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Spain: The African War and the Authoritarian Regime of Miguel Primo de Rivera
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Constitutional Monarchy > The African War and the Authoritarian Regime of Miguel Primo de Rivera


Spain was neutral in World War I, but the Spanish army was constantly engaged from 1909 to 1926 against Abd al Krim's Riff Berbers in Morocco, where Spain had joined France in proclaiming a protectorate. Successive civilian governments in Spain allowed the war to continue, but they refused to supply the army with the means to win it. Spanish losses were heavy to their fierce and skillful enemy, who was equipped with superior weapons. Riots against conscription for the African war spread disorder throughout the country, and opposition to the war was often expressed in church burnings. Officers, who often had served in Morocco, formed juntas to register complaints that were just short of pronunciamientos against wartime inflation, low fixed salaries for the military, alleged civilian corruption, and inadequate and scarce equipment.

Conditions in Morocco, increased anarchist and communist terrorism, industrial unrest, and the effects of the postwar economic slump prompted the pronunciamiento that brought a general officer, Miguel Primo de Rivera (in power, 1923-30), into office. His authoritarian regime originally enjoyed wide support in much of the country and had the confidence of the king and the loyalty of the army. The government lacked an ideological foundation, however; its mandate was based on general disillusionment with both the parliamentary government and the extreme partisan politics of the previous period.

Once in power, Primo de Rivera dissolved parliament and ruled through directorates and the aid of the military until 1930. His regime sponsored public works to curb unemployment. Protectionism and state control of the economy led to a temporary economic recovery. A better led and better supplied army brought the African war to a successful conclusion in 1926.

The precipitous economic decline in 1930 undercut support for the government from special-interest groups. For seven years, Primo de Rivera remained a man on horseback. He established no new system to replace parliamentary government. Criticism from academics mounted. Bankers expressed disappointment at the state loans that his government had tried to float. An attempt to reform the promotion system cost him the support of the army. This loss of army support caused him to lose the support of the king. Primo de Rivera resigned and died shortly afterward in exile.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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