Australia & the Spanish Civil War: Activism & Reaction

The Spanish Civil War began on 17 July 1936, when a military coup, aided by Italian and German forces, attempted to overthrow Spain’s democratically elected government. Spanish Morocco fell under military control with little resistance, as did the Canary and Balearic Islands. On 18 July 1936, General Francisco Franco spoke on a radio broadcast from the Canary Islands, announcing the military takeover. On the mainland, however, the revolt faced stiff resistance, especially in the urban and industrialised centres. Unions in Madrid, Barcelona, and other urban centres mobilized against the military uprising, some distributing weapons from caches that had been left over from the general strikes and uprisings of 1933-1934. The only major city in mainland Spain that fell to the military rebels was Seville. So began a conflict that would last until 1 April 1939, with the surrender of the last of the Republican troops. General Franco would go on to rule Spain as a totalitarian military dictator until his death in 1975.

This exhibition explores the reactions in Australia to the conflict in Spain, through propaganda and the experiences of activists in Australia, as well as the volunteers who went to Spain.