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Blood Of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War [Paperback]

Ronald Fraser
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 May 1994
We discover what civil war, revolution and counter-revolution actually felt like from inside both camps. The contours of the war take shape through the words of the eyewitnesses. The atmosphere of events is vividly recaptured. And though the lived experience of the participants is revealed the uniquely tragic essence of all civil war. 'Fascinating and brilliantly unorthodox. ' Hugh Thomas, author of THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO.


Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (5 May 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712660143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712660143
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Traversing a scarred land that has endured everything and forgotten nothing, historian Ronald Fraser records the memories of survivors in this remarkable oral history... No other volume on the Spanish Civil War can surpass the power of this one." (Time)

"Fascinating and brilliantly unorthodox." (High Thomas)

"Fraser has stunningly captured the feel of the Spanish Civil War. It is as close to the truth as we'll ever get." (Studs Terkel)

"Moving and original...splendid and evocative." (New York Times Book Review)

"Just occasionally a great and important historical work appears that not only affects our understanding of the events it describes and analyses, but also significantly alters our attitude towards the historical process itself... A magnificent, monumental book, that is quite the most valuable addition to the vast library of books on the 1930s that has been published in the last decade." (Richard Gott Guardian)

Book Description

Traversing a scarred land that has endured everything and forgotten nothing, historian Ronald Fraser records the memories of survivors in this remarkable oral history. . . No other volume on the Spanish Civil War can surpass the power of this one. ' TIME

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Crucible of War 20 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
I am yet to encounter a single SCW (Spanish Civil War) historian who doesn't put this on their "essential" side of a bibliography. It allows English-speaking students and those interested in the war an irreplaceable gateway into individual stories of the war and revolution. At the time - and to this day - it is landmark in its scope and content.

I can sympathise with the other reviewer a little. The structure is confused and complicated. It is not a book to read cover to cover really; it is one to follow in conjunction with other histories and to pick up where appropriate. For instance, it has encounters and interviews punctuated by Fraser's own take on the war in a piecemeal and sometimes broken format. Frequently, protagonists appear at different times in the book (capitalised helpfully) only in passing and you can easily lose focus. The segmentation of the book is often frustrating.

That said the book is truly magnificent in supplementing general and more local histories of the war. The core of the book is segments of interviews sewn together with Fraser's narrative across a whole scope of stories of participants: from the highest commanders to the lowliest braceros (landless labourers), its breadth is its main feature. You can pick the book up and read about personal experiences from a variety of political viewpoints, areas of Spain and during the whole process of the war, from the demise of the Republic (February 1936) to the capture of Madrid (April 1939) by Franco. The sheer variety of interviews and the "off the beaten track" way in which Fraser constructs a grand narrative of many smaller ones is without match in the historiography of the conflict in English.

This is not a book for all.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent book, but is it an oral history? 22 Jan 2006
Format:Paperback
Being an interesting collage of interviews with all kinds of participants who saw what happened with their own eyes (and sometimes could influence to some extent what happened), it is hardly an "oral history" though.
The author collected impressive amount of personal memories. The book is constructed chronologically with (usually quite short) excerpts from these, interspersed with passages of I'm not sure what - interviewees' stories condensed by the author? author's own views and explanations? opinions thought by the author to represent reliably interviewees' views and ideological stances?
This is very confusing and does not justify the "oral history" subtitle. It would be much better if the simplest structure were adopted - full (or shortened for brevity if applicable) individual narratives in separate chapters, with possible addition of something like "points of rupture".
Speech and press citations are a very valuable addition though. I would be happy to see more of them in the book.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically Vivid Account of Spanish Revolution 31 July 2002
By John C. Weakland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For years I have searched for a history like this of the Spanish Civil War. For anarchists, this is one of the most important moments of history to understand, as it was the only occurance of a mass, anarchist-led social revolution. Considering the overwhelming quantity of books and film documentaries on WWII, and the fact that Franco's military coup in Spain in 1936 and the world's response to it set the stage for the world war, the paucity of scholarly and popular works on the Spanish Civil War should be startling... if it wasn't so typical of the biases of American media and scholarship. The neglect of the Spanish Civil War, and, moreover, the Spanish Revolution that this war precipitated, is all the more tragic in light of the absolute repression of its memory in Spain during the Franco years. A contemporary anarchist from Spain told me that almost everything he learned about the revolution came from foreign sources. He was hardly aware that there had even been a revolution until he saw Ken Lasche's film "Land and Freedom"--an excellent British drama produced in the early 1990s. And this is someone who grew up AFTER Franco... and in Barcelona!--the city at the center of the revolution, a city which in anarchist mythology looms like Jerusalem to Jews and Christians. It is in light of this egregious deficit that one fully appreciates "Blood of Spain", Ronald Frazer's outstanding collection of oral histories that has preserved the dying memories of this fascinating period.
Frazer presents opinions and accounts of events from every side of the conflict. Frazer attempts to be unbiased in his presentation of the views of fascists side-by-side those of ultra-leftists--a helpful contrast to the histories written by anarchists, which are about the only accounts I have found of the collectives of Catalonia and Aragon. I imagine that most who have read this book were sympathizers of the revolutionaries and were, like I, eager to hear what life was like in revoltutionary Spain. I can't imagine this book disappointed them. The accounts of the rural collectives and of the collectization of industry in Barcelona and other cities are amoung the most vivid and moving that I have read. No one interested in this time and place--and I wish more people were!--should pass up this book.
By the way, there is a fanastic documentary called "The Spanish Civil War" that is very hard to come by, but which would be an excellent companion to this book. Although I have not confirmed it, the person who loaned me "Blood of Spain" (which I am happily buying at the time of writing this review) thought that Ronald Frazer produced the documentary as well. This would not surprise me, because, like the book, it is filled with interviews of participants, and it was produced around the same time the book was written... both done just in time: many of the interviewed probably died soon-after, and very few are still alive to be interviewed again. How much irredeemably poorer our collective memory would be without Frazer's preservation.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BLOOD OF SPAIN, INDEED! 20 Jun 2006
By Alfred Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As the 70th Anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War is approaching this writer is reviewing some important works that militants should read in order to draw the lessons of the defeat of the Spanish revolution. The writer has been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since he was a teenager. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class revolutions after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted that the political class-consciousness of the Spanish proletariat was higher than that of the Russian proletariat in 1917. Yet it failed in Spain. Mr. Fraser's oral history of the period, if only indirectly, gives some answers to the reasons for that failure.

The format Mr. Fraser has chosen, an oral history by participants from all sections of Spanish society and virtually all political parties, is an interesting way to provide those answers. His decision to emphasize the rank and file and middle-level participants as they remembered those experiences in the mid-1970's rather than the big name leaders was also a wise decision. Lapses of memory and errors by the participants over time are obvious drawbacks to this format. As is the reinforced hardening of political lines due to the suppressions of political life under Franco. Additionally, from this partisan writer's political perspective too much space was given to secondary events at the expense of actions like the May Days in Barcelona, 1937. As was the attempt to be politically too all-inclusive and even-handed which sometimes confused the issues presented. Nevertheless, this is a book that militants should read in order to get the favor of the conflict.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 has been the subject of innumerable works from every possible political and military perspective possible. A fair number of such treatises, especially from those responsible for the military and political policies on the Republican side, are merely alibis for the disastrous policies that led to defeat. Mr. Fraser's work reaches down beyond those perspectives to look at the base that actually fought the war. What he finds is the furious nature of the struggle in Spanish society between the old agrarian- based economy and the newer capitalist- based economy; the religious tensions caused by the breakup of the old agrarian society and the tensions between believers and church-burners; the struggle between centralizers and federalists which formed the core of the unresolved national questions, especially in Catalonia; the intense political struggles within the broad sections that supported both left and right, especially the role of the Stalinist police apparatus; the international ideological political factors that played a role, if not as erroneously assumed the decisive factor; and, finally, the burning personal antagonisms that in a civil war pit brother against brother, family against family, town against town, etc.. Read on.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SPANISH MEMORIES 20 Jun 2006
By Alfred Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As the 70th Anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War is approaching this writer is reviewing some important works that militants should read in order to draw the lessons of the defeat of the Spanish revolution. The writer has been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since he was a teenager. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class revolutions after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted that the political class-consciousness of the Spanish proletariat was higher than that of the Russian proletariat in 1917. Yet it failed in Spain. Mr. Fraser's oral history of the period, if only indirectly, gives some answers to the reasons for that failure.

The format Mr. Fraser has chosen, an oral history by participants from all sections of Spanish society and virtually all political parties, is an interesting way to provide those answers. His decision to emphasize the rank and file and middle-level participants as they remembered those experiences in the mid-1970's rather than the big name leaders was also a wise decision. Lapses of memory and errors by the participants over time are obvious drawbacks to this format. As is the reinforced hardening of political lines due to the suppressions of political life under Franco. Additionally, from this partisan writer's political perspective too much space was given to secondary events at the expense of actions like the May Days in Barcelona, 1937. As was the attempt to be politically too all-inclusive and even-handed which sometimes confused the issues presented. Nevertheless, this is a book that militants should read in order to get the favor of the conflict.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 has been the subject of innumerable works from every possible political and military perspective possible. A fair number of such treatises, especially from those responsible for the military and political policies on the Republican side, are merely alibis for the disastrous policies that led to defeat. Mr. Fraser's work reaches down beyond those perspectives to look at the base that actually fought the war. What he finds is the furious nature of the struggle in Spanish society between the old agrarian- based economy and the newer capitalist- based economy; the religious tensions caused by the breakup of the old agrarian society and the tensions between believers and church-burners; the struggle between centralizers and federalists which formed the core of the unresolved national questions, especially in Catalonia; the intense political struggles within the broad sections that supported both left and right, especially the role of the Stalinist police apparatus; the international ideological political factors that played a role, if not as erroneously assumed the decisive factor; and, finally, the burning personal antagonisms that in a civil war pit brother against brother, family against family, town against town, etc.. Read on.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars required reading! 30 Oct 2013
By Issi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
THE definitive book of the Spanish Civil War, an oral history told by the people on all sides of the war.
The horrors and the cruelty of the time are difficult to comprehend. The book, unintentionally, gives a greater understanding of Spanish bureaucracy today and the red tape that is so much part of Spanish life.
A wonderfully worded and set out book, the author balanced the diverse stories with fairness, which must have been an onerous task!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must-read" for... 22 Oct 2012
By J. Lapham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A "must-read" for that vanishingly small subset of persons who are interested in the Spanish Civil War (I know you're out there). I first became interested when I read the first edition of Hugh Thomas's history of this conflict back in the Sixties. Seven or eight years ago I read that book again, in the 5th edition, I think, and it all came back. I didn't know that this book even existed until I read Ronald Fraser's obituary a couple of years ago in the New York Times. I immediately did a web search for it; there are hard-cover edition available bu they're quite expensive. One Amazon vendor had a paper-back but it sold while I was thinking about it. But I left the order in my cart and ,lo and behold, a few months later the book showed up again; this time I jumped on it, and I'm glad I did. What a find! The description is a little deceptive: It's not made up entirely of extended 1st person remembrances. There's a lot of history with bits of testimony interspersed. Fraser uses a different font for eye-witness memory, and follows a group of Spaniards throughout the war. He, and some assistants, started interviewing survivors in the early Sixties while most of them were still alive. And what memories they had! You couldn't write this book today. I still get angry thinking about Franco. The fascist who won, killed all his enemies, and lived happily ever after. This book makes a great pair with Thomas's work; throw in Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" and Franz Borkenau's book and one or two others and you're an expert.This is the most heart-felt review I'll ever write for Amazon and almost certainly no-one will read it. But when I think of all those poor people who died, and the years under Franco...Life in Spain in those times must have been a lot like living under Communism. At least we can honor those peoples' memory by reading about them.
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