The construction of the complex was decreed in 1927 by King Alfonso XIII of Spain in order to give a proper space to the old Complutense University, which had outgrown the place it was assigned when it was moved from Alcalá de Henares in 1836 and was fragmented in different blocks all over Madrid by then. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936 some of the buildings were operative while others were scheduled to be opened by the fall of the year coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the moving. Immediately all activity was shut down in wait of developments. These wouldn't take long to happen in the crudest form.
The flat terrain and wide spaces between buildings made the University City the ideal place to cross the Manzanares River and take Spain Square and the main streets of Madrid such as the Gran Vía. The Nationalist assault began in November 15 and quickly conquered about 3/4s of the buildings. It failed, however, to get into Madrid proper. After a week of disorganized, total warfare with men fighting building by building and room by room, the front settled in the form of trench warfare in November 23. It wouldn't move in a substantial way for almost three years. The Battle of University City was also the baptism of fire of the International Brigades, who established their headquarters in the Faculty of Philosophy.
|Battle of University City|
|Part of Siege of Madrid, Spanish Civil War|
|Spanish Nationalists|| Spanish Republicans
After the Republican collapse in March 1939 many of the men stationed in Madrid surrendered in University City. By then many of the brand-new buildings had been destroyed and the terrain scarred by trenches and mines. Though at first it was considered to leave the ruins in place as a monument, the University City was finally rebuilt and reopened in 1943.
The Battle of University City attracted international attention and was featured in documentaries such as The Spanish Earth by Joris Ivens and Ernest Hemingway.
The University City of Madrid in The War That Came Early Edit
High on his success after the Fall of Gibraltar, Marshal José Sanjurjo decided to renew the offensive over Madrid in early 1939, and with it, the battle over University City. He didn't know however that the Lincoln Brigade and other International Brigades had been moved from the Ebro precisely to participate in an offensive on the same place. The clash was followed by a long battle of attrition after which the Republicans emerged victorious and expelled the Nationalists from the ruins of University City, helped by the fact that they still had access to new armament from their allies - mostly French planes and 75 cannons - while their opponents had been cut-off from the Axis after the Spanish Civil War merged into the Second World War. Nationalist moral was also beginning to suffer, even though Sanjurjo himself visited the trenches near Madrid in an attempt to increase it. Nonetheless, the Nationalists continued to throw all their remaining air power against the University area, leaving almost no trace of it.