Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Juan Negrín. Physiologist. Socialist and Spanish Republican War Leader

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Juan Negrín. Physiologist. Socialist and Spanish Republican War Leader

Article excerpt

GABRIEL JACKSON, Juan Negrín. Physiologist, Socialist and Spanish Republican War Leader. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press/ Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies. 2010. 355 pp. ISBn 978-1-84519-376-8.

The title of Gabriel Jackson's biography of Juan negrín is both a synthesis and a statement about who, according to the author, the last Spanish republican prime minister truly was. As has been pointed out, Jackson's is one of the few works that takes on the task of restoring the stigmatized figure of dr Juan negrín, presenting him as a professional scientist and committed socialist and humanist/humanitarian, who, due to circumstances, ended up having to steer the battered Spanish republic through the last and most difficult stages of the Civil War and into her final defeat. Despite the fact that negrín did not leave as substantial a personal written legacy as other political leaders of his time, Jackson has been able to produce a fairly comprehensive introductory portrait of negrín 'as a human being', including his family background, personal traits, habits and likings. It also portrays him as a promising, and later established, scientist, polyglot and businessman (chapters 1 and 2), reserved and formal, exceptionally talented, entrepreneurially oriented and used to a high living standard, among other things.

This initial portrait helps to contextualize negrín's activities as a republican war leader as Jackson goes on to examine his life and persona during the conflict. Logically, Jackson focuses on the episodes that angered some of negrín's fellow government and party members and prompted the contempt of his political enemies: the assassination of Andreu nin; the shipping of the republic's gold reserve to Moscow; and the policy of Resistance; and on his bohemian, bon vivant lifestyle, disorderly working habits and preference for using informal channels based on personal trust and friendship to achieve the aims of his wartime government. Jackson concludes that negrín, although aware that nin, the anarchist leader, might have been effectively assassinated by Soviet agents, chose not to position himself against Stalin, who was the only reliable ally of and arms provider for the republic. Similarly, even if negrín had been conscious that the republic was not always being offered the best gold purchase rate or the best arms through the uSSr, this was the only option available for the republic given the non-interventionist policies of Britain and France (and the failed attempt to buy arms from the uS). Furthermore, Jackson argues convincingly that negrín was never a Communist or a 'fellow traveller' (cf. …

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