The best books on the Spanish Civil War and its impact on Spain

Jules Stewart Author Of Madrid: Midnight City
By Jules Stewart

Who am I?

I first set foot in Madrid in 1962, when the deep scars of a three-year siege were still very much in evidence. Over the years I have observed it evolve into the most vibrant and fascinating city in Europe. I lived in Madrid for a total of twenty years and after moving to London, I found myself missing it very badly, so much so that I decided to put my enthusiasm to pen and tell the world what a spectacular place it is. The result was three books: Madrid: The History, Madrid: A Literary Companion for Travellers, and the latest, Madrid: Midnight City, co-authored with Helen Crisp, a long-time visitor who shares my enthusiasm for this city perched atop the Castilian plateau. 

I wrote...

Madrid: Midnight City

By Jules Stewart, Helen Crisp,

Book cover of Madrid: Midnight City

What is my book about?

Spain’s top city for tourism, Madrid attracts more than six million visitors a year. This is the tale of a vibrant, energetic city, one that remains an enigma to many outsiders. Helen Crisp and Jules Stewart relate the story of a city and its people through the centuries, while their carefully curated listings give a nod to well-known attractions and sights, as well as hidden gems. Madrid is Spain’s art capital, with its ‘Golden Triangle’ of museums and myriad art galleries. It is also a city of dazzling nightlife, with a profusion of cafés and bars. 

The book plots the twists and turns of the history that has shaped the city. It also reveals the best places to eat, drink and shop, while ruminating on such deeply serious matters. The narrative details plazas, fiestas, cafés, football, theatres, and some of Europe’s most outstanding museums.

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The books I picked & why


By Jason Webster,

Book cover of Guerra

Why did I love this book?

Jason Webster journeys across Spain to explore the lasting effects of the Spanish Civil War. The result of his travels is this book of fascinating and vividly retold true stories from the war. The more the author unveils of the passions that set one countryman against another, the more he is led to wonder: could the dark, primitive currents that ripped the country apart in the 1930s still be stirring under the sophisticated, worldly surface of today's Spain? With this moving and succinct account, Webster definitively establishes his credential as one of the most gifted and knowledgeable Anglophone writers who have interpreted Spain to the world.

By Jason Webster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After twelve years in Spain, Jason Webster had developed a deep love for his adopted homeland; his life there seemed complete. But when he and his Spanish wife moved into an idyllic old farmhouse in the mountains north of Valencia, by chance he found an unmarked mass grave from the Spanish Civil War on his doorstep.Spurred to investigate the history of the Civil War, a topic many of his Spanish friends still seemed to treat as taboo, he began to uncover a darker side to the country. Witness to a brutal fist-fight sponsored by remnants of Franco's Falangists, arrested and…

Book cover of Spain at War: Society, Culture and Mobilization, 1936-44

Why did I love this book?

The Spanish Civil War is customarily written off as a military action involving insurgent army units allied with the Falange and other reactionary forces, waging war against a legitimately-elected Socialist-led government, albeit one infested with Communist conspirators. James Matthews takes the reader into another realm, often overlooked in the literally thousands of works published on this conflict. 

The book brings together the writings of thirteen outstanding historians and specialists, who examine broad-ranging and hitherto little-explored issues such as the Francoist doctrine of ‘martial masculinity’ and ‘turning boys into men’, the role of social work during the war, political economies and monetary policies, desertion and shirking military duties and Republican spies in the Nationalist rearguard.

By James Matthews,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spain at War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spain's principal and most devastating war during the 20th century was, unusually for most of Europe, an internal conflict. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939 two competing armies - the insurgent and counterrevolutionary Nationalist Army and the Republican Popular Army - engaged in a conflict to impose their version of Spanish identity and the right to shape the country's future. In its aftermath, Francoist Spain remained on a war footing for the duration of the Second World War.

In spite of the unabated flood of books on the Spanish Civil War and its consequences, historians of Spain…

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

Why did I love this book?

It is no exaggeration to say that historical as well as fictional narratives about the Spanish Civil War number in the tens of thousands. Just when we thought the final word had been written on this heart-breaking event, along comes Giles Tremlett with a blockbuster tale of the thousands of volunteers, from as far afield as Ethiopia and Pakistan, who journeyed to Spain to fight against tyranny. 

Tremlett tells the story of a corps of idealistic though imperfect people, some of whom behaved badly in Soviet satellite countries. Yet they pursued a virtuous common objective: the destruction of fascism in Spain and the rest of Europe. 

By Giles Tremlett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The International Brigades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Magnificent. Narrative history at its vivid and compelling best' Fergal Keane

The first major history of the International Brigades: a tale of blood, ideals and tragedy in the fight against fascism.

The Spanish Civil War was the first armed battle in the fight against fascism, and a rallying cry for a generation. Over 35,000 volunteers from sixty-one countries around the world came to defend democracy against the troops of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini.

Ill-equipped and disorderly, yet fuelled by a shared sense of purpose and potential glory, disparate groups of idealistic young men and women banded together to form a…

Book cover of Spain in Arms: A Military History of the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

Why did I love this book?

The Spanish Civil War ended more than eighty years ago, hence one might assume the people of Spain would have long since buried the ideological discord and personal animosities that tore the country apart in three years of savage fighting. Not so, as the author points out. He looks at the character of the war’s most notorious protagonist, Francisco Franco, described as a ‘‘general of standard ability but given to flights of fancy’. Certainly one of the costliest of these castles in the air was his determination to make short work of his siege of Madrid, which against all the odds, held out heroically to the end.

Hutton identifies the battle of Teruel, fought during the worst Spanish winter in twenty years, as the tipping point of the war. This is one of the four fronts he analyses in detail and with deep perception.

By E.R. Hooton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spain in Arms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spain in Arms is a new military history of the Spanish Civil War. It examines how the Spanish Civil War conflict developed on the battlefield through the prism of eight campaigns between 1937-1939 and shows how many accounts of military operations during this conflict are based upon half-truths and propaganda.

The book is based upon nearly 60 years of extensive research into the Spanish Civil War, augmented by information from specialised German, Italian and Russian works. The Italian campaign against the Basques on the Northern Front in 1937 was one of the most spectacular Nationalist successes of the Civil War,…

Book cover of We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War

Why did I love this book?

Paul Preston needs no introduction to readers of contemporary Spanish history. He embodies the term ‘Hispanist’ and has been writing about the country for decades, with a focus on the Spanish Civil War. Preston tells the gripping tale of those who fought to tell the story, often at risk to their own lives, namely the foreign correspondents who, in reporting the war, made every effort to reveal the truth. Preston catches this column-inch internationalism with brilliance in his survey of such notables as Ernest Hemingway and Henry Buckley. The book is absorbing, frequently moving, and sprinkled with humour. It fills a crucial gap in the historiography of the Spanish Civil War.

By Paul Preston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Saw Spain Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The war in Spain and those who wrote at first hand of its horrors.

From 1936 to 1939 the eyes of the world were fixed on the devastating Spanish conflict that drew both professional war correspondents and great writers. Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Josephine Herbst, Martha Gellhorn, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Kim Philby, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Cyril Connolly, Andre Malraux, Antoine de Saint Exupery and others wrote eloquently about the horrors they saw at first hand.

Together with many great and now largely forgotten journalists, they put their lives on the line, discarding professionally dispassionate approaches and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Spanish Civil War, Spain, and World War 2?

9,000+ 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 World War 2.

The Spanish Civil War Explore 47 books about the Spanish Civil War
Spain Explore 160 books about Spain
World War 2 Explore 1,535 books about World War 2

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