Land Tenure Inequality, Harvests, and Rural Conflict: Evidence from Southern Spain during the Second Republic (1931&-1934) Articles uri icon

publication date

  • August 2015

start page

  • 253

end page

  • 286


  • 2


  • 39

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0145-5532


  • This paper analyzes rural conflict in one of the most volatile areas of interwar Europe, the latifundia regions of the South of Spain. The historical and economics literature argues that rural conflict is a bottom-up response of landless peasants to unemployment, bad harvests, landownership inequality, changes in property rights, and poor enforcement of proworker legislation. A second generation of historical studies has focused on democratization and concomitant changes in collective bargaining and labor market institutions. Was conflict caused by structural factors like poverty, inequality, or unemployment or was conflict an endogenous response to political change? This paper uses municipal-level time series and cross-sectional variation in rural conflict in three Andalusian provinces (Córdoba, Jaén, and Seville) in the early 1930s to argue that, although collective misery certainly shaped the main issues of contention, inequality or deteriorating living standards did not explain the explosive intensification of conflict during the Second Republic. Geographic variation in conflict would be consistent with unobserved locational advantages and higher agricultural incomes, thicker labor markets, facility of communication, and market access and information, irrespective of the intensity of inequality or the degree of local Socialist political power. Poor harvests can only explain a small part of the time-series evolution of conflict from April 1931 to June 1934, while good harvests probably intensified the competition of temporary migrants and local workers for well-paid harvest jobs. Large gains in rural laborers" bargaining power, organizational buildup, and reactions to policy changes and state intervention are more promising explanatory factors of the temporal evolution of conflicts in the period.