Introduction

Text and arrangement by Charles N. Saenz


On the evening of 17 July 1936, the Spanish Civil War started with the beginnings of an unsuccessful military coup d'état. The rising was unsuccessful insofar as it failed to topple the Republican government in a short and immediate fashion. The resulting conflict developed into one of the major historical events of the twentieth century and an event of particular resonance for modern Spain. The Republican government and the Nationalist insurgency remained at war until mid 1939; the end of the Spanish Civil War coming on the eve of the Second World War. For Spain, a neutral party in the Second World War, the Nationalist victory marked the beginning of a long dictatorship that would last until the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.

For a nation at war with itself, the effects of total war were devastating on human as well as psychological levels. Throughout the Spanish Civil War, both sides employed diverse forms of propaganda designed to promote the war effort. In a divided Spain, the spread of propaganda through government and non-government channels reached a fever pitch. Targeted media sought to mobilize not only soldiers, but also factory workers, political adherents, women and children of the so-called "rearguard," and foreigners. In each case the motive was the same: solidarity and perseverance for the sake of victory.

As a means of propaganda, postcards present many curiosities. Given their size, they were not meant to appeal to large audiences in the same way as posters or films. However, postcards represent a highly personal form of propaganda, spread by tight-knit networks of individuals often connected emotionally. Though many postcard sets were likely sold on street corners, there exists some evidence of mass mailings. Given their size, and the probability that many were destroyed as quickly as they found their destination, there is no definite means to account for the many varied uses of this form of propaganda. By nature, postcards are also exceptionally mobile, allowing for the transmission of propaganda well beyond the political confines of Spain. Indeed, one can imagine a foreign volunteer writing to family and friends abroad by means of postcard, thereby adding a human element to an abstract and misunderstood conflict.

The materials included in this website were taken from the holdings of the Southworth Spanish Civil War Collection of the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego. This digital exhibition is meant to serve as a complement to other electronic exhibitions organized by the library and as a companion to the public and researchers interested to learn more regarding the use of diverse forms of media in one of the major episodes in the history of modern political propaganda.

The tabs above lead the viewer to several collections of material. Each page includes a brief summation of the relevant historical background and specialized information regarding the postcards on display. The images on this site were digitally scanned; originals are on file in the Mandeville Special Collections Library.

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