saw the outbreak of a general strike, which failed. Facing a situation in which the conservative forces were more unpopular than before, a group of army officers ultimatively demanded the formation of a cabinet favourable to constitutional reform (Oct. 1917); this marks the breakthrough of the reform movement.

Biography of Antonio Maura y Montaner, from Base documental d'Historia Contemporania de Catalunya, in Spanish
Biography of Alvaro de Figueroa y Torres, Conde de Romanones (1863-1950), from Alcarrians distinguished, in Spanish
La Gran Guerra i el Catalanisme, from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan (The Great War and Catalanism)
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Spain by Ben Cahoon
French propaganda postcard featuring neutral Spain : For right and honour alone, 1915, from WW I Propaganda Postcards, scroll down; Artist Emil Dupuis
REFERENCE Peter Pierson, A Troubled New Century, 1898-1931, in : P. Pierson, The History of Spain, London : Greenwood 1999, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 946 P624t
Francisco J. Romero Salvado, Twentieth Century Spain, Politics and Society in Spain 1898-1998, NY : St. Martin's, 1999, 219 pp.; KMLA Lib. Call Sign 946.08 S182t
B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics : Europe 1750-1988, N.Y. : Stockton, 1992 [G]
Article : Spain, in : New International Year Book 1914 pp.658-661, 1916 pp.651-654, 1918 pp.614-617 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on March 19th 2007

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz