A ‘gigantic struggle between believers and those without God’? Catholics in the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-9

Richard Ryan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis focuses directly upon the lived experiences of priests and lay Catholics who, driven by their faith, remained loyal to the Republic or otherwise refused to identify with the rebel cause during the Spanish Civil War (1936-9). It shows that their ability to make sense of the war outside of the Church-backed, rebel narrative of ‘crusade’ hinged centrally on their own understandings of their Catholic faith and its translation into experience. Not least was their recognition of the religious violence at the start of the war as the violent accumulation of larger political, social, and cultural clashes in which the Church had been a central protagonist. From there, it examines their participation in the wartime Republic, arguing that these individuals were agents of their own survival, not simply ‘un-murdered victims’ of revolutionary violence saved by divine intervention, as the epistemological categories of Francoist mythologies would have it. Rather, they were active participants in the Republic, even amidst the pressures of an increasingly fraught war effort, as the Republic fought not only to reconstruct its image as a modernising liberal democracy, and to translate that image into reality for its entire citizenry, but for its very survival. But amidst the Republic’s collapse and the consolidation across Spain of Francoist violence based on the ideologically-charged language of the ‘crusade’, these Catholics were not spared by their faith, their future-oriented aspirations for a more egalitarian society are shown to have cost them dearly. Historiographical silences surrounding this subject indicate that even today, ‘crusade’ mythologies embedded within the Francoist dictatorship continue to reverberate with destructive force. This thesis seeks to work beyond the accumulation of such myths and distorted narratives and thus to recover for the historical record those Catholic individuals who once worked for the incorporation of Catholicism into Spain’s democratic Republic.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Graham, Helen, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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