The best books on anarchism and revolution in the Spanish Civil War

Martha A. Ackelsberg Author Of Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
By Martha A. Ackelsberg

Who am I?

I have been studying and writing about, anarchism, gender, and the Spanish Civil War for almost 4 decades. I first explored what it would mean to organize a society without formal institutions of authority; and, as part of that research, I looked at how anarcho-syndicalist organizations related to governmental institutions and the struggle against fascism in Spain. I then engaged in a multi-year investigation of the social revolution that occurred in the midst of the ensuing Civil War and, in particular, the activities of the anarchist women’s organization, Mujeres Libres. Through the research for my book, Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, I was captivated by the extraordinary strength and enthusiasm of those women, and committed myself to telling their stories in ways that would be relevant to contemporary readers.


I wrote...

Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

By Martha A. Ackelsberg,

Book cover of Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

What is my book about?

Cowards don’t make history, and the women of Mujeres Libres were no cowards. In the midst of the Spanish Revolution, they fought for women’s empowerment within the anarcho-syndicalist organizations of their time, while also struggling against fascism, and working towards liberation for all. Concentrating their activities on education, literacy, health care, and better working conditions, they mobilized over 20,000 women within the organization Mujeres Libres (free women). This book contains stories of the heady possibilities of revolution and is filled with lessons that will resonate with anyone involved in the social movements of today. It is a call for community, especially among women; and it is a call for full equality and participation—not after the revolution, but now.

The books I picked & why

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The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War

By Gerald Brenan,

Book cover of The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

This book was originally published almost immediately after the Civil War and provides an extraordinarily rich—and yet very readable---account of the many conflicting forces that led up to the war. It is an indispensable introduction to that history.

The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War

By Gerald Brenan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spanish Labyrinth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gerald Brenan's The Spanish Labyrinth has become the classic account of the background to the Spanish Civil War. Written during and immediately after the Civil War, this book has all the vividness of the author's experience. It represents a struggle to see the issues in Spanish politics objectively, whilst bearing witness to the deep involvement which is the only possible source of much of this richly detailed account. As a literary figure on the fringe of the Bloomsbury group, Gerald Brenan lends to this narrative an engaging personal style that has become familiar to many thousands of readers over the…


Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell,

Book cover of Homage to Catalonia

Why this book?

This is an evocative, first-hand account of Orwell’s time in Spain in the early months of the Spanish Civil War, that makes clear the conflict between the revolutionary spirit of the anarchists and Trotskyists and the more conservative, counter-revolutionary activities of the Communist Party and Republican government institutions. Although the US, Britain, and France declined to get directly involved in supporting the government because they identified it with revolutionary communism, that strategy of “non-intervention” actually strengthened the role of the Communists in Spain, whose main effort was to suppress revolutionary activity.

Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Homage to Catalonia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homage to Catalonia remains one of the most famous accounts of the Spanish Civil War. With characteristic scrutiny, Orwell questions the actions and motives of all sides whilst retaining his firm beliefs in human courage and the need for radical social change.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is introduced by Helen Graham, a leading historian on the Spanish Civil War.

When George Orwell arrived in Spain in 1936, he…


Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War

By Ronald Fraser,

Book cover of Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

Based on interviews Fraser conducted with both activists and everyday citizens (over 300 people, in total) who survived the Civil War, this book provides a powerful picture of the struggles, successes and defeats experienced by those who lived through it. It provides an extraordinary view of the complexity of the war and of the organizations that became involved in it.

Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War

By Ronald Fraser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Blood of Spain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Conversations taped between June 1973 and May 1975 with more than three hundred survivors of the Spanish Civil War provide a chronological account of the fratricidal struggle, which brought violence and desperation to every family in Spain


Defying Male Civilization: Women in the Spanish Civil War

By Mary Nash,

Book cover of Defying Male Civilization: Women in the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

Mary Nash is the “dean” of women’s history in Spain, who has done excellent work on the history of working-class Spanish women, birth control, anarchism, and much more. This book, her only major work published in English, places the roles of women—and the revolutionary activities of Mujeres Libres—into its broader historical context. Importantly, she looks not only at the activities of left-wing and revolutionary women, but at how the fascist counter-revolution affected women and families in the years that followed the war.

Defying Male Civilization: Women in the Spanish Civil War

By Mary Nash,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Defying Male Civilization as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Nash, Mary


Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship

By Noam Chomsky,

Book cover of Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship

Why this book?

This is a now-classic essay that explores the ways mainstream news media (and subsequent academic studies) downplayed and/or misrepresented the revolutionary nature of the Spanish Civil War. Although the war began as a result of a failed military coup d’etat against a legally-elected republican government, it came to be seen simply as a battle between communists (identified with the government) and supporters of order (who were actually the fascist rebels!). Drawing parallels with the ways U.S. media represented the revolutionary forces in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, Chomsky makes clear just how significant that misrepresentation became—not just at the time, but in the continuing historiography of the Spanish Civil War.

Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship

By Noam Chomsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship is Chomsky's powerful indictment of a liberal intelligentsia that provided self-serving arguments for war in Vietnam, legitimizing U.S. commitment to autocratic rule, to intervention in Asia and, ultimately, the "pacification" of millions. Over thirty years after their first printing, these are prophetic words, as today America effects "regime change" in Iraq and an increasingly boisterous militarism around the globe. Included here is Chomsky's classic counter-analysis of the Spanish Civil War as a revolutionary war from below, as he lays bare the hostility of even liberal scholarly elites to engage in mass movements and social change, revealing…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Spanish Civil War, Spain, and journalism?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Spanish Civil War, Spain, and journalism.

The Spanish Civil War Explore 46 books about the Spanish Civil War
Spain Explore 159 books about Spain
Journalism Explore 28 books about journalism

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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