Rethinking the Postwar Period in Spain: Violence and Irregular Civil War, 1939–52

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There is a consensus among scholars regarding the slow transformation of ‘hot-blooded terror’ into ‘cold-blooded terror’ during the Civil War and the Post-war period in Spain. This article challenges this framework in two ways. First, it argues that the Spanish Civil War did not end in 1939, but lasted until 1952, divided into three stages: asymmetric nonconventional warfare (July 1936 - February 1937), conventional civil war (February 1937 - April 1939), and irregular civil war (April 1939 – 1952). Second, it argues that the narrative of ‘cold-blooded terror’ after 1939 has obscured the complexity of the political violence imposed by the Franco dictatorship. The author argues that throughout the three stages of the Civil War the Francoists implemented a process of political cleansing, but that from April 1939 two different logics of violence were deployed. These depended on the attitude of the vanquished -resignation or resistance- after the defeat of the Republican army. The logic of violence directed against the subjugated enemy was channelled through institutional instruments. In contrast, the logic of counterinsurgency directed against the guerrilla movement, alongside instruments such as military courts and the prison system, imposed a wide repertoire of brutal practices and massacres against civilians and combatants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-513
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Contemporary History
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2020


  • Irregular War
  • Counterinsurgency
  • Post-war
  • Spain
  • Political Violence
  • Massacre


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