British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Batallion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939

British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Batallion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939

British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Batallion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939

British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Batallion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939

Synopsis

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 almost 2,500 men and women left Britain to fight for the Spanish Republic. This book examines the role, experiences and contribution of the volunteers who fought in the British Battalion of the 15 International Brigadesasking:* Who were these volunteers?* Where did they come from?* Why did they go to Spain?* How much did they actually help the Spanish Republic?In contrast to recent revisionist interpretations, this work stresses the crucial importance of the war experience itself, rather than political ideology, in the understanding of the volunteers' role and experiences within the Spanish war.This book will be of essential interest to historians and those interested in the Spanish Civil War.

Excerpt

In November 1996, 400 elderly men and women, including a number from Britain, gathered in a ceremony near the Spanish capital of Madrid to pay homage to their friends and comrades who had died fighting in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. These were the surviving members of the International Brigades, the volunteers from around the world who had rushed to the country between 1936 and 1938 to fight for the Spanish Republic against its enemies from both inside and outside Spain. For many of these men and women, this was their first visit to Spain since the civil war, for they had refused to set foot there whilst the regime of General Franco, which so many of their comrades had died to prevent, still existed. However, following the death of Franco in 1975, a new democratic government had replaced the old regime, and, as a gesture of gratitude to the international volunteers who had come to Spain to fight the military uprising of 1936, the Spanish government offered citizenship to the surviving members of the brigades. So what did these volunteers do that was so significant such that, 60 years later, the few hundred still alive would be offered the citizenship of Spain? Who were they? Where did they come from? Why did they go to Spain? And how much did they actually help the Spanish Republic? These are some of the questions that this study will attempt to answer. First, however, an explanation of the events within Spain preceding the outbreak of civil war is necessary, for, whilst it is undeniable that the war developed an international dimension, it is inside Spain itself that the causes of the war were to be found.

The military coup, launched by a group of army officers against the Spanish government on 17 July 1936, was the culmination of a struggle for supremacy between two political blocs within Spain that were united by little except mutual incomprehension and enmity. That the Spanish government should be confronted by an armed insurrection came as no surprise to many observers; in the five years that the beleaguered Republican government had existed, it had faced mortal threats from both left and right. A military rising led by General Sanjurjo in August 1932, and a revolution in the Asturias and Catalonia in October 1934, may have been crushed, but the political and social forces that had been behind them most certainly were not. Indeed, the history of the Spanish Second Republic had been one of ever-increasing political polarisation.

Spain's Second Republic, la niña bonita, had been proclaimed following the

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