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  • Online publication date: December 2014

8 - The Financing of the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9

from Part III - Convergence and Historical Shocks


The Civil War was one of the most significant events in the history of contemporary Spain. The war lasted nearly three years, from July 1936, when a military coup attempted to overthrow the government of the Second Republic, to March 1939, when General Franco's Army claimed total victory over a demoralized Republican Army. The sorry legacy of this tragic episode were the 300,000 lives lost, the 300,000 exiled, the 300,000 political prisoners, and the ensuing dictatorship endured by the country for forty years until the death of Franco.

This chapter addresses the ‘financing of the civil war’, a subject that until very recently has received little attention in the literature, although it is widely accepted that once a war begins it is economics as much as military strategy that decides the outcome. This neglect of the general financial aspects of the war is partly due to the lack of reliable data, with most studies relying on a handful of reports that the victorious Francoist authorities produced after the conflict was over, especially the so-called Larraz report published in August 1940. However there are exceptions that have advanced our knowledge of the financial aspects Spanish Civil War. Building on this research and using new quantitative information, we revise the established view of how the war was financed and the amount of resources available to each of the contenders. Section 1 introduces the economic context of the war, section 2 examines how the Republican Treasury met the cost of the conflict, while section 3 does the same for the so-called ‘national Treasury’. We conclude with a reassessment of Spain's war finances and some conclusions.

Spain at War

Historians and political scientists have viewed the civil war as a major turning point in Spanish history. It was not only a military conflict but also a political, social, ideological and religious confrontation. From its onset the Spanish conflict became an international affair.