The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution

The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution

The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution

The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution


This monumental book offers a comprehensive history and analysis of Republican political life during the Spanish Civil War. Completed by Burnett Bolloten just before his death in 1987, The Spanish Civil War is the culmination of fifty years of dedicated and painstaking research. While Bolloten's earlier works -- The Grand Camouflage (1961) and The Spanish Revolution (1979) -- ended with the controversial events in May 1937, The Spanish Civil War covers the entire period from 1936 to 1939 and is the most exhaustive study on the subject in any language. It will be regarded as the authoritative political history of the war and an indispensable encyclopedic guide to Republican affairs during the Spanish conflict.

Using extensive documentation from a vast collection of primary sources that he accumulated over the years, Bolloten develops two general themes. First, he meticulously charts the depth and scope of the popular revolution unleashed by the July 1936 military rebellion, showing that -- despite elaborate attempts by some Republican groups to minimize its significance -- the revolution dramatically reshaped the architecture of politics in the Republican zone. Revolutionary committees sprang up in countless villages and towns, creating new structures of economic and political power, largely controlled and directed by workers' organizations.

Second, Bolloten argues that the fierce struggle for political hegemony on the left led to the rise in power and influence of the Spanish Communist party. He documents precisely how the Communists managed either to eliminate or absorb their opponents on the left, including Anarchosyndicalists, dissident Marxists, Socialists, and liberal Republicans. Backed by the prestige and material resources of the Soviet Union, the Communists gained decisive control over nearly every phase of public life. Underpinning Bolloten's analysis of the Communists' rise to prominence is his carefully researched discussion of international diplomacy during this period.


Specialists of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) as well as the educated layperson for whom this epic conflict holds a special fascination will be familiar with the name Burnett Bolloten. To those who knew him well, Bolloten was a warm and generous person who wore his prodigious knowledge about the civil war lightly and even modestly. And though he never aspired to become an academic or have his work sponsored by any formal organization, his historical studies— which have been translated into more than half a dozen European and Asian languages—are both widely known and highly regarded by the top authorities in the field. When he died in 1987, Bolloten left behind an impressive scholarly legacy consisting not only of his own writings but of the world-renowned Burnett and Gladys Bolloten Spanish Civil War Collection housed at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

Burnett Bolloten and the Spanish Civil War

Burnett Bolloten (1909–87) began his lifelong commitment to the study of the Spanish Civil War during what he initially envisaged as a brief visit to Spain in July 1936. Having arrived in Barcelona on the evening of the 18th to begin a much-anticipated two-week vacation, Bolloten was awakened early the next morning by what seemed to him to be the noise coming from the heavy beating of carpets. In fact, it was gunfire from the street fighting that was taking place near the hotel where he was staying in the heart of the city, the Hotel España. The Spanish Civil War had begun, and during the next few days Bolloten was so personally caught up in the whirlwind of events that were unfolding in the city—he witnessed the sacking of religious buildings and the revolutionary takeover of businesses (including the hotel where he was staying) and public spaces—that he decided that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to begin his career as a journalist. After sending dispatches to the London office of the United Press (he had worked for UP during the Italo-Abyssinian conflict of 1935–36), he was asked by UP to stay on in Spain in order to cover the war as one of their correspondents.

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