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On the eve of the Second Republic enormous estates were believed to be under-cultivated by their absentee owners, denying landless workers employment, and leading to widespread rural poverty in southern Spain. The slow implementation of a land reform deeply divided Spanish society, and is often cited as a cause of the outbreak of the Civil War. This paper, using a large sample of farm level information collected by the Institute of Agrarian Reform for the estates expropriated in the region of Extremadura, questions whether large farms were poorly cultivated, and argues that not only did the state lack the capacity to carry out a major reform, but that there was insufficient land available to solve the problems of underemployed rural workers.
land reform; rural conflict; spain; second republic