The Rise and Fall of "Respectable" Spanish Liberalism, 1808-1923: An Explanatory Framework

Article English OPEN
Smith, AKA (2016)
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis

The article focuses on the reasons behind both the consolidation of what I have termed “respectable” liberalism between the 1830s and the 1840s and its subsequent decline and fall between 1900 and 1923. In understanding both processes I study the links established between “respectable” liberals and propertied elites, the monarchy, and the Church. In the first phase these links served to consolidate the liberal polity. However, they also meant that many tenets of liberal ideology were compromised. Free elections were undermined by the operation of caciquismo, monarchs established a powerful position, and despite the Church hierarchy working with liberalism, the doctrine espoused by much of the Church was still shaped by the Counter-Reformation. Hence, “respectable” liberalism failed to achieve a popular social base. And the liberal order was increasingly denigrated as part of the corrupt “oligarchy” that ruled Spain. Worse still, between 1916 and 1923 the Church, monarch, and the propertied elite increasingly abandoned the liberal Monarchist Restoration. Hence when General Primo de Rivera launched his coup the rug was pulled from under the liberals’ feet and there was no one to cushion the fall.
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