A Brief History of Spain

The 20th Century

1912 Women’s Chair Law. Every factory and establishment in Spain was henceforth obliged to give a place of rest to any woman worker and the Law of Gradual Suspension of night work for women was declared.

1923 Miguel Primo de Rivera. Spain's troubles continued during the early 20th century. With the country on the brink of civil war; Rivera declared himself military dictator and ruled until 1930.

1931 The Second Republic. King Alfonso XIII fled the country and the Second Republic was declared. However the country soon became victim to internal conflict. The 1936 elections saw the country split into two with the Republican Government and its supporters on one side (an uneasy alliance of communists, socialists and anarchists, who favoured a more equitable civil society and a diminished role for the church) and on the other side the opposition Nationalists (a right-wing alliance of the army, the church, the monarchy and the fascist-style Falange Party).

1931 Equal Pay Law. The Spanish Constitution of the Republic formally recognised the equality between men and women. This law was supposed to establish equal salary for the same work regardless of gender.

1936 - July Republican Police Officers assassinated the Opposition Leader José Calvo Sotelo and this gave the army an excuse to overthrow the government.

1936 - 1939 Civil War During the subsequent Spanish Civil War, the Nationalists led by General Franco received extensive military and financial support from Hitler's Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Fascist Italy and the Catholic Church.
This gave Hitler the opportunity to try out Air Marshal Goring’s Air Power Blitzkrieg strategy and gave his new modern fighter and bomber squadrons real combat experience with minimal risk against the poorly equipped Republican Airforce.
Regretfully England and France refused to give the Republicans support, other than blockading Franco's ports. Had they given that support, some argue, the Second World War may have been averted.
This early acclimatisation of German aircrews and testing of the new German war planes was to give England much stress and many casualties in the early days of WW2. The elected Republican Government received support only from Russia and, to a lesser degree, from the International Brigades. These Brigades were made up of 140,000 foreign idealists, a volunteer army of artists, intellectuals and workers.

The Volunteer International Brigades lost many thousands of people in the republican cause.

1939 - 1975 General Franco's 35-year dictatorship. The Nationalists, led by Franco won the war. More than 350,000 Spaniards had died in the fighting. General Franco as head of the army then made himself Chief of State and Head of Government and continued to crush any possible opposition. More bloodletting ensued and an estimated 100,000 Republicans were executed or died in prison after the war. Franco's 35-year dictatorship saw Spain isolated by economic blockades, excluded from both NATO and the UN and crippled by economic recession.

1950s The Start of Tourism. It wasn't until the early 1950s when the rise in tourism and a treaty with the USA combined to provide much needed funds that enabled the country to begin to recover. By the 1970ss Spain had the fastest growing economy in Europe.

1960s Franco allowed some relaxation of his hard line policies. Trades Unions were allowed a measure of freedom and censorship of the press was eased. The extremist hardcore military clique lost much influence.

1961 Women's Rights in the Workplace. Although women were supposed to have been given equal pay under the 1931 pay law, the new Government has again amended the Spanish Constitution to ensure equal rights for women, with the same salary for the same work, irrespective of gender.

1962 Royal Wedding. Don Juan Carlos of Spain married Princess Sophia of Greece on May 14th.

1965 January 20th Re-legalization of Jewish communities in Spain; Generalissimo Franco met with Jewish communities to commence the legal processes.

1969 Martial Law. Strikes were held demanding major reforms which, although justified, the country could not afford. Martial Law was invoked and many political leaders were arrested and thrown into prison. Universities and militant students were treated with harsh repression.

1970 Education Law. A law was passed establishing equal rights and a co-education system giving free and compulsory schooling to children of both sexes until the age of 14 years.

1973 Prime Minister Carrero Blanco assassinated. Franco’s protégé (schooled to carry on his policies) was succeeded by Carlos Arias Navarro who brought forward policies which lead to relaxation of the many harsh laws of the previous administration and lead the country towards full democracy. Fortunately for Spain, Franco was too ill to interfere.

1975 22nd November Dictator Francisco Franco died.

1975 23rd November The Spanish Parliament pronounced Prince Juan Carlos Head of State and the reigning King of Spain after his grandfather, King Alfonso X111, according to the Law of Succession promulgated by General Franco. One of the King’s earliest political actions was to declare an amnesty for many of the political prisoners held by the state. This was followed by a law establishing political reform which was upheld by the Spanish Parliament (the Cortes) in November 1976.

1975 A Woman’s Right to Work Law. (This outdated law which stated that if a woman wishing to take up employment she must first obtain her husband’s, or if single, her father’s written permission to be able to work) was repealed releasing Spanish women from one of the last restraints on their rights to emancipation.

1976 November 18th. Spanish Democracy re-established. With King Juan Carlos on the throne, Spain made the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

1976 December As the transformation to democracy changed so many laws and principles of the old Franco constitution, a national referendum was held during December resulting in a massive vote of confidence in the King and Government.
A new constitution was drafted. Freedom to form and join political parties and trades unions was made lawful; censorship was greatly relaxed.

1977 June 15th The first free elections were held leading to a sweeping victory for centre and leftist parties. Results were Centre Party 166 seats, Socialists 118 seats and even the newly legalised Communists held 19 seats; leaving the old rightist Franco supporters out in the cold.

1977 Equal civil and political rights for women were recognised by the new Spanish Constitution and the law which made adultery by women a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment was abolished.

1978 The right of all Spaniards to Religious Freedom was confirmed by the Constitution.

1978 Birth Control. The right for pharmaceutical companies to advertise and sell contraceptive products was legalised.

1981 Matrimony and Divorce Act. Men and women are to be judged equal partners in Law in relation to matrimonial matters.

1981 An attempted military coupe in Madrid by 200 Civil Guards failed. These forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina invaded the lower house of the parliament building taking the lawmakers hostage. His forces also took over the radio and TV stations for 90 minutes but dispersed when riot police arrived on the scene. The coupe was planned and commanded by Lieutenant General Jaime Milan del Bosch, commander of Spain’s Eastern Forces who declared a state of emergency and ordered tanks onto the streets of Valencia. It was an attempt to put back the clock and reinstate a Franco style authoritarian Government.
King Juan Carlos made an appeal to the nation on behalf of democracy and some 18 hours later the coupe failed.

1982 Spain’s first Socialist Government. Spain made a final break with the past by voting in a Socialist Government with a sizeable majority. ETA - the only major blemish on the domestic front was the terrorist campaign waged by separatist militant group ETA which continues trying to secure an independent Basque homeland (although not, it seems, with a mandate from the majority of the region’s electorate). During 30 years of terrorist activity ETA has killed over 800 people.

1985 Abortion Act passed by Spanish parliament

1986 Spain joined the EC (now the EU).

1987 The Spanish tax laws were changed so that taxpayers could choose between giving 0.52 percent of their income tax to the church or allocating it to the Government's welfare and culture budgets.

1987 June 2nd Andres Segovia died. He was born in 1896 and started studying music at the age of 4 and gave his first concert in Spain at 14. It is said that he felt he had a mission in life to bring musical studies of the guitar to every university in the world and to have the guitar appreciated as much as any other major orchestral instrument. That he succeeded beyond his early dreams is proven in the wonderful repertoire he left to posterity. This world famous and most popular Spanish classical guitarist and composer died at the age of 94.

1988 Professional Women’s Act. This allowed the incorporation of women into the professional and security bodies of the state. The IRIS NET was created to promote the vocational training of women.

1992 Spain hosted the 25th Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. It was an excellent performance with Spanish contestants winning 22 medals. Statistically, the Barcelona Olympiad dwarfed all those before it, with some 9,367 athletes (6659 male and 2,708 women) from 169 nations competing in the 257 events. It was reported that these Games were less commercial than recent ultra modern US Games and better organised.
The Barcelona games outperformed previous Olympics in almost every aspect of both the games and the accompanying Cultural Program.

1992 An excellent year for Spain. In addition to the Olympic Games, Seville hosted Expo 92 and Madrid was declared The European Cultural Capital.

1996 Spaniards voted in a Conservative Party under the leadership of the uncharismatic José María Aznar, an Elton John fan and former Tax Inspector. In March 2000 he was re-elected with an absolute majority. His success has been attributed to the buoyant state of the Spanish economy.
Spain experienced a 4% annual growth during the years Sr Aznar was Prime Minister.

1997 April 1st The first Spanish space satellite was launched named MINISAT 01 – its purpose was to investigate the development of lower cost space operating systems.

1997 May 29th A 780,000-year-old humanoid fossil (to be called Homo Antecessor) was found by scientist Bermudez de Castro and a group of Spanish paleo anthropologists during excavations in caves of the central Atapuerca mountains. A total of six fossilised body remains together with a selection of tools were found. One body, a boy, had a remarkably different facial structure from the adults, more similar to an extinct Neanderthal. Antonio Rosas, a paleoanthropologist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences, stated that he felt there was enough information to define the boy’s fossilised body as a new species in the true sense.

1999 Jan 1st Birth of the EURO. Spain, together with ten other European Union nations, transferred their currency structures over to the Euro monetary system and bid farewell to the Peseta

1999 Jan 16th Chocolate Supreme. The European Union’s Court of Justice ordered that Italy and Spain must drop their national rules as to what constitutes chocolate. It ordered that chocolate is chocolate, regardless of whether it is manufactured from coco butter or vegetable fats, and as such no country may bar the import of these confectionaries from England or Ireland.

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