Spain History...The 19th century was a period of deep turmoil in Spain history which started with the Napoleonic invasion of the country. The resistance against the French armies inspired Francisco de Goya, one of the best Spanish painters of all times, to paint his “Fusilamientos del Tres de Mayo”.
The restitution of the Monarchy was followed by a long period of instability. Throughout the 19th century Spain went through three civil wars, many political interventions by the army (pronunciamientos), and a number of popular uprisings. One Spanish writer, Ramón María del Valle Inclán (1866-1936), wrote an unsparing and colorful narration of this period in his trilogy El Ruedo Iberico -- La Corte de los Milagros(1927), Viva mi dueño(1928), and Baza de Espadas(1932)-- excellent examples of the events that took place in Spain at the time.
The political turmoil came to a head in the first part of the 20th century with the military coup of General Primo de Rivera in 1923 and later on with the establishment of a parliamentary republic (1931-1936) after his death, followed by a bloody civil war (1936-1939). I warmly recommend a visit to the painting of the bombing of Guernica by Picasso showcased at el Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which depicts the aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica causing massive destruction and civilian casualties during the Spanish Civil War.
Ernest Hemingway's (1899-1961) For Whom the Bells Toll and George Orwell's (1903-1950) Homage to Catalonia, describe the tumultuous events of these years (1936-1939). Both spent time in Spain; Hemingway as a war reporter and Orwell to fight on behalf of the Republic.
After the Civil War came a long dictatorship (1939-1975) under the rule of General Francisco Franco. Following Franco’s victory Spain was refused entry in the newly formed United Nations, France closed its borders and the United Nations removed their ambassadors from the country. During this time only the Vatican, Portugal and Argentina maintained diplomatic relations with Spain.
In the 1950s with the increasing threat of communism Spain’s international rehabilitation began, suddenly Franco's regime and fascist connections were forgotten in favor of fighting the greater evil, communism. After 1958, Spain became more involved in the construction of a united Europe, but only after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 when Juan Carlos assumed the position of King of Spain and head of state and the inception of a new democratic government in 1978 that Spain was finally admitted to the European Union in 1986. Since the first elections held after the pro Franco era Spain has seen the peaceful exchanges of socialist and conservative governments although most have been unable to obtain a majority.
The social changes during the last years of the Dictatorship and the years of political change that came with the new democratic government were astounding, they transformed a society always dressed in black and grey into another full of colors –today's Spain as visited by millions of foreign tourists every year.