hidden europe 59

Agrarian Reform in Spain: The Broader Picture

by hidden europe


Mussolini's draining of the Pontine Marshes was a landmark piece of colonisation politics. There have been many similar schemes around Europe – one earlier example was King Carlos III's new town programme in Andalucía in the 1760s. To accompany our feature on Franco's agrarian settlement scheme (see 'Spain's Last Settlers'), we look at the broader context for such ambitious schemes.

The interplay of state politics, internal resettlement programmes and agrarian policy is dramatically played out in the Spanish colonización scheme. In the early 1930s, under the democratic Second Spanish Republic, the nobility were stripped of their privileges and there was a growing clamour for rural land reform.

The Madrid government presented a comprehensive agrarian plan, but a volatile political environment, especially after the success of the Autonomous Right in the 1933 elections, meant that the proposed land reforms were quietly shelved.

It was this plan from the 1930s that almost twenty years later formed the basis for Franco’s scheme. The settlement programme ran handin- hand with large-scale water management schemes, like building canals and using untapped groundwater reserves to allow irrigation of semi-arid regions.

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