The memory of a country

Permanent exhibition

The electric years: 1900 to 1939

At the beginning of the 20th century, Catalonia was a restless country in political, economic, social and cultural terms. The crisis of the regime led to the rise of republicanism and political Catalan nationalist movements, which obtained a great victory at the 1907 elections. In this context, the Mancomunitat de Catalunya was established (1914) – the first institution of self-government since 1714.

Catalan industry was going through a period of diversification and a workers’ movement with anarco-syndicalist roots was becoming consolidated, achieving the establishment of the eight-hour day after a general strike (1919). Social conflict and the revitalisation of a culture of its own in the shape of Noucentisme (New Centuryism) and the avantgarde movements are two elements that mark this period, together with the military dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1930).

With the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic (1931), a statute of political autonomy was approved for Catalonia. However, the military coup of 1936 began three years of bloody civil war that ended with the establishment of General Franco’s dictatorship. Self-government was abolished and left-wing and Catalan nationalist movements suffered severe repression.

Industrial diversification and rural society

Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, production systems were given a new impulse, known as the Second Industrial Revolution. This period was characterised by the use of new energy sources, such as electricity and oil; industrial diversification, with the appearance and development of new sectors; and the spread of new communication and transport systems.

Cities grew steadily and the increase in urban demand, together with the internationalisation of the agricultural market, was one of the decisive factors in transforming the rural world. In many parts of Catalonia, however, the changes were limited in scope and the new ways coexisted with a traditional production structure.


Llega la radio

Cabdella turbine

Cabdella turbine

Political Catalan nationalism

The deep crisis of the Restoration regime caused by the loss of the last overseas colonies in 1898 gave a new boost to political Catalan nationalism. In 1901, for the elections to the Spanish Cortes, the Regionalist League was established, a conservative party close to the Catalan bourgeoisie founded with the desire to establish new type of governance in both Catalonia and Spain.

In 1906, as a response to a series of government attacks, Catalan Solidarity was set up – a coalition grouping different Catalan nationalist forces, including the League. The coalition obtained emphatic success, although it was soon dissolved due to ideological discrepancies. From the 1909 elections onwards, Catalan nationalism was divided into two broad groups: the regionalist right, keen on making pacts and agreements, and the republican, nationalist left.

Portrait of Enric Prat de la Riba by Ismael Smith, 1917

Portrait of Enric Prat de la Riba by Ismael Smith, 1917

The Mancomunitat

The Mancomunitat of Catalonia – the country’s first self-government institution since 1714 – was established on 6 April 1914, thanks to the energy and strength of the Catalan nationalists. The Mancomunitat was a federation of the four Catalan provincial governments and, although it was a strictly administrative institution, it was very important politically.

Presided over by Enric Prat de la Riba (1914-1917) and Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1917-1923) – both of them activists in the Regionalist League – the institution became an essential instrument for the modernisation of the country. The Mancomunitat built mobility, health and education infrastructures and contributed to revitalising the Catalan language and culture.

Workers’ movements and social conflict

The workers' movement, inspired by Marxist and Anarchist thought, gained political importance at the turn of the century despite the failure of the 1902 general strike and the repression following the “Tragic Week”. In 1910, the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) was established, with anarcho-syndicalist roots. It became the leading trade union of the Catalan workers’ movement until the Civil War.

After the Canadiense strike (1919), which managed to establish the eight-hour working day, the increasing number of tit-for-tat attacks between anarchists and gunmen hired by employers turned the streets of the Catalan cities into battlefields. Primo de Rivera’s military dictatorship, established in 1923, began severe repression against workers’ organisations.

Reconstruction of the “Tragic Week”

Reconstruction of the “Tragic Week”

Whirlwinds of Danger

Whirlwinds of Danger, popularly known as ¡A las barricadas! (To the Barricades) was the anthem of the National Confederation of Labour (CNT). Composed in 1883 by the Polish poet Wacław Święcicki, the anarchist movement produced versions of it in different languages.

The Republican Generalitat

On 14 April 1931, Francesc Macià proclaimed the Republic after the collapse of the monarchist parties at the municipal elections. He agreed the approval of a statute of political autonomy for Catalonia with the other democratic forces in Spain. So, as part of the Spanish Second Republic, the old Generalitat was restored, with completely new powers.

The Republic began a period of democracy and freedom marked by social polarisation and an international context dominated by the rise of fascism and economic crisis. The conflicts finally led to the military rising (1936) and the Spanish Civil War. The Generalitat was involved in the defence of the lawful Republic and the fight against fascism to the very end.


Dimisión de Primo de Rivera

Dimisión de Primo de Rivera. Las fuerzas de oposición a la dictadura, republicanos, socialistas y nacionalistas catalanes, se agrupan en el Pacto de San Sebastián.


Proclamación de la República

Tras la derrota de los partidos monárquicos en las elecciones municipales del 12 de mayo, el rey abdica y se proclama la República. El 2 de agosto se aprueba en referéndum el Estatuto de Autonomía de Núria.


Aprobación del Estatuto de Autonomía

Las cortes republicanas españolas aprueban el Estatuto de Autonomía. Se promulga el derecho de sufragio de las mujeres; Carme Karr, presidenta d’Acció Femenina es una de las principales reivindicadoras.


Gobierno conservador

Victoria de los partidos conservadores en las elecciones generales españolas del 19 de noviembre. Las mujeres votan por primera vez. Muerte Francesc Macià. Lluís Companys se convierte en presidente de la Generalitat


Los hechos del 6 de octubre

Respondiendo al giro conservador del régimen republicano, Companys proclama el Estado Catalán dentro de la República Federal Española el 6 de octubre. El gobierno catalán es encarcelado.


Suspensión de la Autonomía

Suspensión indefinida del Estatuto de Autonomía, tras los Hechos del 6 de octubre.


Inicio de la Guerra Civil

Victoria del Frente Popular en las elecciones generales españolas. Restablecimiento de la autonomía y de la Generalitat. Golpe de estado militar e inicio de la Guerra Civil.



Macià proclaiming the Republic on the balcony of the Generalitat

Macià proclaiming the Republic on the balcony of the Generalitat

Proclamación de la República

Francesc Macià proclama la República Catalana el 14 de abril de 1931.

Return of Lluís Companys

The homes of the 1930s

The homes of the 1930s


By the 1930s, technological advances had transformed many aspects of everyday life. Most urban homes had electric lighting, running water and drains connected to the sewerage network.


Most stoves were economical, burning wood or coal.


The keeping of food was still quite limited, as refrigerators needed ice. The home furnishings common in the thirties remained virtually unchanged until the fifties.

The Civil War

The military coup d’état of 17 July 1936 resulted in three years of bloody civil war. Catalonia remained loyal to the Republic while at the same time undergoing a revolutionary process driven by anarchist militias. The Generalitat organised the resistance and war effort and suffered internal confrontations between the different political forces and mobilised trade unions.

The civil population was hit hard by the conflict: rising prices, hunger and bombing. Defeat in the Battle of the Ebro sealed the fate of the Republican side, leading to the fall of Catalonia. The end of the war and the beginning of General Franco’s military dictatorship saw the abolition of Catalan autonomy, exile and strong repression of pro-Catalan and left-wing movements.

Bombardeos sobre Barcelona

The Battle of the Ebro

The Battle of the Ebro

George Orwell

Extract from the book Homage to Catalonia