The Best Books On International Intervention In The Spanish Civil War

Christopher Othen Author Of Franco's International Brigades: Adventurers, Fascists, and Christian Crusaders in the Spanish Civil War
By Christopher Othen

The Books I Picked & Why

The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War

By Giles Tremlett

The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

In 1936 an attempt by a coalition of reactionary army officers to overthrow the Spanish government outraged left-wingers around the world. By the start of the next year the International Brigades had been formed under the watchful eye of the Soviet Union to help the beleaguered Republic. At least 35,000 men from countries as diverse as Britain, China, Sweden, and Cuba fought and died on Spanish battlefields for a lost cause. Giles Tremlett’s expansive narrative history brings them vividly to life, with both their heroism and flaws, and shows why their struggle is still remembered today.


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Deadly Embrace: Morocco and the Road to the Spanish Civil War

By Sebastian Balfour

Deadly Embrace: Morocco and the Road to the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

Foreigners also joined the other side. Around 80,000 volunteers from Morocco, a Spanish protectorate, signed up to fight with the rightist rebels for money, adventure, and jihad. Sebastian Balfour’s fascinating book traces the intertwined history of the two countries to show why poor North African Muslims ground under the heel of Spanish imperialism felt they had more in common with General Francisco Franco’s right-wing Nationalists than with the Popular Front government in Madrid. Moroccan soldiers were vital to Franco’s eventual victory even if many would become bitter that their country never got the independence the nationalists had promised.


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Franco and the Condor Legion: The Spanish Civil War in the Air

By Michael Alpert

Franco and the Condor Legion: The Spanish Civil War in the Air

Why this book?

General Franco’s rebellion would never have stood a chance without the support of Nazi Germany. The rebels lacked airpower and Hitler was happy to supply some in the form of the Condor Legion, intended both to support Franco and give the fledgling Luftwaffe a taste of battle. The Legion’s most notorious action was the bombing of Guernica but Michael Alpert shows Germany’s influence on all aspects of the Spanish Civil War in his very readable and wide-ranging  book that also takes in Russian and Italian airborne intervention.


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Mine Were of Trouble: A Nationalist Account of the Spanish Civil War

By Peter Kemp

Mine Were of Trouble: A Nationalist Account of the Spanish Civil War

Why this book?

The Nationalists had their own International Brigades in the form of the many thousands of foreigners who came to support Franco’s cause. Most ended up in the Spanish Foreign Legion, among them the Cambridge-educated conservative Peter Kemp. Motivated to take part by a fierce hatred of communism, he saw sharp end of the Civil War and had most of his teeth smashed out by a mortar shell at the Ebro but never lost faith in the rightness of Franco’s cause.  Years later he wrote this, recently republished, memoir of the war that is equally vivid and disturbing, never more so than when he describes executing a British deserter from the Internationalist Brigades.


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Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia

Why this book?

The best known book about the Spanish Civil War in English remains George Orwell’s memoir of his time in a Trotskyite militia group. Having gone to Spain convinced he was joining a crusade against fascism, the British democratic socialist found himself fighting not only Franco’s Nationalists but other left-wingers on his own side when powerbrokers loyal to the Soviet Union began cracking down on political dissenters. Soon Orwell was fleeing Spain in fear of his life. Homage to Catalonia remains a classic account of how idealism can curdle on the battlefield and comradeship take second place to the demands of war.


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