Academic journal article Teaching History: A Journal of Methods

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

Academic journal article Teaching History: A Journal of Methods

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

Article excerpt

Adam Hochschild. Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2016. Pp. 438. $15.99.

In October 1938, over 300,000 Spaniards lined the streets of Barcelona to honor two hundred Americans and other survivors of the International Brigades who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. The soldiers and nurses were part of the roughly 2,800 Americans who, in the midst of the Great Depression, defied the U.S. government and volunteered to support the Republican struggle against the military uprising of General Francisco Franco and the Nationalists. In Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, Adam Hochschild chronicles the experiences of American volunteers and journalists in Spain on the eve of the Second World War. Combined with leftists from countries such as Canada, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, the Americans faced inadequate training and supplies as well as a savage civil war in which the Nationalists relied on significant military support from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. The result was Franco's victory in 1939, unprecedented casualty rates for American soldiers, and, despite the cheering crowds in Barcelona and cries that the "crusaders for freedom" would never be forgotten, a poignant anti-fascist effort by Americans that remains largely missing from dominant historical accounts centered on World War II (337).

Hochschild's engaging narrative includes familiar characters such as Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, and Pablo Picasso, whose role in the Spanish Civil War often blurred the line between journalism, art, and combatant. However, the strength of Spain in Our Hearts is the authors account of a diverse group of unknown American men and women--communists, socialists, anarchists, workers, students, Jews, and African Americans--whose commitment to economic and social justice during the Depression made Spain's brutal civil war "a moral and political touchstone" (xv). Hochschild provides little background on either American society during the Great Depression or the larger context of Spanish history, but his narrative excels in exploring the motivations and perspectives of Americans encountering the unique decision of how to fight fascism in Spain while the United States remained committed to an official policy of neutrality. For socialists Charles and Lois Orr, a recently married couple from Kentucky, the potential of the Republican government in Catalonia to create an unprecedented egalitarian and just society was an experience impossible to find amid the limitations of the New Deal in the United States. …

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