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Since its first publication, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War has become established as the definitive one-volume history of a conflict that continues to provoke intense controversy today. What was it that roused left-wing sympathizers from all over the world to fight against Franco between 1936 and 1939? Why did the British and US governments refuse to intervene? And wh Since its first publication, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War has become established as the definitive one-volume history of a conflict that continues to provoke intense controversy today. What was it that roused left-wing sympathizers from all over the world to fight against Franco between 1936 and 1939? Why did the British and US governments refuse to intervene? And why did the Republican cause collapse so violently? Now revised and updated, Hugh Thomas's classic account presents the most objective and unbiased analysis of a passionate struggle where fascism and democracy, communism and Catholicism were at stake - and which was as much an international war as a Spanish one.


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Since its first publication, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War has become established as the definitive one-volume history of a conflict that continues to provoke intense controversy today. What was it that roused left-wing sympathizers from all over the world to fight against Franco between 1936 and 1939? Why did the British and US governments refuse to intervene? And wh Since its first publication, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War has become established as the definitive one-volume history of a conflict that continues to provoke intense controversy today. What was it that roused left-wing sympathizers from all over the world to fight against Franco between 1936 and 1939? Why did the British and US governments refuse to intervene? And why did the Republican cause collapse so violently? Now revised and updated, Hugh Thomas's classic account presents the most objective and unbiased analysis of a passionate struggle where fascism and democracy, communism and Catholicism were at stake - and which was as much an international war as a Spanish one.

30 review for The Spanish Civil War

  1. 5 out of 5

    WILLIAM2

    The Spanish Civil War was the proving ground for much of the technology (tanks, aviation, artillery, etc.) used in World War II. This alone makes an account of it essential reading. The only one-volume history of war that I can compare Mr. Thomas's book to is Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and American in Vietnam. The books are structurally different. Sheehan uses the central figure of Vann as a kind of biographical spine on which to build his history. The Spanish Civil War The Spanish Civil War was the proving ground for much of the technology (tanks, aviation, artillery, etc.) used in World War II. This alone makes an account of it essential reading. The only one-volume history of war that I can compare Mr. Thomas's book to is Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and American in Vietnam. The books are structurally different. Sheehan uses the central figure of Vann as a kind of biographical spine on which to build his history. The Spanish Civil War has no such core narrative thread. The story, in fact, is much more heterogeneous, since Thomas is interested in bringing the quantitative specifics of the war into the English language: planes, artillery, personnel, Italian, German and Russian contributions, etc. It is, in fact, extraordinarily detailed. Even actors of marginal significance, it seems, are named and their roles described. Sheehan, on the other hand, writing about an American war which played out on television in many private living rooms, has less such quantification to do. I think the saddest part of Thomas's book is the story it tells of the murderous dissension among the anarchists, communists, non-Stalinist Marxists (POUM) and socialists of the Republic. Their ideological imperatives seemed far more important to them than the fascist threat. "The carnival of treachery and rotteness," Ernest Hemingway had called it. Add to that the fragmentation of Republican Spain into Basque Country, Catalonia and an elected government which moved from Madrid to Valencia and then to autonomous Catalonia -- where it was perceived as a virtual coup d'etat -- and one wonders how those on the Republic side ever hoped to win. The Russians, for whom everything was political, were the worst. Their persecutions of the POUM were horrible. They thought they could run the war through collectivist committees. The anarchists (no angels themselves; they burnt churches and killed ecclesiastics by the hundreds) were often shot at the front because they refused to take communist orders. Lastly, the hypocritical pretense known as the Non-Intervention Committee must be mentioned. Germany and Italy were supplying the nationalists with war material, as were the Russians the Republic, while at the same time sitting on the committee! Everyone seemed to know this but it allowed the British to turn a blind eye. How convenient. Chamberlain and Daladier's appeasement of Hitler at Munich was just around the corner.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Miquixote

    Unfortunately it has a predictably status quo left liberal slant. " for some curious reason, has acquired the reputation of being a definitive history of the conflict - is pretentious, superficial, and factually unreliable. For a devastating critique, the reader should consult Vernon Richard's "July 19, 1936: Republic or Revolution?" in Anarchy, No.5 (July, 1961)' and Richard's introductory remarks to Gaston Leval's "Collectives in the Spanish Revolution " ( London, 1975). " - Murray Bookchin' p Unfortunately it has a predictably status quo left liberal slant. " for some curious reason, has acquired the reputation of being a definitive history of the conflict - is pretentious, superficial, and factually unreliable. For a devastating critique, the reader should consult Vernon Richard's "July 19, 1936: Republic or Revolution?" in Anarchy, No.5 (July, 1961)' and Richard's introductory remarks to Gaston Leval's "Collectives in the Spanish Revolution " ( London, 1975). " - Murray Bookchin' p. 299 "The Spanish Anarchists". There is liitle on the popular revolution which ocurred in Spain duing the war, a glaring ideologically based omission. Chomsky, "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship" : "obviously the historian's account must be selective; from the left liberal point of view (like Hugh Thomas and Gabriel Jackson) the liquidation of the revolution in Catalonia was a minor event, as the revolution itself was merely kind of irrelevant nuisance, a minor irritant diverting energy fom the struggle to save the bourgeois government...Thomas' extensive study barely refers to the popular revolution, and some of the major events are not mentioned at all." How can so much work be done and such honours bestowed on such a 'major work', with such glaring omissions? An honest study of the Spanish Civil War MUST be accompanied by histories such as The Spanish Anarchists (Murray Bookchin), Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell) and On Anarchism (Noam Chomsky). But above all, Pierre Broue and Emile and Emile Temime's 'The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain'. Which is infinitely preferable as a general account of the Spanish Civil War. According to Chomsky, the best general history of the war. In his favor, Hugh Thomas does give excellent suggestions on further study of the role of Anarchism in the bibliography. I can only assume the curious omissions are due to it being too risky in elite academic circles to focus too much (or at all) on the most 'dangerously' liberating democratic idea in history: anarchism, or if you prefer, libertarian socialism.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    The British writer and historian, Hugh Thomas, first published this monumental work in 1961 and subsequently revised it several times, last in 1986. This review is of his final revision. The Spanish Civil War has long been somewhat of a mystery to me, the events of that conflict having been overshadowed by the immediate onset of World War II as the Spanish war came to a close in 1939. I read this book to rectify my ignorance and clarify my confusion. The book accomplished all of that while provid The British writer and historian, Hugh Thomas, first published this monumental work in 1961 and subsequently revised it several times, last in 1986. This review is of his final revision. The Spanish Civil War has long been somewhat of a mystery to me, the events of that conflict having been overshadowed by the immediate onset of World War II as the Spanish war came to a close in 1939. I read this book to rectify my ignorance and clarify my confusion. The book accomplished all of that while providing fascinating reading at the same time. The political situation in Spain had been in almost continual turmoil for more than four decades before the Civil War broke out in 1936. Those decades had seen a seemingly endless series of abrupt changes, including the monarchy, military coups, a repressive dictatorship, the abdication of its king, and continuing struggles by whatever groups or groups were “out” to regain power. In 1931 a republic came into being, formed and led primarily by those on the center-left, including socialists (of various stripes), anarchists, communists (also of various stripes), and other smaller groups on the left, although many of these movements were not then very forthright about their leanings. The groups left out of the government at that time were the monarchists, the Church, groups with fascist leanings, anti-democrats of various persuasions, and those gradually identifying themselves as Falangists, sympathetic to the growing Nazi movement in Germany. In 1936 these right-wing groups revolted, becoming the side designated as Nationalists, against those governing, the Republicans. Rather quickly the revolt became a civil war, the Nationalists initially controlling most of the northwest of the country, except for the Basque region in the far north, the Republicans retaining the southeast, although there were cities, areas, and citizens in each of these broad regions with sympathy for the other side. The war slogged on for three years with horrific atrocities being perpetrated by both sides. The gradual trend, however, was for the inexorable expansion of the territory held by the Nationalists, who ultimately won in 1939. The Nationalists under Franco had been able to overcome or at least put aside their internal differences in favor of military supremacy, and they were able to form alliances with and receive substantial support in the form of both personnel and materiel from the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy. The Republicans were supported primarily by Russia, the Spanish communists gradually becoming the principle force on the Republican side (not without almost continual fierce fighting among the various communist movements inside the Republic as well as intense struggles among all the forces on the left), but the lack of unity among the government ideologies contributed to their relative inefficiency. France, Britain, and the US continually vacillated in their intentions and attitudes, sometimes seeming to support one side and then another, sometimes attempting to blockade Spain so that outside aid could not be brought into the country, often giving vocal support to the Republic while secretly trying to undermine the communists, sometimes hoping to undermine the fascists on the other side. All this was being played out in the context of moves by Hitler in other parts of Europe, the western Allies never having a very coherent plan of response to the Spanish conflict. Countless individual citizens of other countries flocked to Spain, mostly on the Republican side, forming International Brigades that played a substantial if ultimately unsuccessful role in the fighting. Thomas is exhaustive in his presentation of the details and leaders (both civilian and military) on both sides of the war, and the reader needs a very clear head to keep them all straight. Nor is Thomas shy about providing masses of statistics regarding every conceivable aspect of the conflict. The many maps provided are essential and clear. Thomas has helpfully clarified events subsequent to the war and includes a couple of final chapters summarizing the causes, events, and consequences of the struggle. This book is clear and inclusive, a solid and satisfying account of the Spanish Civil War. Not every detail of such a conflict can of course be included, even when alluded to. There are questions and issues that I find I want to pursue in greater detail, eg the killing of the poet Garcia Lorca, but for such things I shall have to turn elsewhere. For those readers preferring historical fiction, this book is probably not for them, personal narratives of the people involved instead requiring biographies, memoirs, or novels. Thomas’ book, though, is a good place to start for a comprehensive understand of the War’s events. Many readers will be content to go no further.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Update I now give this a 2 Good enough history of the Spanish Civil War. It’s a good topic as it tends to get lost because of WWII. In fact, if Americans learn anything about the Spanish Civil War, it’s that it was a warmup to WWII. This isn’t quite correct. After reading this book it seems that the SCW has more parallels with the Russian or Irish civil wars…yes, nations provided a few units and materials in each, but the fighting was local and done mostly by locals, not a worldwide conflict in Update I now give this a 2 Good enough history of the Spanish Civil War. It’s a good topic as it tends to get lost because of WWII. In fact, if Americans learn anything about the Spanish Civil War, it’s that it was a warmup to WWII. This isn’t quite correct. After reading this book it seems that the SCW has more parallels with the Russian or Irish civil wars…yes, nations provided a few units and materials in each, but the fighting was local and done mostly by locals, not a worldwide conflict in scope or military men. The pace of this book is dreadfully slow…2/3 of the book takes one up to 1937 in the conflict. The writing is dry and is mostly forgettable names and places…That said, as far as I can tell, the treatment of both sides in the conflict are treated in a balanced manner. I was expecting a bit more action and a bit less talk, so I was slightly disappointed with the book. So, I give this one a 3. It’s an interesting topic and I learned about the Spanish Civil War, but the writing is too detailed and dry. There are probably more engaging introductions to the conflict out there…

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    After Mom left Dad she developed a medical condition which she could not pay for--despite the fact she worked full-time at a hospital--and had to move back to Norway where medical care was available for free, even for a native daughter who had taken on U.S. citizenship years before. I visited her there upon graduating from seminary and met the fellow, Egil, whom she was ultimately to wed. Egil Karlsen, like many Norwegians, had a condo on the Mediterranean shore of Spain, not too far west of Mala After Mom left Dad she developed a medical condition which she could not pay for--despite the fact she worked full-time at a hospital--and had to move back to Norway where medical care was available for free, even for a native daughter who had taken on U.S. citizenship years before. I visited her there upon graduating from seminary and met the fellow, Egil, whom she was ultimately to wed. Egil Karlsen, like many Norwegians, had a condo on the Mediterranean shore of Spain, not too far west of Malaga. For the rest of Mom's life we were to get together either there, occasionally, or, annually, when she and he would come to visit her family and friends in the States. Ultimately, I visited Spain three times: once with Linda, once alone and once with my brother Fin. Prior to the first visit I decided to read up on modern Spanish history and, scanning the bookshelves, came upon Thomas' The Spanish Civil War. It was an ideal choice as it covers much more than the war itself, going way back in explaining the political, cultural and class divisions of the country which led to the conflict. The period of the thirties was pretty familiar to me in its North American and European aspects, but the focus on Spain was new. Surprisingly, in Spain I found few young people interested or very knowledgeable about their recent history. Andalusia appeared to be pretty political, judging by the stickers and painted slogans (mostly left wing in those parts) all over the place, but the best conversation I had about the civil war was with an older taxi driver. The only younger person who ever got into the subject with me was a female lawyer I spent an afternoon with in Madrid while changing planes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    T. Fowler

    The story of this civil war, as told by Hugh Thomas, amazed me. Full of drama, courage and atrocity, idealism and deceit. It constantly surprises me how human societies can suddenly collapse, tearing themselves apart, and so easily resort to killing others whose beliefs differ. Is there a parallel to the current civil war in Syria? Where a rebel side seeks to overthrow a government which has lost touch with its people, but external volunteers enter to distort the picture. I knew little of the Sp The story of this civil war, as told by Hugh Thomas, amazed me. Full of drama, courage and atrocity, idealism and deceit. It constantly surprises me how human societies can suddenly collapse, tearing themselves apart, and so easily resort to killing others whose beliefs differ. Is there a parallel to the current civil war in Syria? Where a rebel side seeks to overthrow a government which has lost touch with its people, but external volunteers enter to distort the picture. I knew little of the Spanish Civil War before this book, but it really has informed me well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Of the three histories of the Spanish Civil War I've read, Thomas's is the most comprehensive and balanced. He seems not to have an ideological axe to grind, which is impressive considering this war was inherently ideological. He focuses on the social and political causes of the war, the diplomatic and international consequences of it, and the military maneuvers that eventually led to Franco's victory. If you read one history of the Spanish Civil War, you wouldn't be wrong to choose this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    We tend to think of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 merely as a run-up to the Second World War. It was that, as the Germans and Italians not only supplied the Fascists, but fought side by side with them. On the Republican side, the Soviet Communists supplied the Republicans and provided volunteers through the Comintern. Unfortunately for the losing side, Stalin was at the time purging the officers of the Russian army, resulting in the death of such great innovators as Marshal Tukachevsky as w We tend to think of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 merely as a run-up to the Second World War. It was that, as the Germans and Italians not only supplied the Fascists, but fought side by side with them. On the Republican side, the Soviet Communists supplied the Republicans and provided volunteers through the Comintern. Unfortunately for the losing side, Stalin was at the time purging the officers of the Russian army, resulting in the death of such great innovators as Marshal Tukachevsky as well as a large part of the Russian officer corps. Russia was to pay heavily for the timing of this madness: In 1941, the Nazis invaded Russia, and the Russians lost upwards of 20 million of its citizens. Spain was a much smaller theater of war. In his The Spanish Civil War, author Hugh Thomas estimates the total war dead at 600,000. Franco's German assistance was of vital assistance to his cause, but the Communist assistance was affected by factionalism between Stalinist, Trotskyist, Anarchist, and Socialist groups who saw one another as political rivals. Also fighting on the losing side were the International Brigades, including forces from Britain, France, the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Belgium -- in fact, all of non-fascist Europe. I read the original 1961 edition of this work, because my sympathies are solidly on the Republican side; and Thomas grew more rigidly conservative as he aged, becoming in the end Baron Thomas of Swynnerton and receiving honors from the Franco side. This is by no means a quick read, but it is well written with an excellent bibliography, index, and appendices. Some of the maps, especially the one of the Fascist campaign in Catalonia, are confusing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    P J

    UKIP makes me want to vomit, although the BNP is worse. Reading again Hugh Thomas’s gripping history, I was more moved than I expected to be by the great tragedy which befell Spain in the late 30s and which the liberal democracies allowed to happen by their fear of provoking fascist Italy and Germany. Putting ones country first whatever the circumstances is a peculiar thing to do. To put ones own vision of what that country means before any other considerations crosses the borders of mental illne UKIP makes me want to vomit, although the BNP is worse. Reading again Hugh Thomas’s gripping history, I was more moved than I expected to be by the great tragedy which befell Spain in the late 30s and which the liberal democracies allowed to happen by their fear of provoking fascist Italy and Germany. Putting ones country first whatever the circumstances is a peculiar thing to do. To put ones own vision of what that country means before any other considerations crosses the borders of mental illness. There can be fewer more ridiculous figures than the childish and poisonous, maimed and bizarre, general Millan Astray shouting the Spanish Legionaries nonsensical motto – ‘long live death!’ (When, in the great hall of the University of Salamanca, the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno pointed out how stupid this was, he could vary – ‘death to intellectuals, long live death!’ he cried.) The republic was not innocent, there were bad men, and bad things were done; but these were not policy. For Franco and the nationalists murder was policy. But the right was disciplined: anarchist units were handicapped by the necessity of holding meetings before going into action. Squabbling on the left was rife and sometimes murderous. Thomas’s book is long, at over a thousand pages, but is so worth reading again. I was gripped enough to suspend disbelief (or do I mean belief) and to hope as I turned the pages, that the ending would be other than that which I knew it to be. Seventy years is a long time and the right all over Europe still hopes that the rest of us will forget. The International Brigades are rightly famous and this month Spain will give the elderly survivors Spanish passports. These people fought for what they believed in rather than for their country. The Garibaldi battalion fought much better than the regular Italian units on the nationalists’ side did. (Germans, of course, were different and the Condor Legion made a major contribution to the nationalist victory: Spain was the Wehrmacht’s training ground for Poland, France and Russia.). Largely by the influence of McCarthy and his henchmen, the Abraham Lincoln battalion was declared subversive in 1946. European democracy did not behave like that, (we should not forget Greece however). Those of us who believe that Europe is more important than its individual states should read this book. Read it, and vote against UKIP and its ludicrous identification with a nationalist pseudo-history and false Churchillian imagery.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Hugh Thomas account of the Spanish Civil War is the most thorough version of the events written to date. His writing style makes the reader believe the entire account could be fiction. It is very easy to read and you hardly feel like you are reading history at all. The Spanish Civil War is one of the most devastating conflicts of the 20th century. It is the precursor to World War II and showcased as well as trained some of Germany, Italy and Russia's top talent. The sheer devastation of tactics Hugh Thomas account of the Spanish Civil War is the most thorough version of the events written to date. His writing style makes the reader believe the entire account could be fiction. It is very easy to read and you hardly feel like you are reading history at all. The Spanish Civil War is one of the most devastating conflicts of the 20th century. It is the precursor to World War II and showcased as well as trained some of Germany, Italy and Russia's top talent. The sheer devastation of tactics involved bullied a civilian population and decimated a country. The rise of Francisco Franco and his victory over the communists was made possible by fascist intervention. The democracies of the world worked hard to try and effect a peace but they were unsuccessful against the determination of the fascists and the communists to prolong the conflict. This is a complicated conflict to understand but Hugh Thomas tries to simplify it as much as he can. This is the best start to understanding the Spanish Civil War and for those who want to understand how World War II began.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    The Spanish Civil War is often read as a backdrop for the much larger Second World War and this is a solid approach to this regional conflict, but the conflict itself has had a much larger historical and cultural impact on the world of today than many readers may believe. For this reason, and many others, this remains a seminal moment [1936-39] in Western and world history. Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War, 50th Anniversary edition, remains the best, if exhaustive [1,116 pages -- Kindle Editi The Spanish Civil War is often read as a backdrop for the much larger Second World War and this is a solid approach to this regional conflict, but the conflict itself has had a much larger historical and cultural impact on the world of today than many readers may believe. For this reason, and many others, this remains a seminal moment [1936-39] in Western and world history. Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War, 50th Anniversary edition, remains the best, if exhaustive [1,116 pages -- Kindle Edition], single-volume history of the war. There are other good histories but this is the narrative history many readers continue to return to, though it was originally published in 1961. The reading experience is smooth; the research impeccable; the detail stunning; the historical insight subtle. For readers looking to read only one book on this conflict, this would be the book to read. Recommended for students of 20th Century European conflict and ideology Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This is a great book which I feel has now been superseded by Antony Beevor's excellent history of the Spanish War. If you are uncomfortable allowing Antony Beevor, who is often accused of being right wing, to form your views on Spain, then read this work by Thomas. I read both thirty years apart and found both worthwhile.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    For decades, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War (first written in 1961 and periodically expanded and updated until Thomas's death) has been the standard English-language history of that cataclysmic conflict. Despite its forbidding length (1,100 pages in its last revision) and the topic's sheer scope, it's briskly written and surprisingly accessible. Thomas proves as adept sketching the war's convoluted origins (a break-down in Spanish society caused by labor unrest, disastrous foreign wars and For decades, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War (first written in 1961 and periodically expanded and updated until Thomas's death) has been the standard English-language history of that cataclysmic conflict. Despite its forbidding length (1,100 pages in its last revision) and the topic's sheer scope, it's briskly written and surprisingly accessible. Thomas proves as adept sketching the war's convoluted origins (a break-down in Spanish society caused by labor unrest, disastrous foreign wars and an ineffectual monarchy that made Franco's reaction seem appealing), diplomatic dimensions (from the Republic's doomed attempts to court foreign support to Franco's easy alliance with Italy and Nazi Germany) and the messy military maneuvers. To a relative novice like me, the main thing standing out in Thomas's account is the utter brutality of both sides, with civilians regularly massacred, raped and otherwise mistreated in savage ways more expected from feud turf wars than a modern, "civilized" nation. Thomas is less perceptive addressing Spain's internal politics, with a simplified view of the different Leftist factions backing the Republicans, reducing key events like the liquidation of the Trotskyist POUM to a footnote, and occasionally lapsing into Cold War sloganeering about the Communist-progressive alliance. For all that, it's a rich and engaging portrait that holds up remarkably well considering subsequent scholarship and the minefields involved in analyzing it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sam Romilly

    An excellent reference book that helps explains what really happened in this civil war. Worth reading for everyone who is interested in the subject. The civil war was a lot more complicated than a the simplistic view that a right wing military coup overthrew an elected government. This elected government was to begin with extremely tough on the left wing factions with a viscous crushing of a miners rebellion in Asturias. It then had to contend with real revolutionary impulses from the communist An excellent reference book that helps explains what really happened in this civil war. Worth reading for everyone who is interested in the subject. The civil war was a lot more complicated than a the simplistic view that a right wing military coup overthrew an elected government. This elected government was to begin with extremely tough on the left wing factions with a viscous crushing of a miners rebellion in Asturias. It then had to contend with real revolutionary impulses from the communist and anarchist movements and the whole country was in crisis. The Franco revolt was initially positioned as a means to restore order but it provoked mini revolutions around the country. The government was torn asunder by the conflicting forces and hardly capable of controlling the forces unleashed. All sides degenerated into bloodthirsty revengeful massacres that set the war on a path of bitter struggle where no compromise was possible. The book is full of facts and tries to delve into every political aspect of the conflict as well as describing the various battles. What it lacks is an imagery to bring it all to life and really engage the reader. It is not a difficult read but it is not a pleasure to read either. One very useful tip from reading this was a reference to the Spanish Pimpernel - that led me to read the book based on this fascinating story.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Though I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject matter, it was a little too deep for an intro (I made the same mistake with Slim's Defeat Into Victory on the Burma Campaign), it was very compelling and the myriad cast of characters made it a little difficult to follow but I can see why someone like Largo Caballero or Juan Antonio Rivera would have a wider impact after they disappeared from the scene. Thomas does set it up well from the beginnings of the class and wealth as Though I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject matter, it was a little too deep for an intro (I made the same mistake with Slim's Defeat Into Victory on the Burma Campaign), it was very compelling and the myriad cast of characters made it a little difficult to follow but I can see why someone like Largo Caballero or Juan Antonio Rivera would have a wider impact after they disappeared from the scene. Thomas does set it up well from the beginnings of the class and wealth as well as ideological struggles of the early thirties and ties it up well in the conclusion with not just the war's aftermath but Spain in general after WW2 and Franco's death in 1975. I took this book as both a narrative and an analysis but it tends to get bogged down with the minutia as well as too much footnotes that tend to have a story within a story effect and made finishing the book an almost dutiful affair rather than a delightful one. I did pair this with Anthony Beevor's take on the subject (via audiobook) and though I would recommend his book before Thomas's, the former is more like Roast Beef to the latter's Prime Rib. Both are meaty but Mr Thomas's work was more flavorful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tomfoolery72

    I did not finish this book - actually I barely made it through the first few chapters of the second section. I have no doubts that this is the most thorough, detailed, and comprehensive record of the Spanish Civil War. It’s also painfully unreadable. What the author does possess in terms of scholastic rigor, he obviously lacks when it comes to the art of good writing. I’ve read many history books, and regardless of the subject, or the level of accuracy and detail, there is a certain skill requir I did not finish this book - actually I barely made it through the first few chapters of the second section. I have no doubts that this is the most thorough, detailed, and comprehensive record of the Spanish Civil War. It’s also painfully unreadable. What the author does possess in terms of scholastic rigor, he obviously lacks when it comes to the art of good writing. I’ve read many history books, and regardless of the subject, or the level of accuracy and detail, there is a certain skill required to produce an interesting and enjoyable story; this author has none of that skill. Even if I had managed to finish reading this abomination, the staggering boredom and utter absence of interest would prevent me from remembering a single word - and life is too short to suffer shitty books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David Steakley

    Wow. I had no idea. I thought I knew something about the Spanish Civil War, but I knew nothing. It was fascinating, the story of the anarchist left captured the government through democratic elections, and how the government's attempted adherence to the ideology was such a devastating handicap in the war against the falangists. the conflicted sentiments on the part of the UK and the US over which side they should support, if either, reminds me of the current situation the US faces in the conflic Wow. I had no idea. I thought I knew something about the Spanish Civil War, but I knew nothing. It was fascinating, the story of the anarchist left captured the government through democratic elections, and how the government's attempted adherence to the ideology was such a devastating handicap in the war against the falangists. the conflicted sentiments on the part of the UK and the US over which side they should support, if either, reminds me of the current situation the US faces in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. A must read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane Massy

    Probably best to read this if you already have a good knowledge of the Spanish civil war and are deeply interested in reading further. Rather hard going, scholarly but not terribly readable.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Elsey

    It's an interesting if a bit old fashioned book on the subject. It could have used a more global view of things. It's a great overview of a undertaught subject

  20. 4 out of 5

    Reza Amiri Praramadhan

    Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a prelude to the larger-scale World War II, where Second Spanish Republic, backed by Soviet Union and famously, International Brigades, where many famous figures like George Orwell, for example, served, pitted against Nationalist Spain, backed by ‘volunteers’ from Nazi Germany (remember Condor Legion) and Italian Legionnaries, while Great Britain and France busied themselves with Non-intervention Committee, that international farce, and politics of appeasement. I Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a prelude to the larger-scale World War II, where Second Spanish Republic, backed by Soviet Union and famously, International Brigades, where many famous figures like George Orwell, for example, served, pitted against Nationalist Spain, backed by ‘volunteers’ from Nazi Germany (remember Condor Legion) and Italian Legionnaries, while Great Britain and France busied themselves with Non-intervention Committee, that international farce, and politics of appeasement. In the end, Nationalist Spain managed to triumph, due to General Franco’s apparent success in uniting various bickering factions within the rebellious movement, such as the fascist Falangists, the (Catholic) Church, and the monarchist Carlists. Dull, unimaginative, yet serene, cold, and calculating, Franco emerged at the pinnacle of Spanish politics from among other more colorful characters. Superior quality of supports from Germany, and to lesser extent, from Italy also contributed. The Nationalists were also helped with the apparent failure of Republicans to unite against Nationalist threat, with its politicians continually bickered with each other, even in exile. When the communists, with support from Soviet Union managed to gain nominal hold of the Republic, it did so with inherent suspicions of its allies, the anarchists, socialists, and Catalan and Basque nationalists (not to be confused with Franco’s nationalists), and it was too late. The author being Hugh Thomas, this book manages to present the Spanish Civil War in balanced and impartial manner. His attention to details, with footnotes that sometimes occupy half of a page, would make reading this book a tedious task. How he managed to compile such a detailed book on a three-year-war, along with the small details such as daily lives of Spanish people, personalities of important figures, military maneuvers and diplomatic intrigues still amazes me. As conclusion, I highly recommend this book as reference to everyone who is interested in Spanish history, either you want to relive the glory of Generalissimo Franco (like me), or to lament the death of the first overtly Left-Wing regime in western hemisphere and only place where the anarchists were ‘this’ close to power. You are welcome to open this gargantuan of a book and be overwhelmed by the informative footnotes.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rob Mills

    An incredible work with amazing footnotes (eg. he will attribute a fact to a letter he recieved from a pilot that was flying in the war who was responding to his first edition!). The book is long 930 + appendices and hard to read as Hugh Thomas works to make sure you know all the names and all the battles and who did what and perhaps even why. He tries to write as briskly as possible and is forthright. While difficult to read, I did take a lot away from this book and would recommend it. The fract An incredible work with amazing footnotes (eg. he will attribute a fact to a letter he recieved from a pilot that was flying in the war who was responding to his first edition!). The book is long 930 + appendices and hard to read as Hugh Thomas works to make sure you know all the names and all the battles and who did what and perhaps even why. He tries to write as briskly as possible and is forthright. While difficult to read, I did take a lot away from this book and would recommend it. The fracturing of Spanish society and the struggles that led to the civil war are well explained. The next phase of interest is how the right formed a front, while the left continued to fight amongst themselves. I had not previously understood all the varying factions and their schemes against each other. Nor did I appreciate the depth of involvement from Germans, Italians, and Russians, not the rammifications or how they were handled. The book also looks at how Britain, France, America, and the Vatican waivered and oscillated about throughout the war. Very interesting stuff and a great look at a number of issues from different angles. Certainly makes you think about applicability to present day, whether you're thinking about the Iraqi theater or even western democracies (eg. my own Canadian government where many debate a shift to popular vote vs first past the post). Does a two party system contain hidden blessings I hadn't debated previously? A lot of reading (done) but also a lot of digesting (still in progress). I now feel obligated to read Chomsky on anarchism + feel I need to learn more about Trotsky vs Stalin vs Lenin. The only area of the book that could have used some more work (maybe) was explaining how the victors were so welcomed. The coalescence of the right was touched upon (often saying the middle class was terrified of communists/anarchists and tired of war) but perhaps not enough.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bubba

    A gargantuan mountain of research went into this hefty tome (930-odd pages of text, and 100s of tantalizing footnotes), which is demonstrated by the overwhelming amount of detail lavished on every page. For a non-specialist on Spanish history, it was often bewildering. But, like all classic works, one does not need to absorb all its layers at one go. I've come out of the reading of it with a solid understanding of the main thrust of the conflict--it's causes; the crucial role of outside interven A gargantuan mountain of research went into this hefty tome (930-odd pages of text, and 100s of tantalizing footnotes), which is demonstrated by the overwhelming amount of detail lavished on every page. For a non-specialist on Spanish history, it was often bewildering. But, like all classic works, one does not need to absorb all its layers at one go. I've come out of the reading of it with a solid understanding of the main thrust of the conflict--it's causes; the crucial role of outside intervention by Germany, Italy, and the USSR; and why the Nationalists won and the Republic was defeated. The details I will never forget, and which I never fully understood from previous cursory reading on the topic, are those relating to the absolute bloodletting and wanton destruction which took place on both sides. How the opposing sides could slaughter and ruin peasants, churches, priests, homes, villages, and cities because they were, or were associated with, monarchists, communists, fascists, anarchists, or rival political factions is staggering. I am used to reading of such things in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet space, but didn't realize how much it had taken place in sunny southern Europe as well--as if savagery were somehow a localized malady. It seems that the Condor Legion and Italy's Black Arrows, along with a lack of decisive action by the US, UK, and France who feared a wider conflict or were indifferent, pushed the Republic to the brink of destruction. However, in the end, it fitfully threw itself in the chasm in a never-ending convulsion of internal intrigue, murder, purges, and political and ideological disunity. It also didn't help that the Republic's primary patron Stalin was more interested in keeping the conflict going, to keep Germany occupied, than actually seeing his allies emerge victorious.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Rodriguez

    I picked up this book after reading , by Jonathan Rabb which was set in the Spanish Civil War. My curiosity piqued, and as the subject is one of the many never mentioned in U.S. schools, I decided to learn something about it. My knowledge was pretty much limited to: comments my mother made about collecting trading cards during the 1930s with gruesome pictures from the Spanish Civil War; that Franco and the Nationalists beat the Republicans; and there were lots of communists running around somewh I picked up this book after reading , by Jonathan Rabb which was set in the Spanish Civil War. My curiosity piqued, and as the subject is one of the many never mentioned in U.S. schools, I decided to learn something about it. My knowledge was pretty much limited to: comments my mother made about collecting trading cards during the 1930s with gruesome pictures from the Spanish Civil War; that Franco and the Nationalists beat the Republicans; and there were lots of communists running around somewhere. Let me tell you, this is one detailed, well-researched volume. From knowing essentially zero about this subject, I can now say that I know more than I'd ever hoped to know! Well-written in a clear and concise narrative. Thomas recounts events from the late 18th century, which led to the formation of the Republic, and the politics and events which directly led to both the Rebellion (by what became the Nationalists) and the subsequent Revolution within the Republic by Anarchists, Socialists and Communists. A very complex and highly confusing situation is rendered clear by author Thomas. Detailed assessments of not just the military struggle, but of all the parties involved on both sides, as well as those who tried NOT to become involved at all. Thanks to this book, I have a new understanding of just exactly what Anarchism is--and it's NOT simply chaos and lack of order, as the casual use of the word implies today. Details, too, on the Marxists, Communists, Liberals, Radicals, Revolutionaries, Socialists, POUM, PSUC, labor unions, Nationalists, Monarchists, Carlists, Falangists, Catalan separatists, Basques and more. The narrative documents as well, the involvement of the Russian, German and Italian governments; the "non" involvement of the French, UK, US and other governments; the role of "volunteers" in the Republican armies; naval matters; murders and reprisals; "terror"; and politics. Amply documented sources, many from first person accounts of events and some from interviews the author conducted himself. Giant bibliography, if you care to read more. Reasonably unbiased account of the events that transpired as well as reasonably unbiased characterizations of the participants in the tragedy that was the Spanish Civil War. I whizzed through this book quickly and it held my interest well. Not at all a boring tome. I give FIVE STARS to THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR by Hugh Thomas. Scholarly, yet eminently readable. The only thing that threw me for a loop was the Queen's English word "gaol", instead of the American English "jail"! ;>)

  24. 5 out of 5

    John

    This book's reputation is that it is the authoritative work on the Spanish Civil War, and I can see why. It covers all the aspects of the conflict, from internal politics to tactics to global influences. Yet, for being so grand in its scope, it is easy to read. Though not written with the same compelling narrative as Robert Massie or Erik Larson, it is written well. Besides learning how the war as a whole played out, what struck me most was how other countries were involved. I knew there had bee This book's reputation is that it is the authoritative work on the Spanish Civil War, and I can see why. It covers all the aspects of the conflict, from internal politics to tactics to global influences. Yet, for being so grand in its scope, it is easy to read. Though not written with the same compelling narrative as Robert Massie or Erik Larson, it is written well. Besides learning how the war as a whole played out, what struck me most was how other countries were involved. I knew there had been involvement, but it was interesting to read about the testing of equipment and tactics by Germany, Russia, and Italy. Italy focused on short term glory and focused on putting soldiers in battles, which helped it little in WW2. Germany used a more indirect approach to test equipment, which reaped them great rewards in the initial years of WW2. Russia seemed to want to be more involved, but found themselves too far away. My initial impression was that there was a low number of soldiers on both sides. Battles with 50-60k on each side did not sound like much. But the author pointed out that the two armies were each larger than any country's at that time except France. With long battle lines, the armies were spread out over a large area. I think the number of combatants in both World Wars skews my mindset. The best compliment I can give the book is that usually when I pick a history topic to tackle, I like to read a few books from different angles - However, after reading this book (and Orwell's personal account last year), I feel like the topic is covered.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This is definitely not an overview - there is a lot (and I do mean a lot) of detail. It does an excellent job of describing how Spain got to the point where a civil war was possible and the various groups (some very political, some less so, some ad hoc) whose interactions led to it. I only gave it four stars because it was hard for me to remember all of the details. A group is mentioned briefly, an acronym for its name given, and then that acronym shows up some time later and, because of all the This is definitely not an overview - there is a lot (and I do mean a lot) of detail. It does an excellent job of describing how Spain got to the point where a civil war was possible and the various groups (some very political, some less so, some ad hoc) whose interactions led to it. I only gave it four stars because it was hard for me to remember all of the details. A group is mentioned briefly, an acronym for its name given, and then that acronym shows up some time later and, because of all the other groups that had popped up in between, I had a hard time remembering the details. The labeling of sides is also difficult - early on Franco's forces are called "the rebels" but later they become "the nationalists." Either name would be fine, but for a while they swap back and forth. It's also difficult to follow which side is under discussion - I was reading along thinking that I was reading about the nationalists, only to find that it was really the republicans. If you want a single book that will tell you about Spain's civil war, I would highly recommend it. The bibliography and citations provide great opportunities to dive deeper, as desired. The author also points out where there are conflicting points of view and gives his reasons for choosing the one he did.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill V

    This is my first book on the Spanish Civil War. Mr. Thomas writes well throughout. I did find the first 20% or so of the book to be a bit tedious, as it predates the actual conflict. While I do believe such coverage is necessary to provide the necessary background for why certain events occurred, I felt the book went too far. The book seems to cover the entire conflict in considerable detail, especially the political goings on. It also covers the social, religious aspects as well as the military This is my first book on the Spanish Civil War. Mr. Thomas writes well throughout. I did find the first 20% or so of the book to be a bit tedious, as it predates the actual conflict. While I do believe such coverage is necessary to provide the necessary background for why certain events occurred, I felt the book went too far. The book seems to cover the entire conflict in considerable detail, especially the political goings on. It also covers the social, religious aspects as well as the military campaigns. It is a bit surprising that the book has no photographs at all and most of the maps tend to be crude. Nonetheless, I am satisfied with having read the book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim Smith

    A majestic work, and reputed to be the finest single volume on the Spanish Civil War by reviewers I respect. The only quibble I have with the book is that Thomas hardly writes in depth about the military aspects of the war, but spends most of his time in describing the social and particularly the political aspects of the war. Given the complexities of Spanish politics and the confusing and dizzying number of quarreling parties on the Republican side, this is not a bad approach. It did help clarif A majestic work, and reputed to be the finest single volume on the Spanish Civil War by reviewers I respect. The only quibble I have with the book is that Thomas hardly writes in depth about the military aspects of the war, but spends most of his time in describing the social and particularly the political aspects of the war. Given the complexities of Spanish politics and the confusing and dizzying number of quarreling parties on the Republican side, this is not a bad approach. It did help clarify the combatants for me. I read Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" immediately after this book and was able to appreciate Orwell's book much more due to this book's information.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kent Miller

    I admit, this is the first history of the Spanish Civil War that I have read, and while being unfamiliar with the subject, I found it to be scholarly and detailed, if a bit above the level of someone wishing to” get their feet wet’. Still, I think you couldn’t go wrong wit this volume as an opinion. In history, as in in current life you can never depend on just one opinion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Perhaps as thorough an overview of the war as you can hope for in one volume. Felt at times like a need to be even-handed meant the author overlooked Nationalist massacres, which really were worse and more numerous. Still, a good history. Engaging and as clear as the events themselves allow.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    The authority on the subject without a doubt.

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