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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Spanish Civil War

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Spanish Civil War This forum is for discussion of the Spanish Civil War. , this sub-forum appears in the World War II section because Spain was both a training ground for and preview of what was about to break loose in Europe.

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  #1  
Old 25 Jun 15, 10:34
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Books about the Spanish Civil War

I just received a gift, "A ferro e fuoco", the Italian translation of a collection of short stories written at the time by Manuel Chaves Nogales. There is, I see, an English translation, "Heroes and Beasts of Spain", published in 1939. The original title was "A sangre y fuego. Heroes, bestias y mártires de España" (Santiago del Chile, 1937).

In the thread about Guernica, we ended up discussing history and fiction books about this war, and memoirs too (which on this subject sometimes mix facts and fiction).
I thought it might be a good idea to have a general thread about books on the subject. When I have finished reading this, I'll post my opinion, even though I suspect that finding the English edition wouldn't be easy.
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  #2  
Old 25 Jun 15, 10:56
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For ease of reference, I'll list here a few titles, in no particular order. I've read them, and I do not consider any of them a total waste of time, but while some are better than others, I won't venture into reviews, at least not for now.
The list begins with the titles mentioned in that thread about Guernica, which are all memoirs or fiction, not formal academic history books:

Boadilla, by Esmond Romilly.
Soldiers of Salamis, by Javier Cercas.
The Frozen Heart, by Almudena Grandes.
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway.
The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War, by Ernest Hemingway.
Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell.

Not already mentioned in the other thread, again memoirs or fiction:

The Spanish Cockpit, by Franz Borkenau.
A Diary of My Times (The Great Cemeteries under the Moon), by Georges Bernanos.
Night Soldiers, by Alan Furst.
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Old 25 Jun 15, 11:39
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The Siege of the Alcazar: Cecil D. Eby

BTW be careful of Furst he writes good books but he can be cavalier with historical accuracy - for example in one novel he has Lancaster bombers taking part in the Battle of the Barges in 1940
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Old 25 Jun 15, 12:54
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The Siege of the Alcazar: Cecil D. Eby

BTW be careful of Furst he writes good books but he can be cavalier with historical accuracy - for example in one novel he has Lancaster bombers taking part in the Battle of the Barges in 1940
I think I mentioned the list includes fiction, which, I believe, says it all.
I find Furst is valuable not for the factual detail but for the mindset of the people involved. Maybe more so for his secondary characters; the protagonists are, maybe unavoidably, slightly larger-than-life. Not overly so, mind you; they aren't superheroes, they get weary, make mistakes etc. But their willpower is often remarkable.
OTOH the others, the small fry, are good representatives of the real thing, people of the time.
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Old 25 Jun 15, 13:06
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I think I mentioned the list includes fiction, which, I believe, says it all.
I find Furst is valuable not for the factual detail but for the mindset of the people involved. Maybe more so for his secondary characters; the protagonists are, maybe unavoidably, slightly larger-than-life. Not overly so, mind you; they aren't superheroes, they get weary, make mistakes etc. But their willpower is often remarkable.
OTOH the others, the small fry, are good representatives of the real thing, people of the time.
Good fiction needs to be credible and when I come across a glaring anachronism I find it puts a dampener on the story for me. If Patrick O Brian could get it right for the Napoleonic period and write brilliant novels into the bargain I don't see why other writers have a license for sloppiness in other periods.
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Old 25 Jun 15, 13:36
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One of the more comprehensive accounts is The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas.

More recently, a highly readable account, is The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor.
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Old 26 Jun 15, 04:55
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One of the more comprehensive accounts is The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas.

More recently, a highly readable account, is The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor.
Naturally. That's moving it to actual history books. and that's another list worth making.
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Old 28 Jun 15, 10:13
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One of the more comprehensive accounts is The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas.

More recently, a highly readable account, is The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor.
The first one is outdated but passable.

The second one is crap, like anything Beevor writes.

Unfortunately, if you really want to learn about the conflict, you need to be able to read Spanish.
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Old 01 Jul 15, 01:18
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If you can get your hands on Thomas' revised edition it is still considered the best book of its time period. Huge volume. I've read sections and it covers just about every aspect of the war.

But it is a 'huge' volume.
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Old 20 Jul 15, 08:53
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von Junzt

I would like to request a remark from one who may be deeply learned in these matters. Anyone who gives a fig. I have always been interested in the study of world civil wars. I have the 1986 edition of Hugh Thomas and enjoy it but despite its size it seems too general in depth to me. I seek more sources but it seems little available to English readers and you are correct that they are not available in English. I do not know why??

I ask you or others about the work: SPAIN BETRAYED: THE SOVIET UNION IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR. I love reading this book but I am undecided about who too blame for the collapse of the lawful Republic from within.

I have a copy and trying to comprehend: THE SPANISH LABYRINTH: AN ACCOUNT OF THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR. It is complex but through in the vast richness of the history. It too can be declared very general in depth. I wonder about the author's agenda on his personal level?
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Old 21 Jul 15, 04:24
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I have not read Spain Betrayed, but it seems to focus on one facet, the relationship between Republican Spain and the Soviet Union. I don't know if I'd start from there.

OTOH the Spanish Labyrinth is certainly worth reading. The author was something of a member of the Bloomsbury circle, and clearly leans to the left and against Franco. He makes an effort for objectivity, but he's definitely quite close to the subject, both politically and for being that special type of Englishman who prefers to live in Spain.

If you have to rely on the English language only, have you considered Preston? That's probably the best. Then there are Alpert and Beevor.
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Old 25 Jul 15, 22:32
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You could also al try reading Ernest Hemingway's only play ''Fifth Column ' which is based on his experiences serving on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War.and is set in a Madrid hotel under shell fire from the Franco forces.
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Old 03 Aug 15, 21:20
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I am new to this forum, but I have been fascinated by the Spanish Civil War for more than 60 years and I have hundreds of books on that topic in my personal collection. IMHO Paul Preston's books are the best in English and I would recommend his: "The Spanish Civil War; Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge" in it's 2006 edition as the best general history of the war.. Hugh Thomas' book was good in 1962 but a lot of information has come to light since then. I am really a fan of Beevor's works but I found a lot of problems with his latest on that conflict in that he had been 'influenced' by considerable 'revisionist' history.
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Old 08 Aug 15, 02:04
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SPAIN BETRAYED is a book revealing first person documents filed by Comintern Agents from the Spanish war front to Moscow. These documents supposedly have never been revealed before to the world from this Russian loop. Some light is now here to possible expose some disputed episodes of this civil war in regard to the behavior of those Russians within the Spanish civil war. I have read large portions of the huge work of 537 pages and still studying it off and on as the mood arise. Most of these Agents were shot by Stalin upon their recall to Moscow I understand.
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Old 27 Nov 15, 13:10
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I am new to this forum, but I have been fascinated by the Spanish Civil War for more than 60 years and I have hundreds of books on that topic in my personal collection. IMHO Paul Preston's books are the best in English and I would recommend his: "The Spanish Civil War; Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge" in it's 2006 edition as the best general history of the war.. Hugh Thomas' book was good in 1962 but a lot of information has come to light since then. I am really a fan of Beevor's works but I found a lot of problems with his latest on that conflict in that he had been 'influenced' by considerable 'revisionist' history.


I agree, Paul Preston is very knowledgeable on the Spanish civil war. I highly recommend his book: The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain
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