Spain under the Restoration

Spain under the Restoration
Kingdom of Spain
Reino de España

Flag Coat of arms
Marcha Real
Capital Madrid
Language(s) Spanish
Religion Roman Catholic Church
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - 1874–1885 Alfonso XII
 - 1886–1931 Alfonso XIII
 - 1885–1902 Maria Christina
Prime Minister1
 - 1874–1875 Antonio Cánovas del Castillo
 - 1931 Juan Bautista Aznar Cabañas
Legislature Congress of Deputies
 - Proclamation of Alfonso XII December 29, 1874
 - Departure of Alfonso XIII April 14, 1931
Currency Spanish peseta
1 Formal title was "Presidente del Consejo de Minstros" ("President of the Cabinet")

The Restoration was the name given to the period that began on December 29, 1874 after the First Spanish Republic ended with the restoration of Alfonso XII to the throne after a coup d'état by Martinez Campos, and ended on April 14, 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic.

After almost a whole century of political instability and many civil wars, the aim of the Restoration was to create a new political system, which ensured stability by the practice of turnismo. This was the deliberate rotation of the Liberal and Conservative parties in the government, so no sector of the bourgeoisie felt isolated, and excluded all other parties from the system. This was achieved by electoral fraud. Opposition to the system came from republicans, socialists, anarchists, Basque and Catalan nationalists, and Carlists.


Reign of Alfonso XII and Regency of María Cristina (1875–1898)

The pronunciamiento by Martinez Campos established Alfonso XII as King, marking the end of the First Spanish Republic. After this, the Constitution of 1876 was written and enforced during the whole restoration. This constitution established Spain as a bi-cameral constitutional monarchy, with a lower House (Congreso de Diputados), and an upper House (Senado). This constitution gave the King the power to name Senators, and to revoke laws if he wanted to, and he was also given the title of Commander-in-chief of the army.

These years were marked by economic prosperity. Spain's economy was quite behind those of the other European countries, and during these years, the modernization of the country took place on a large scale. On most fronts, production was increased, and national products increased due to extreme protectionist measures.

The two parties alternated in the government in a controlled process known as el turno pacífico: the Liberal Party led by Sagasta and the Conservative Party led by Canovas del Castillo. The caciques, local powerful men, were used to manipulate election results and because of this, resentment to the system slowly built up over time, and important nationalist movements in Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country, as well as unions, started to form.

Reign of Alfonso XIII and crisis of the system (1898–1923)

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In 1898 Spain lost its last major overseas provinces (Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines) in the Spanish-American War. The rapid collapse was perceived as a disaster in Spain, undermining the credibility of both the government and associated ideologies and almost led to a military coup d'état led by Camilo Polavieja. This was the start of the system's weakening, giving oxygen to all manner of conflicting opposition movements at a local and national level.[1]

The failed attempts to conquer Morocco (Rif War) caused great discontent at home and ended up in a revolt in Barcelona, known as the Semana Tragica, in which the lower classes of Barcelona backed by the anarchists, communists, and republicans, revolted against what they considered the unjust methods of recruiting soldiers. The government declared a state of war and sent the army to crush the revolt, causing over a hundred deaths and the execution of Francisco Ferrer. The socialist Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) and the anarchist union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) decided to initiate a general strike across the country that failed because the unions could only mobilize urban workers.

The problems in Morocco worsened as an army of natives attacked the Spanish army. They were taken by surprise and, due to the skill of the Moroccan chieftain, Abd-Al-Krim, virtually annihilated the Spanish army almost all the way to Melilla in the Battle of Annual. This defeat was due to improper planning and was blamed on the top military officers, causing great discontent among the military, who felt misunderstood, because they had been directed to advance into the interior without adequate resources to occupy the difficult territory.

Primo de Rivera's dictatorship (1923–1930)

The military discontent, the fear of anarchist terrorism or a proletarian revolution, and the rise of nationalisms ended up causing great agitation amongst the civilians and the military. On September 13, 1923, Miguel Primo de Rivera, Captain General of Catalonia at that time, orchestrated a coup d'état, after emitting a manifesto blaming the problems of Spain on the parliamentary system. Alfonso XIII backed the General, and named him Prime Minister. He proceeded to suspend the Constitution, and assume absolute powers as a dictator, abolishing all other parties. He created the Unión Patriótica Española which was meant to be the sole legal party. During this time, he greatly increased government spending in business and public services, which caused his government to go bankrupt. He lost the support of the military, and faced serious health problems. Opposition to his regime was so great that Alfonso XIII stopped supporting him and forced him to resign in January 1930.[2]

The final years (1930–1931)

Alfonso XIII, in an attempt to return gradually to the previous system and restore his prestige, called on General Dámaso Berenguer to form a government. This failed utterly, as the King was considered a supporter of the dictatorship, and more and more political forces called for the establishment of a republic. Berenguer resigned and the King gave the government to Admiral Aznar. Aznar called for local elections on April 12, 1931 in order to satisfy the democrats and republicans, to replace the dictatorship's local governments and to gradually re-introduce the restoration.

Although the monarchists had not lost all their support, the republican and socialist parties won a major victory. Street riots ensued, calling for the removal of the monarchy. The army declared that they would not defend the King and he fled Spain. The Second Spanish Republic was immediately established under a provisional government led by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora.


  1. ^ Earl Ray Beck, Time of Triumph & Sorrow: Spanish Politics during the Reign of Alfonso XII, 1874-1885 (1979)
  2. ^ Ben-Ami, (1977)


  • Barton, Simon. A History of Spain (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Beck, Earl Ray. Time of Triumph & Sorrow: Spanish Politics during the Reign of Alfonso XII, 1874-1885 (1979)
  • Ben-Ami, Shlomo. "The Dictatorship of Primo de Rivera: A Political Reassessment," Journal of Contemporary History, Jan 1977, Vol. 12 Issue 1, pp 65-84 in JSTOR
  • Carr, Raymond, ed. Spain: A History (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Esdaile, Charles J. Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808-1939 (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Hall, Morgan C. "Alfonso XIII and the Failure of the Liberal Monarchy in Spain, 1902-1923" Dissertation Abstracts International, 2003, Vol. 64 Issue 6, p2220-2220,
  • Payne Stanley G. "Spanish Conservatism 1834-1923," Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 13, No. 4, (Oct. 1978), pp. 765-789 in JSTOR
  • Winston, Colin M. "The Proletarian Carlist Road to Fascism: Sindicalismo Libre," Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 17, No. 4 (Oct., 1982), pp. 557-585 in JSTOR

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