Kevin's Reviews > The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War by Andy Durgan
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Oct 17, 2017

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-non-fiction
Read from October 08 to 17, 2017

For a undergraduate history book, Andy Durgans' brief coverage but detailed guide of the major important periods and events of the ideological civil conflict in Spain from 1936 till '39 does so spectacularly competently. It is essentially a study guide, and covers the main ideological arguments from both sides; what caused the war; why it became an ideological conflict between Fascism and Soviet Communism; the social composition of both the Socialist/Liberal organisations in Spain as well as the ones of the Right - the Falange et al (and there were many differing ones); the war aims and military successes and failures as well as the international diplomatic aspect that saw quite frankly all the major Western Democracies choosing to ignore the plight of the legally elected Spanish Republic, whilst the emerging Fascist States of Italy and Germany chose to support Franco and the Falange with large quantities of aid, whilst the Republicans or loyalists as Durgan calls them received only small amounts of aid from Soviet Russia (this after the Republicans gave them the Spanish gold reserves), and that intermittently. France briefly sent weapons over the border in 1936 during their Popular Front government, but it was Mexico who only accepted payment in the Spanish currency for weapons and were more willing to support the Republicans.

Andy Durgan's study guide is concise, referenced to a bibliography (quite a neat way of referencing) and examines both sides of the conflict (for a book of its size it is no mean feat to get the main and most important arguments across) equally well. One argument I found intriguing was because of the Western Democracies creation of the Non-Intervention-Committee (NIC), that it gave Nazi Germany and Italy the confidence after the war ended in 1939 to embark on the invasion of Poland so soon as they knew the Allies were unwilling to go to war, or to weak to do so. Also, the recriminations against the population who supported the Republicans was extreme and bloodthirsty, many executions in mass unmarked graves with no record of Francos victims were recorded in, what Durgan calls, an almost genocidal extermination. He suggests a figure of over 100,000 and probably more were killed by the Falange in the aftermath.

Andy Durgan is an eminent historian, he also worked as an advisor to the 1994 Ken Loach film - 'Land and Freedom', which was loosely fictionally based around George Orwells 'Homage to Catalonia'. If the Spanish Republic had not tried to keep the Western powers placated in a vain hope of their intervention (historical evidence points that they had no intention in any way of helping an elected Government because they were too radical) and allowed the social-revolution to continue instead of suppressing its most radical outbursts (land collectivisation, equality of income and so on - many progressive things happened at the start of the war), and also relying too much on Stalin and his advisors who also wanted both the Anarchists (FAI) and Trotskyists (the POUM) liquidated (read Homage to Catalonia for that history), then possibly they may have won. Conjecture, and Spain had to wait for forty years to regain its Democratic process after Franco died. Great primer and study.
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Reading Progress

10/08 marked as: currently-reading
10/08 page 31
17.0% "Seemed appropriate to read considering the historical issues between Spain and fledgling Independent Catalonia, which has reared its head once again. Even though I thought I knew so much about the Spanish Civil War, every time I read something new regarding it, I learn more things."
10/09 page 31
17.0% "Seemed appropriate to read considering the historical issues between Spain and fledgling Independent Catalonia, which has reared its head once again. Even though I thought I knew so much about the Spanish Civil War, every time I read something from a different author usually is enlightening."
10/17 marked as: read

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