don Quijote
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) broke out when part of the Spanish army that was settled in Morocco, with some of the most influent generals of the Spanish Army led by General Francisco Franco, revolted against the democratically elected Republican government, presided over by Manuel Azaña. Allegiances were not always clear-cut during this conflict. Essentially, the ranks of the Left (also known as Loyalists and Republicans) comprised of workers, peasants and trade unions, and also the Spanish government, Socialists, Communists and Anarchists.

The Right (also known as the Nationalists), was supported by rebellious factions of the army, industry, landowners, the middle classes and the Catholic Church. For various and somewhat contradictory reasons, the Loyalists received the support of the Soviet Union and European democracies, while the Nationalists were armed and equipped by the Fascist governments of Germany and Italy. The Spanish Civil War would prove to be both fierce and bloody. Although the resources of the two sides were not that unequal, the Nationalists were better organized and received extensive material aid from Germany.

The Loyalists received very little assistance from the Soviet Union and, moreover, were divided by internal conflicts between Communist, Socialist and Anarchist factions. While European and North American volunteers fought for the Republic in the framework of the International Brigades, and several foreign artists and intellectuals supported the Loyalist cause, including Ernest Hemingway (who was working as a reporter and photographer) and George Orwell (who fought on the Republican side only to be prosecuted later and thus becoming profoundly disillusioned by the rivalry in the ranks of the Left), the Nationalists were finally triumphant. General Franco's victory marked the beginning of an almost forty-year dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975).

In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Hitler sought Franco's support for his own military campaign, but Spain was in no position to provide either financial or human aid. Although the Spanish Civil War had been a training field for the battles to be waged in the Second World War, Spain would play no part in the latter but agreed to sponsor a small army of volunteers known as La Division Azul. Under the Franco regime Spain suffered international isolation, although in varying degrees. In 1955 the country was accepted as a member of the United Nations, and in 1970 General Franco named prince Juan Carlos his successor as the future king of Spain, thereby re-establishing the monarchy.

Upon the dictator's death in 1975 King Juan Carlos I was crowned and the country set out on the long journey back to full democracy in Spain.