Saturday, 17 October 2009
The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor
DATE PUBLISHED: 2006 DATE READ: October 2009 NOTES: This is a serious and scholarly piece of work. People of a certain age and political persuasion tend to view the Spanish Civil War as a passionate but doomed attempt by Republicans to maintain their democratically elected government against fascist forces. All that romanticism is ripped away by Beevor’s book. His excellent research reveals all the ambition, violence and thuggery on both sides – as well as the idealism of some of the participants. Few emerge from the story blameless. Franco’s side is shown to be personally ambitious, ruthless and vengeful while the Republicans were too hopelessly divided to take full advantage of the situation and not helped by incompetent and short-sighted leaders who led their men into futile battles. The antipathy of the communists to the anarchists is well-known but Beevor explores this further. The interference and collusion of outside powers is also very well documented here. I hadn’t realised that there were German arms manufacturers selling weapons to both sides! The Battle for Spain does not just concentrate on the progress of the battlefronts. He also discusses frequently how the civilian population was coping and the terrible privations many Spaniards (especially Catalans) were forced to suffer. The beginnings of the conflict and its awful aftermath are particularly well described. This is a brilliant, but ultimately depressing, read.