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Spanish History Guide: History Overview, Part Two

Historical Overview of Spain: Part Two

The Spanish overseas empire finally dissolved in 1898 when, after a brief war with the United States, Spain lost Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

During elections in 1931, it became clear that the people no longer wanted the monarchy ruling over them. In all the large towns of Spain the candidates of Spain who supported the monarchy were defeated heavily. However many country towns supported the monarchy and, as such they kept power. The key cities of Barcelona held much power though, and within them support for Republicans was enormous. Great crowds gathered in Madrid and the Kings most trusted friends advised him to leave. He did so and the Republic was established on April 14th .

During the five-year lifetime of the Republic, it was ridden with all kind of political, economic and social conflicts, which split opinion into two irreconcilable sides: those who still supported a republic and those who did not. The climate of violence grew and on July 18th 1936 there was a military rising which turned into a tragic civil war not ending until three years later.

On October 1st 1936 General Franco took over as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Spanish State embarked on a period of forty years' dictatorship. The early years of the Franco dictatorship were years of economic privation and sharp political repression. Later in Franco's rule, steps toward modernizing Spain's economy began, and increased external influence began to be felt both from the burgeoning tourist trade and industrial investments in Spain.

Franco died in 1975, bringing to an end a period of Spanish history and opening the way to the restoration of the monarchy with the rise to the throne of Juan Carlos I. Once in power, the young King pushed for change to a western-style democracy.. Adolfo Suarez, the prime minister of the second Monarchy Government carried out the transition to democracy which, culminating in the first democratic parliamentary elections in 41 years, on June 15th, 1977.

The years since democracy returned to Spain have been years of rapid change, politically, economically and socially. In 1982, Spain became a member of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1995, Spain joined the European Union. Spain's economy has grown at a rapid pace, and now has reached near parity with the northern European industrialized democracies. Socially, Spain also has moved toward the European mean, with the younger generation more urban and more cosmoplitan than generations before.

On March 11, 2004, Spain became the victim of a massive terrorist attack when Islamic extremists exploded a series of bombs on trains in the crowded Atocha train station in central Madrid. Nearly 300 died, and hundreds more were injured. In an election a few days later, voters angry at a lack of transparency in the government's handling of the attack - and especially angry at apparently politically motivated government attempts to link the bombings to Basque terrorists and denial of any potential Al Queda involvement - lead to a surprise victory for the Socialists and their regional allies after eight years of right wing Partido Popular rule.

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