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We Saw Spain Die Paperback – 28 May 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Constable; First Paperback Edition edition (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845299469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845299460
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A pioneering investigation of those foreign correspondents who did so much to influence world opinion at the time ... Preston sweeps the reader along with the lucidity of his prose, his passionate commitment to the subject, and, above all, his concern to rescue the reputations of those unjustly neglected and courageous figures who worked alongside far more famous names such as Hemingway, Dos Passos, Kim Philby and Martha Gellhorn. --Literary Review<br /><br />What marks out his work is not just an understanding of the period ... but also an ability to choose an angle from which to make old history seem new. --The Herald<br /><br />Paul Preston has become a hugely influential historian of the Spanish Civil War, not only for his scholarship, but for his eye for detail and skill as a storyteller. In We Saw Spain Die these talents come to the fore, aided not only by the richness of the material, but also Preston s deep enthusiasm for his subject. --Jason Webster, New Statesman<br /><br />A work of impressive scholarship. Preston has trawled archives, diaries and personal papers to amass an understanding of his subjects. The result is a series of richly layered pen pictures, which give us an intimate understanding of the men and women who became the first historians of the Spanish Civil War. --BBC History Magazine<br /><br />Excellent … a splendid monument to scholarship. Always absorbing, frequently moving … it fills a crucial gap in the historiography of the Spanish civil war --The Sunday Times<br /><br />A work of impressive scholarship. Preston has trawled archives, diaries and personal papers to amass an understanding of his subjects. The result is a series of richly layered pen pictures, which give us an intimate understanding of the men and women who became the first historians of the Spanish Civil War. --BBC History Magazine<br /><br />I cannot commend it enough. The story of those who fought to tell the story, at risk to their own lives and against the natural grain of their readers, is a cracker of a subject. [Preston] unpicks the tangles of lies, allegations and half-truths; revives reputations that have unjustly faded; and presents us with an overview that is lucid, unhurried and fresh to read. --Daily Telegraph<br /><br />A work of impressive scholarship. Preston has trawled archives, diaries and personal papers to amass an understanding of his subjects. The result is a series of richly layered pen pictures, which give us an intimate understanding of the men and women who became the first historians of the Spanish Civil War. --BBC History Magazine

Passionate and absorbing. - The Guardian <br/><br/>A splendid monument to scholarship. Absorbing, funny, frequently moving ... it fills a crucial gap in the historiography of the Spanish conflict. --The Sunday Times

Book Description

We Saw Spain Die is about the courage and the skill of the men and women who wrote about what was happening in Spain during the Civil War, by the world's leading authority.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By R. Jinks on 10 April 2010
Format: Paperback
The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 was the first war in Europe in which civilians became targets en masse. The war also inaugurated a new and more dangerous phase in newspaper reporting - because this was high velocity warfare and also because it was a conflict in which reporters were themselves seen as players not neutrals. All told, as many as a thousand foreign correspondents reported on the conflict in Spain across its near three-year duration and it is their experience, and, most particularly, the progressive political commitment and testimonial legacy of a core of charismatic and high profile war reporters, that is the focus of this riveting book.

Overall this study gives the reader a thought-provoking comparative overview of the nature of and conditions for war reporting in the opposing zones (see especially Part 1). Both sides understood that this was a new kind of war in which representation before a foreign audience would have crucial political effects. So in whichever zone they worked, correspondents had to negotiate censorship or attempt to evade it. Even so, the Republican press office came to accept that it had more to gain by a relatively open policy towards foreign correspondents. In contrast, the military authorities of the insurgent zone remained rigidly controlling and hostile to all except the most explicitly pro-rebel journalists.

In Parts 2 and 3 of his study Paul Preston offers a series of analytical portraits of a group of urbane, politically acute, intellectually powerful and eloquent correspondents - in the main North American and British - who came to a lifelong commitment to the Republican cause.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By NoSeRinde on 16 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
At first sight, the choice of title "We Saw Spain Die" would seem to stress the preferences of both the author and his subjects with regard to the Spanish Civil War. One of such character, Martha Gellhorn, exclaimed that she would have "none of that objectivity" stuff when describing the conflict in Spain. I suspect Preston chose this title as a deliberate snub at the military rebels and their civilian allies who claimed that they represented "true Spain" and categorized their opponents as the "anti-Spain".

This does not, by any means, imply that this book is any less meticulously researched than any of Preston's previous works. If anything, the lack of strict objectivity is a source of strength. This highly readable book communicates how much the struggle of the Popular Front forces in Spain came to deeply affect those who witnessed it, and thus deeply humanizes their cause for the reader in a way that bombastic, ideologically-driven propaganda posters and slogans could never do. Preston's recounts not only the big issues involved in the war, but also the travails of daily life in the Republican Zone and so connects the reader to the subject matter on a more personal level. Moreover, while Preston is rather forgiving of the foibles of such men as Louis Fischer, whose empathy and humanity for the suffering of strangers never extended to those of his wife and children, he does not avoid them either. As such, while clearly admiring many of those correspondents covered in the book, Preston does not glorify what were flawed characters, some of whom - like the Pravda correspondent Mikhail Koltsov - were caught up in their own tragedy.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Paul Preston is that rare creature: a serious historian who can write page-turning books that bring to life the personalities involved in great events. He achieved this in biographies of Franco and King Juan Carlos and in his 'Doves of War' portraits of four female protagonists in the Spanish Civil War. In 'We Saw Spain Die' he turns his attention to the foreign correspondents of that same war that aroused such raw emotions for a whole generation.

What is striking about so many of the writers who covered the war is the way that they so passionately identified with the cause of the Spanish Republic. Notions of impartiality went out the window when they witnessed the desperate attempts by Spanish people to resist the rebellion launched by General Franco with backing from Hitler and Mussolini. And the Republic's eventual defeat was a deeply-felt blow from which some of them barely recovered. Josephine Herbst later wrote: "In the most real sense my most vital life did indeed end with Spain. Nothing so vital, either in my personal life or in the life of the world, has ever come again."

Preston's narrative conveys the passions and commitment to the cause felt by these journalists. Their deep sense of frustration with the policy of non-intervention being pursued by the Western democracies, which effectively doomed the Republic, was compounded by the indifferent or politically hostile reception - and emasculation - that their despatches often received in the newsrooms of London, Paris, New York and Chicago.

The Spanish war attracted several famous journalists and writers of the day, along with many others who made their name covering the conflict.
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