History ETDs


John P. Lewis

Publication Date



The principles of the Ancien Regime were inappropriate by 1800, yet Charles IV of Spain and his adviser, Manuel Godoy, protracted the existence of such methods of misgovernment until the forced abdication in 1808. As most countries pressed forward with the assistance of the developing industrial revolution, Spain remained a retarded land with an unproductive nobility, an all powerful mesta, a tiny middle class, and a shackled peasantry. The government was no more advanced since it was comprised of the absolute sovereign at the apex of the social triangle and the military establishment under the captain-general. Conditions for revolution were developing as a result of socio-economic and political discrepancies. To foment this volatile situation personalities appeared that exacerbated the problems to the extreme of insolubility. Charles IV and Godoy alienated themselves from the people who despised the lack of royal leadership. Into this cauldron fell Napoleon Bonaparte who soon became the catalyst for the pent-up emotions of the Spanish. If he had not intimidated the citizens of Spain, meddled in Spanish affairs, or snatched the Bourbon crown from its rightful possessors, the futures of both France and Spain would have been much different. The events of May 2, 1808, better known as Dos de Mayo, are important in that they began a chain reaction that not only shook the foundations of Spanish life, but also initiated Napoleon's decline which ended at Waterloo. It was realized that the lower classes, the people, pushed for revolution. After May 2, 1808 the Spanish people created regional councils of war to fight the French, while the wealthier elements of society remained stationary or had to be forced into action. To meet the crisis the Cortes of Cádiz was created to supply a restricted but parliamentary form of government, a system long-forgotten in Spain. In conclusion, Dos de Mayo is extremely vital to the understanding of modern Spanish history. Although the results were or only short duration, ending as soon as Ferdinand VII regained his throne, they reflect a will of a struggling people undecided in action, yet knowledgeable in the fact that there must be something better.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Robert William Kern

Second Committee Member

Janet Roebuck

Third Committee Member

Charlie R. Steen



Document Type


Included in

History Commons