Book review: Spain’s First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931-1936

Spain's First Democracy: The Second Republic 1931-1936 book cover

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Review Spain’s First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931–1936

Hispanist historian Stanley G. Payne gives us his vast knowledge about the Second Spanish Republic in this book called Spain’s First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931-1936. This book is a must-have if you want to understand the backstory of the subsequent Spanish Civil War. Payne explores the reforms, politics, church-state relations, education, culture, public works, military and society of this decisive period of Spanish history. Among other things, he explores the political polarization of the Left and Right and the political violence that was so relevant for the start of the civil war and the later downfall of the Republic.

This is what academic reviews say about this work:

“Because of the enormous attention that has been paid to the Spanish Civil War, Spain’s Second Republic has been generally ill-served by historians. Most have treated the period from 1931 to 1936 as the backdrop to the war itself, and therefore they have tended to judge the Republican experience in a negative light. Stanley G. Payne’s latest book is a welcome departure from this historiographical practice. By clearly establishing the historical connections between the Second Republic and the various reform and modernizing movements of earlier periods, Payne convincingly demonstrated that there was a substantial political and economic infrastructure on which a durable democratic government could have been built.” – American Historical Review

“The Spanish Second Republic, created in 1931 following the fall of the Monarchy, is often overlooked or simply dismissed as a prelude to the Civil War of 1936-9. But as Stanley Payne convincingly shows in the first overview of the Republic to be published in English for some time, this failed regime was no mere isolated parenthesis in the rush towards bloodshed. Rather, it was a complex democratic experiment comparable to that of Weimar Germany, part of the Europe-wide tide of liberalization that flowed and ebbed after the First World War.” – Tim Rees, University of Exeter

“Payne’s scope in this book is very impressive. The totality of the political and social struggle during this period is his greatest success – The Second Republic as a process.” – Robert Kern, University of New Mexico


Summary of reviews: there are few reviews available, but everyone recognizes that Stanley G. Payne is the greatest American Hispanist at this time. Consider buying this book if you want to better understand the 1930s of Spain.

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