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Why Democracy Failed: The Agrarian Origins of the Spanish Civil War

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In this distinctive new history of the origins of the Spanish Civil War, James Simpson and Juan Carmona tackle the highly-debated issue of why it was that Spain's democratic Second Republic failed. They explore the interconnections between economic growth, state capacity, rural social mobility and the creation of mass competitive political parties, and how these limited the effectiveness of the new republican governments, and especially their attempts to tackle economic and social problems within the agricultural sector. They show how political change during the Republic had a major economic impact on the different groups in village society, leading to social conflicts that turned to polarization and finally, with the civil war, to violence and brutality. The democratic Republic failed not so much because of the opposition from the landed elites, but rather because small farmers had been unable to exploit more effectively their newly found political voice.

Shows the restrictions imposed on young democracies by the levels of state capacity and systems of political organization that they inherited

Includes inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives showing the interconnections between political change and economic development

Explains how individuals with moderate political views became disillusioned with the Second Republic and were driven towards the extremes of the political spectrum

Edition Number:
Simpson James
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James Simpson is Professor at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. Among his many publications are Spanish Agriculture: The Long Siesta, 1765–1965 (1995) and Creating Wine: The Emergence of a World Industry, 1840–1914 (2011).
Juan Carmona is Associate Professor at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. He has published widely on rural institutions, organizations and conflicts, including, with James Simpson, the book, El laberinto de la agricultura Española (2003).
Part I. The European Experience: Economic and Political Development, 1870–1939:
1. The modernization of European societies
2. European agriculture in an age of economic instability
Part II. Spanish Agriculture, Economic Development and Democracy:
3. The limits to Spanish modernization, 1850–1936
4. Agricultural growth, regional diversity, and regional land-tenure regimes
Part III. Explaining the Weakness of the Family Farm:
5. The family farm and the limits to village – level cooperation
6. The persistence of the landed elites and the nature of farm lobbies
Part IV. Rural Elites, Poverty, and the Attempts at Land Reform:
7. Land ownership, economic development and poverty in Andalusia and southern Spain
8. The limits to land reform
Part V. Rural Conflicts and the Polarization of Village Society:
9. Creating parties, political alliances, and interest groups: rural politics in the 1930s
10. The growing polarization of rural society during the Second Republic
Appendix 1. Agricultural statistics in Spain, France and Italy in the early 1930s
Appendix 2. Dry-farming and the economics of the family farm.
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