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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

8 - The Limits to Land Reform

from Part IV - Rural Elites, Poverty, and the Attempts at Land Reform


The Second Republic sparked considerable enthusiasm concerning the possibilities that a large-scale permanent redistribution of landed property could resolve the social problems in southern Spain. Yet, as this chapter argues, land reform failed because there was insufficient uncultivated land that could be brought under the plough, and labour-intensive agriculture was not feasible under dry-farming conditions. Indeed, cereal cultivation was becoming increasingly capital intensive, especially on the heavy, fertile Campiña soils. The slow and limited progress of settlements under the 1932 Reform Law contrasts with the land invasions in the spring of 1936, which resulted in over a hundred thousand peasants receiving almost immediately over half a million hectares. However they failed to solve the overriding problem of insufficient land and, because weak state capacity implied that land settlements could not be implemented impartially, they simply changed which authority decided who was to benefit, and who was to be excluded.