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.

The books I picked & why

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Guerra

By Jason Webster,

Book cover of Guerra

Why 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.


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

By James Matthews,

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

Why 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.


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

By Giles Tremlett,

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

Why 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. 


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

By E.R. Hooton,

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

Why 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.


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

By Paul Preston,

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

Why 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.


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

5,888 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 42 books about the Spanish Civil War
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