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Illustrated timeline of the Spanish Civil War (short)

Most of the images included in this timeline are from documents made available online as part of our Spanish Civil War digitisation project.

A note about terms: supporters of the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War are usually referred to as Republicans (Republican leaders included Francisco Largo Caballero and Juan Negrín); supporters of the military coup against the government are usually referred to as Nationalists (Nationalist leaders included General Francisco Franco and General Emilio Mola).


Election map of Spain, 1936 16 February 1936

Elections held for the Cortes (Spanish parliament). They are won by the 'Popular Front' (a coalition of left-wing political parties).

General Franco and General Mola

8 March 1936

Meeting of army officers in Madrid (including General Mola and General Franco) to discuss a military coup against the Popular Front government.

Members of the Falange

15 March 1936

The government bans the Falange, a Spanish fascist organisation. Its leader, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, is arrested for illegal possession of weapons.

The Falange was banned after members tried to assassinate Luis Jiménez Asúa, a Socialist member of the Cortes, on 10 March, and the trade union leader Francisco Largo Caballero on 14 March.

Map of Spain shortly after the coup

17-18 July 1936

Start of military rebellion against the Spanish government in North Africa, then mainland Spain.

Distribution of weapons to supporters of the government

19-20 July 1936

The military uprising is defeated in Madrid and Barcelona. Morocco, Galicia, Navarre, Old Castile and Seville soon come under the control of the rebels. The intended leader of the coup, General Sanjurjo, is killed when the aeroplane carrying him from Portugal to Spain crashes.

The relief of Alcazar

21 July - 27 September 1936

Members of the Civil Guard and military cadets are besieged in the Alcazar citadel, in Toledo, by pro-government forces. After more than two months the siege was raised by Nationalist troops commanded by General Franco.

The relief of Alcazar was seen as a great symbolic victory by the Nationalists, and stories of 'red' atrocities towards civilians during the siege were used in anti-government propaganda.

German bombs sent to Spain

Late July 1936 onwards

Italian and German military supplies, including aircraft, are received by the rebels in North Africa and Spain. The Soviet Union agrees to send aid to the Republican side.

Italian torpedo August 1936

A "non-intervention" agreement, banning military intervention in Spain by other countries, is proposed and promoted by the French and British governments. Key governments (including those of Portugal, Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union) agree to this in principle. In practise Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union continue to send military supplies throughout the war.

Badajoz

14 August 1936

Capture of the city of Badajoz (near the Portuguese border) by Nationalist forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Juan Yagüe. The massacre of an estimated 2,000 - 4,000 civilians followed.

Badajoz was used in Republican propaganda as a symbol of Nationalist barbarism. The Nationalists' use of Moroccan troops ("Moors") to carry out atrocities against Spaniards in Badajoz and elsewhere was often highlighted.

Francisco Largo Caballero

4 September 1936

Francisco Largo Caballero becomes Republican Prime Minister. His coalition government would include socialists, communists, Left Republicans, Basque nationalists and (after 4 November 1936) anarchists.

Irun

5 September 1936

The Basque town of Irun is taken by the Nationalists.

Large areas of the town were set on fire as Republican troops retreated (an act usually attributed to supporters of the anarchist CNT-FAI). Nationalists would later use the example of Irun as supporting evidence when they argued that the destruction of towns such as Guernica was caused by Republican arson rather than Nationalist bombing.

Nationalist leaders at Burgos

21 September 1936

Rebel leaders agree that General Franco should be appointed supreme commander of the Nationalist forces (Generalissimo).

Members of the International Brigade

October 1936

The first International Brigades (Brigadas Internacionales) are formed. Their members are foreign volunteers who had travelled to Spain to fight on behalf of the Republican government.

General Franco invested as Caudillo

1 October 1936

General Franco is formally invested as Caudillo (leader of Spain) in the throne room at Burgos (Burgos was the location of the alternative Nationalist government).

Troops near Brunette

2 November 1936

Nationalist troops capture the town of Brunete, west of Madrid.

Tanks near Madrid

7 November 1936

Start of Nationalist ground assault on Madrid.

Soldiers in the International Brigade

6 February 1937

Start of the Battle of Jarama - a Nationalist offensive to cross the river Jarama, to the east of Madrid. It continued for most of February.

Cartoon: boot kicking Mussolini

8-18 March 1937

Battle of Guadalajara (Nationalist offensive). The city of Guadalajara is 34 miles north east of Madrid.

Leaflet for the film Blockade

6 April 1937

Nationalists announce a blockade of Republican ports on the north (Cantabrian) coast - threatening ships with attack if they sail to these areas.

Guernica

26 April 1937

Bombing of the Basque capital of Guernica by German aeroplanes. The air raid was an attack on civilians, rather than a military target, and resulted in the destruction of much of the town.

Barcelona Bulletin

3-8 May 1937

'Events of May' in Barcelona: Divisions between several Republican political groups (Communists, Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM), and anarchists) result in street fighting between supporters of the different factions.

Juan Negrin

17 May 1937

Juan Negrín becomes Republican Prime Minister, replacing Francisco Largo Caballero. His new government contains more Communists.

Poster attacking POUM

16 June 1937

The revolutionary socialist group Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) is declared illegal by the Republican government. Its leaders are arrested, (including Andres Nin, who was killed several days later).

Cartoon: Priest blessing Nationalist troops

1 July 1937

Spanish Bishops collectively endorse Franco as the legitimate ruler of Spain.

Column of Republican soldiers

6-26 July 1937

Battle of Brunete - Republican offensive against Nationalist forces to the west of Madrid.

Propaganda image relating to the defence of Gijon

21 October 1937

Capture of the city of Gijon (and district of Asturias) by Nationalist forces. All of the north (Cantabrian) coast is now under Nationalist control.

Soldier at Teruel

14 December 1937 - 22 February 1938

Battle of Teruel. In the middle of a harsh winter, Republican forces capture Teruel before being forced to retreat by a Nationalist counter-attack.

Vinaroz

15 April 1938

Catalonia is cut off from the rest of Republican Spain, as Nationalist troops take the Mediterranean coastal town of Vinaroz.

Battle of Ebro: Hospital in a cave

25 July-16 November 1938

Battle of the Ebro. Republican troops launch an offensive across the River Ebro. Despite initial success, the Republican army is eventually forced back across the river by Nationalist counter-attacks.

Farewell parade of the International Brigade

4 October 1938

Withdrawal of the International Brigade from the front.

The Republican Prime Minister Juan Negrín ordered the unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops fighting in the International Brigades, in the hope that international pressure might then force the withdrawal of Italian and German troops fighting on behalf of the Nationalists. It didn't.

Refugees

26 January 1939

Nationalist forces enter Barcelona.

Law of Political Responsibilities

9 February 1939

'Law of Political Responsibilities' introduced by Franco.

The new law allowed penalties (including imprisonment and confiscation of property) to be imposed on anyone who had supported the Republican government in the past or present. This could include people who had voted for them in February 1936.

Refugees leaving Catalonia

10 February 1939

Fall of Catalonia to Nationalist troops. In the previous week, thousands of refugees had fled to France.

Bomb damage in Madrid

28 March 1939

Madrid taken by Nationalist forces.

General Franco

1 April 1939

Republican armies surrender. General Franco declares the war to be over.