Why the Republic lost

Divided, outmanned and lacking international support – Paul Heywood argues the wonder was not that the Republic lost to Franco, but that it held out for so long.

In the fifty years that have passed since the end of the Spanish Civil War, thousands of words have been published on the causes, course and consequences of that most bitter of internecine struggles. Many have been journalistic narrative accounts, others, justificatory memoirs, not a few, academic monographs. They have dealt with nearly every conceivable aspect of the war, from the major themes like political rivalries within each camp, to minutely detailed accounts of the fighting on land, sea and in the air, down even to the role of the Valencian orange. Nearly all, however, have been parti pris. There exists little in the way of consensus over a war which arouses passionate responses even today. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to be neutral about the Spanish Civil War: sympathy, even empathy, inevitably lies either with the Republic or with General Franco. This article, which starts from the conviction that the defeat of the Republic was a tragedy for Spain, analyses that defeat by emphasising four inter-related factors: international, political/ideological, military and economic.

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