Truth before peace

Explore Unamuno's political dimension, a path marked by critical moments in Spain's history

Cover of the book by Miguel de Unamuno, Peace in war (1986) by Miguel de UnamunoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Unamuno was aware of politics from a young age. As a child, he felt the effects of the attack by Carlist forces on his native Bilbao. Some years later, he experimented with socialist ideas in his youth.

His progressive thinking ended up costing him his position as chancellor of the University of Salamanca. He supported the Allied Powers in World War I. He was deported to Fuerteventura following a series of clashes with King Alfonso XIII and Primo de Rivera. Following a period of voluntary exile in France, he returned to Spain as a symbol of freedom. The Second Spanish Republic was formed soon afterward, and Unamuno gained significant political weight, being elected to Spain's Congress of Deputies. His life took a final, dramatic turn with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, before his death at the end of 1936.

Drawing of Miguel de Unamuno by Miguel de UnamunoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Looking out from de la Cruz street

Unamuno was just 10 years old when Carlist forces attacked his city in what was known as the Siege of Bilbao (Sitio de Bilbao). He witnessed bombs falling not far from his house, and the chaos this caused. But the young boy saw it as an adventure, unaware of the danger surrounding the city for three months.

"The bombing of the town marked the end of the Ancient Age of my life, and the start of the Middle Age. Before that, I only have fragments of memories; after it, the thread of my story begins"

Manuscript cover of the essay "Socialism" (c. 1890) by Miguel de UnamunoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

From activism to independence

In 1894, the writer began his political activism in the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). He engaged in intense correspondence with its founder, Pablo Iglesias Posse, and collaborated on the La Lucha de Clases weekly newspaper. A few years later, he left the party, intending to use only his pen to stir popular consciousness.

Portrait of Miguel de Unamuno (1904)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

An agitator of spirits

With the agrarian campaigns in Salamanca, Unamuno toured the province, holding rallies at which he shared his ideology, in a sort of cultural revolution for rural and agricultural workers. As a result, the minister Bergamín removed him from his post as university chancellor in 1914.

"The strength of the laborer lies in communal goods, and just as people have the church where all hearts are united, and a school where all intellects are united, so there should be communal lands where their work is united"

Miguel de Unamuno in italian war front (September 1917)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

An ally of the Allied Powers

During World War I, the writer was invited, along with other intellectuals, to visit the Italian front. Several months before the trip, in May 1917, he had delivered a highly anticipated speech at a massive allied rally in the bullfighting ring known as the plaza de toros de Las Ventas in Madrid.

LIFE Photo Collection

The prolog to exile

In 1920, Unamuno was convicted of insulting King Alfonso XIII in several press articles. The author received numerous gestures of support, and was eventually pardoned. However, his subsequent disagreements with Primo de Rivera eventually led to his exile in 1924.

Gathering on the terrace of the café La Rotonde (c.1925)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

At the café, from one to three o'clock

After his exile in Fuerteventura, the writer underwent a period of voluntary exile in Paris, intending not to return to Spain until Primo de Rivera's government had fallen. There he met the writer and politician Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and a group of Spanish exiles who frequented the La Rotonde café.

Toward the end of 1924, the España con Honra publication was created. It was promoted by Ibáñez, and contained numerous articles by Unamuno. It was known for going against the monarchy and Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, and was the propaganda tool for the exiled Spaniards. It was published for around a year, with some 40 issues being released.

España con Honra magazine, nº 1, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, December 20, 1924, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Miguel de Unamuno with Eduardo Ortega y Gasset (c.1925)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Two men and one destiny

Once in Hendaye, Unamuno began to collaborate in the publication Hojas Libres, directed by his good friend Eduardo Ortega y Gasset. The aim of the magazine was to examine the political problems that existed in Spain. Its small size allowed it to be distributed clandestinely.

Hojas Libres magazine, nº 1, Miguel de Unamuno y Eduardo Ortega y Gasset, April 1927, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Miguel de Unamuno in Salamanca (1930)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Return to the future

The author's return to Salamanca in February 1930 was a massive event for the city. The fall of Primo de Rivera's regime, along with the subsequent arrival of the Republic, was already in sight. For Unamuno, this was the beginning of a period of intense political and social activity.

Miguel de Unamuno in the Republican Circle of Vitoria (September 23, 1931)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Pain of the Republic

After the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, the writer was elected to the Congress of Deputies for the province of Salamanca. He was later made a Citizen of Honor in 1935, but his expectations began to crumble as he lost hope and confidence in the government.

"I come like someone goes to a sacrifice, with a somewhat depressed spirit, and I find myself having to make great efforts not to let this feeling drag me down. I am going to state some truths, because the current situation hurts me. I have said that Spain hurt me, and today it still hurts me. And its Republic hurts me too"

Ahora magazine cover, April 14, 1935, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Portrait of Miguel de Unamuno (2015) by Alejandro CabezaUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The tragic resentment of war

In 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out. At this time, Unamuno was a councilor for Salamanca City Council (Ayuntamiento de Salamanca). At first, he showed lukewarm support for the rebels, believing that they were acting on behalf of the Republic. He soon realized his mistake, taking a decisive stand against fascism.

Miguel de Unamuno at "La Flecha" (July 1934)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Farewell dream

Following a confrontation with the Francoist soldier José Millán-Astray y Terreros in October 1936, Unamuno was dismissed from all of his political and academic posts. He spent his final days confined to his home. He had always remained true to his convictions, and this is perhaps what cost him his life.

"I am still who I was, and if people think I have changed, it's because they neither realized what I was nor realize what I am"

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