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Ships, Bread, and Work: Agrarian Conflict in the Mediterranean Countryside, 1914–1923

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2018

Julia Hudson-Richards*
Duquesne University


This article examines the collapse of the citrus industry in València, Spain during the last years of World War I. In it, I argue that the strikes represent a key moment in the proletarianization of the region's agricultural working classes. By 1914, citrus had become one of Spain's most profitable exports, and prior to the 1917 crash, the landed and monied interests in control of the industry had enforced the notion of inter-class cooperation, which broke down under the economic stress of the War. In the wake of the collapse and the strikes that followed, workers began to organize in earnest and began to work towards improving working conditions and establishing fairer work contracts.

Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2018 

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Research Funded by: The Fulbright Commission, the Tinker Foundation, the Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain's Ministry of Culture and United States Universities, and Penn State Altoona's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.



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30. The CRS reports of the 1890s were commissioned by royal decree in 1883, and the next ten years produced some of the most important data on living and working conditions, gender relationships, and cultural perceptions of Spain's working classes. Unfortunately, the data is somewhat patchy because some provinces, like Castelló, do not appear to have turned in survey data, or the participation was limited locally. València, like Madrid and Barcelona, submitted an extremely detailed and extensive report.

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54. The records for Los Mercados are housed at the Museu de la Taronja in Borriana, Castelló, Spain. “El Círculo Frutero,” Los Mercados junio 17, 1901, 234.

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70. “El problema de las subsistencias. No adábamos desencaminados,” Los Mercados febrero 24, 1917, 1–2.

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72. Ibid.; “El día en el puerto. La exportación frutera,” Las Provincias marzo 14, 1917, 1.

73. Ibid.

74. “La crisis de la Plana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 16, 1917, 2.

75. “Intereses naranjeros. El viaje del señor Zorita,” Las Provincias marzo 20, 1917, 1.

76. “El día en el puerto,” Las Provincias marzo 14, 1917, 1.

77. “A los habitantes de la Plana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 14, 1917, 1.

78. “La crisis de la Plana. Los sucesos de Burriana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 16, 1917, 1.

79. Ibid., “Graves sucesos en Burriana y Villarreal,” Las Provincias marzo 17, 1917, 1.

80. “La crisis de la Plana. Los sucesos de Burriana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 16, 1917, 1; “La crisis de la Plana. Los sucesos de Burriana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 17, 1917, 1. Interestingly, despite a reporter being present in the meettings on the sixteenth, no in-depth discussion of the meeting's discussions appeared in the Heraldo.

81. “La crisis de la Plana. Los sucesos de Burriana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 17, 1917, 1.

82. “Long live the Plana! Long live Burriana! Long live Villarreal! Long live the long-suffering and honrable Plana!” “La crisis de la Plana. Grandioso mitín en Villarreal,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 20, 1917, 1.

83. Ibid.

84. Ibid.

85. It is also an indication of the uncertain influence of organized socialist or anarchist activity in the countryside. José Antonio Piqueras notes that the PSOE, until 1918, “lacked a true agrarian program;” though there were other Socialist parties in the Valencian region, they did not have the presence of the UGT At this point, there is no indication that the CNT was active in the planning or execution of the spring 1917 strikes, though members from both unions could very well have been involved in strike activities. By August, the CNT took credit for continuing actions in the region, but the August rebellions were far more nation-wide—interestingly, the national economy was beginning to follow in Valéncia's footsteps, and the wartime boom was beginning to turn to bust. Piqueras, José Antonio, Kern, Robert, Red Years, Black Years: A Political History of Spanish Anarchism, 1911–1937 (Phildelphia, PA: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1978), 30Google Scholar.

86. “Crónica del día. De Burriana,” Heraldo de Castellón marzo 20, 1917, 2. “Con motivo del mitín de Villarreal,” Los Mercados marzo 24, 1917, 1; “Intereses naranjeros. Viaje del Sr. Zorita,” Las Provincias marzo 20, 1917, 1–2.

87. Edward Malefakis, Agrarian Reform and Peasant Revolution in Spain, 114, n. 42.

88. “El aumento del precio de la carne,” Las Provincias marzo 23, 1917, 2; “¡Solo nos faltaba esto! Se anuncia un nuevo aumento del precio del pan,” Las Provincias marzo 29, 1917, 2; “El precio de harinas,” Las Provincias de abril de 11, 1917, 1; “El aumento del precio del pan,” Las Provincias septiembre 12, 1917, 1; “El precio del pan y los obreros,” Las Provincias septiembre 13, 1917, 2.

89. Jordi Maluquer de Motes, “Precios, salarios y beneficios. La distribución funcional de la renta,” in Estadísticas históricas de España, siglos XIX–XX, 503–507.

90. Abad, Historia de la naranja, 183.

91. Kern, Red Years, Black Years, 30.

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94. Notification of meeting, submitted to Alcaldía de Carcaixent, April 22, 1918,” Arxiu Municipal de Carcaixent, Carpeta: Sociedad de los Trabajadores del Campo, 1917–18.

95. “Relación nominal de los obreros de la sociedad denominada Unión Obrera, 1919,” Arxiu Municipal de Alcira, Carpeta: Societats.

96. “Federación Regional Levantina: Sesiones del Tercer Congreso celebrado en Alcira, durante los días 20 y 21 de Octubre de 1920,” El Defensor del Obrero no. 2, octubre 30, 1920, 2–4. Arxiu Municipal de Alzira, Hemeroteca.

97. “La ofensiva patronal,” El Defensor del Obrero no. 3, noviembre 6, 1920. Arxiu Municipal de Alzira, Hemeroteca.

98. Ibid.

99. Ibid.

100. ¡Triunfaron los campesinos!” and “Terrorismo patronal,” El Defensor del Obrero no. 7, December 4, 1920Google Scholar. Arxiu Municipal de Alzira. Hemeroteca.