Second Spanish Republic Is Proclaimed Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed after the abdication of the king and the election of a constituent Cortes. The moderate and left-wing republicans formed a coalition government, but after five years of pressure from the far Right and the far Left, the government collapsed into civil war.

Summary of Event

By 1931, Alfonso XIII of Spain was a bankrupt monarch. In addition to his failure to provide Spain with the leadership necessary to solve its problems, he had approved the 1923 coup d’état of Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, which had established a dictatorship. When the dictator had resigned in 1930, Alfonso had hoped to provide a transitional regime that would prepare the way for a return to constitutional government. [kw]Second Spanish Republic Is Proclaimed (Apr. 14, 1931) [kw]Spanish Republic Is Proclaimed, Second (Apr. 14, 1931) [kw]Republic Is Proclaimed, Second Spanish (Apr. 14, 1931) Spain;Second Spanish Republic Second Spanish Republic [g]Spain;Apr. 14, 1931: Second Spanish Republic Is Proclaimed[07830] [c]Government and politics;Apr. 14, 1931: Second Spanish Republic Is Proclaimed[07830] Alcalá-Zamora y Torres, Niceto Besteiro, Julián Azaña y Díaz, Manuel Lerroux, Alejandro Alfonso XIII Largo Caballero, Francisco Prieto, Indalecio Gil Robles y Quiñones, José María Maura y Gamazo, Miguel Sanjurjo, José

Some of the important figures of the Second Spanish Republic (front row, left to right): Manuel Azaña y Díaz, Álvaro de Albornoz, Niceto Alcalá-Zamora y Torres, Miguel Maura y Gamazo, Francisco Largo Caballero, Fernando de los Ríos, and Alejandro Lerroux.


The reformist parties, however, had gained great strength since the mid-1920’s. The Socialist Party, Socialist Party (Spain) led by Indalecio Prieto and Francisco Largo Caballero, and the Republican Radical Party, Radical Party (Spain) led by Alejandro Lerroux, joined newly established liberal parties and groups under Manuel Azaña y Díaz and Niceto Alcalá-Zamora y Torres to demand the establishment of a reform republican government. When the king announced municipal elections in April, 1931, to test this republican sentiment, the results indicated that the Crown had lost. On April 14, 1931, the republican politicians proclaimed the Second Spanish Republic, and Alfonso went into exile.

In July, 1931, elections were held for the constituent Cortes, or parliament, and a liberal Republican-Socialist coalition was formed to govern Spain. The first cabinet reflected the overwhelming support of the electorate for Republican and Socialist deputies. Right-wing Republicans, the majority of whom were from the Radical Party of Alejandro Lerroux, and left-wing Republicans under Manuel Azaña y Díaz held more than half of the seats in the Cortes, while Socialists, led by Largo Caballero and Prieto, held an additional 115 seats. Alcalá-Zamora was chosen as prime minister, but became the first president of the republic later that year, after Azaña was selected to be prime minister of the governing coalition. Other members of the first government included Miguel Maura y Gamazo, minister of the interior; Lerroux, foreign minister; and Azaña, who also served as minister of war.

The Cortes wrote a constitution incorporating many liberal reforms and providing regional autonomy for those provinces that desired it, thereby solving the Catalan problem. It provided for reform of the military and action against the Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church;Second Spanish Republic which had been one of the supporters of the old regime. The Church was disestablished, the clergy’s salaries were abolished, the Jesuit order was dissolved, and provisions were made to prevent the clergy from teaching. This attack on the Church, however, precipitated a crisis that brought down the first cabinet. When Article 26 of the constitution went into effect, many excellent schools operated by Jesuits and Augustinians closed; there were no state schools immediately available to take their place. This action angered both devout Catholics and members of the middle class whose children’s schooling was disrupted.

Other reforms established machinery for wide and sweeping land reform, because solving Spain’s agrarian problems was critical to the new government. These reforms did not do enough to satisfy many peasants, and incidents in several small villages led to riots and murder. The government’s actions began to polarize the country. Liberal reforms satisfied many moderates, but practicing Catholics were unhappy. Furthermore, extremist elements opposed the Republican-Socialists. On the right, the monarchists schemed with the military to restore Alfonso. General José Sanjurjo led a coup against the Republic in 1932, but he and his followers were arrested. Anarchists of the Left called the reforms too moderate. They countered with strikes and industrial violence and tried to provoke the clergy by burning churches and monasteries.


In 1933, the first phase of the Second Spanish Republic ended, as the Republican-Socialist coalition fell, and the election was won by Confederación Española de Derechos Autónomos (CEDA), the moderate Catholic party led by José María Gil Robles y Quiñones, and the Radicals, then becoming more conservative under their leader Lerroux. Because the CEDA had unsavory monarchist connections, the Republican-Socialists in the newly elected Cortes rejected Gil Robles’s bid for power. Instead, Lerroux became prime minister with CEDA backing.

CEDA-Radical ministries governed Spain from 1933 to 1935. As the CEDA’s main concern was revision of the anticlerical legislation and the Radicals had no reform plans, little action was taken during these years. Most of the Republican-Socialist reform legislation was allowed to lapse or was not implemented, causing the parties of the Left to refer to the period as the “Two Black Years.” The Anarchists protested and, along with certain Republicans and Socialists, revolted against the government in 1934. The revolt was put down, and many of the proletarian party leaders were imprisoned. Finally, in late 1935, Alcalá-Zamora dissolved the Cortes and ordered new elections in order to break the parliamentary impasse.

In the elections of early 1936, the forces of the Left—Liberals and Socialists, with the tacit approval of the Anarchists—joined in a coalition known as the Popular Front. They defeated the disunited rightists and gained control of the Cortes. The Republican-Socialist reforms were once again implemented, but there was so much opposition from both extremes that public order was gravely compromised, thus provoking a military uprising by the right wing in July, 1936. This marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) as the forces of the Right battled the leftist government for control of the country until 1939, when the Fascists achieved victory with the support of Germany’s Nazi Party. The Second Spanish Republic was at an end, and the inability of the extreme Right and Left to accept a middle-leftist coalition had ultimately led to the establishment of an authoritarian right-wing regime. Spain;Second Spanish Republic Second Spanish Republic

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brenan, Gerald. The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Civil War. Canto ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Gives an excellent background to the civil war, and provides much information on the most important political forces in Spain.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carr, Raymond. Spain, 1808-1939. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961. A comprehensive history of Spain with a chapter on the period of the Second Spanish Republic.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crow, John A. Spain, the Root and the Flower: An Interpretation of Spain and the Spanish People. 3d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. Offers a cultural history of Spain, with chapters 12 and 13 specifically on the background and events of the Second Spanish Republic.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931-1939. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964. Political analysis sympathetic to the Second Republic and critical of “extremist” elements on both the left and the right.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lewis, Norman. The Tomb in Seville: Crossing Spain on the Brink of Civil War. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005. Travel memoir of a British writer’s journeys in Spain during the Second Republic and his observations of the situation on the ground leading up to the civil war.
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    xlink:type="simple">Madariaga, Salvado de. Spain: A Modern History. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1958. A history of Spain and the events of the Second Republic from a minister of Education in the Republican government. Author states in Introduction that he does not treat Nationalist side evenly because he did not know these men and was sympathetic to those he knew in the Republican government.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Payne, Stanley G. The Collapse of the Spanish Republic, 1933-1936: Origins of the Civil War. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006. Comprehensive study of the crux-years of the republic and the causes of its instability and collapse. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Rhea Marsh. Spain: A Modern History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1965. General history of Spain from prehistoric times to the twentieth century includes clearly written chapters on the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the Second Republic.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1961. A classic study of the background of the civil war and its major events from a political as well as military perspective.

Spanish Civil War Begins

Embargo on Arms to Spain

Raids on Guernica

Picasso Exhibits Guernica

Categories: History