Degree Granting Department
Graydon A. Tunstall, Ph.D.
Spain, World War I, Alfonso XIII, Restoration monarchy, Diplomacy
While historians have gone to great efforts in studying the belligerent powers during the First World War, very little attention has been paid to such neutral powers as Spain. Several European nations declared neutrality in 1914, but many strayed from this course in favor of active belligerence. Spain, however, remained neutral for the war's duration; thus, this thesis examines and explores the nature of Spanish neutrality during the First World War. Spain's decision to adhere to a neutral policy required serious consideration as it had to weigh the consequences and advantages of intervention; however, military and economic weakness, as well as diplomatic isolation pushed Spain towards neutrality. Some hoped by abstaining from involvement, their country would emerge at the war's end as the arbiter of peace, enabling Spain to regain prestige and reestablish itself as a major continental power.
However, neutrality proved to be a difficult undertaking because Spain could not escape the hardships and effects of a continental war. As domestic crises enveloped the country, a divided public aligned itself into Francophiles and Germanophiles. Escalating domestic issues became exacerbated by diplomatic conflicts resulting from the German submarine warfare campaign, which challenged Spain's neutrality policy. Thus, Spain found itself in a precarious position during the war. While recognizing the necessity to maintain neutrality, it suffered serious consequences for its decision. It did not emerge from the war as an arbiter of peace, but suffered diplomatic humiliation over its failure to overcome the German submarine threat. The government's focus on foreign policy led its leaders to ignore the growing domestic discontent, which further destabilized an already unsteady government.
As a result, governments rose and fell as all proved incapable of resolving Spain's ever-increasing problems. The case of Spain in the First World War demonstrates that neutrality is not necessarily the safe course that many believe, as no country can fully escape the effects of war. As a neutral, Spain faced incredible difficulties. The government's neutrality policy kept Spain out of the war, but the regime faced the significant consequences of this decision including its ultimate demise.
Scholar Commons Citation
Lowry, Carolyn S., "At what cost?: Spanish neutrality in the First World War" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.