H1428 Assessment 2: Why did the Nationalists win the Spanish Civil War?
The Spanish Civil war erupted on the 8th of March 1936 between the right wing fascist rebels under the leadership of General Francisco Franco and the left-leaning Republicans who sided with the government of Second Spanish Republic. The war would last nearly 3 years with the culminating Nationalist victory claiming the lives of an estimated half a million people and the establishment of a 36-year fascist dictatorship.
The reasons for the Nationalist victory have been widely debated and dissected since 1939. With the opening of the Spanish Archives after Franco’s death allowing access to a wider range of sources, historians have somewhat adapted there take on events especially regarding the role and ability of Franco himself. The reasons for the demise of The Second Spanish Republic cover a range of diverse factors; such as the strength of respective leadership, troop quality, tactics and foreign military aid. Whilst significant, these components hold arguably less significance in accounting for the success of the Nationalists and are overshadowed by the inherent political disunity of the Republicans as well as the ‘betrayal’ of the European powers, namely Britain. These two ultimately decided the fate of the Republic and the outcome of the war.
The initial weeks of the uprising would prove to be decisive in the outcome of the war. The tactical and military failures of Santiago Quiroga’s government at the outbreak of the rebellion immediately put the Republicans on a backfoot that they would not recover from, arguably making inevitable the Nationalist victory in 1939.
Initially the military balance was not as unfavourable to the Republic as it was in the later stages of the war. The Nationalists still had not yet grouped and coordinated or been bolstered by foreign weaponry.
However, the Republic had failed to put measures in place to prepare for a Nationalist Rebellion that seemed likely. Failure to deliver arms to the revolutionary workers’ organisations and Republican para-military forces seriously hampered the Republics ability to hold regions that would play a vital role in the war. But blame cannot lie solely at the feet of Quiroga as most of the government were against the notion of an armed conflict but the failure to authorise a distribution of arms proved a fatal error and allowed the rebel forces to gain a foothold during the most sensitive stages of the war when they were at their weakest.
Historians, like Christopher Hills, argue that the Republic could’ve defeated the rebels in August 1936 had they acted swiftly and decisively in containing Franco in Morocco and General Nola in Navarre.
Th military balance in terms of troops was roughly equal with Franco’s experienced war hardened African troops holding the balance of power.
They proved vital in the conquest of important food growing regions in the initial stages of the rebellion whilst allowing the Nationalists...