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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 June 2012
This is a fascinating account of the Spanish Civil War, its causes and its aftermath. Well written and easily read, this account, whilst almost 500 pages long is enjoyable and informative and the pages seem to fly by.

At times the events can be confusing and i found myself using the index to look back at the first references to some of the key people to help me keep track of who was who. The almost endless positioning, rivalries and hatreds which made for mini civil wars within the same sides, can make for confusing reading, as can the to and fro of the battles - but much less confusing than for the people at the time who lived through the madness.

This is a superb book which makes the complex events of the civil war relatively easy to follow. Of course at times, like any well written account of warfare and its almost inevitable atrocities, it is quite horrifying, and i found myself grateful for living in an age of relative peace. Long may that continue.
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on 24 November 2006
Antony Beevor's (AB) book on the Spanish Civil war is excellent background reading on this rather tragic event in Spain's History. AB goes through every single detail of the war.

He starts off with describing the development of Spain right up to the `Rising of the Generals' in 1936 and follows this up by going through the various factions involved. There is also a whole section on the involvement of other countries - most notably that of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union - in the civil war. When he covers the intellectuals' reaction to the whole event, I was quite surprised at some of the `nostalgic views' expressed. The section, which made me shudder was the book's section on the internal power struggle between the various Republican factions. A lot of this was a copy-cat event of the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. AB goes into quite a bit of detail.

I must agree that some of the battles can be hard to follow, but it does help if you study the maps quite thoroughly. But then again I think it would also help if these maps weren't all at the beginning of the book but instead put at the spot of the corresponding battles.

AB of course covers the nationalist victory plus the time after and he doesn't exactly mince words on the style of politics under Franco. But he also asks if a republican victory would have been the better solution and he does not give any definite answer except saying that a Stalinist-type communist regime could have been significantly worse.

All told I found this book very good.
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on 2 June 2012
Antony Beevor has written fine accounts of the battles of Stalingrad, Berlin and Normandy. However this book must rank as his masterpiece. It is a gripping narrative history of the Spanish Civil War, updated from an earlier account he wrote, with new material from former Soviet and other sources. At just over 450 pages (excluding references and notes) it is a substantial volume, but still only half the length of the Spanish language version of the work.

The author is clearly sympathetic to the cause of the Spanish Republic, but this does not stop him from being scathing about its failings, particularly its military ones. He is clear-sighted also about the atrocities of the Republicans but these pale in comparison with those of the Francoists, which were systematic and often chilling in their brutality. In one instance an American journalist was present when a fascist officer handed over to his troops two young girls. The officer "told him calmly that they would not survive more than four hours" (p. 92).

The Spanish Civil War prefigured the cataclysmic struggle of the Second World War, both in terms of the ideological conflicts and as well as the pitiless violence. Yet it is also a conflict which is important to understand in its own terms and for its influence on contemporary Spain and Europe. This is something that Beevor manages seemingly effortlessly. It is a great work of narrative history.
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on 17 April 2014
The Spanish Civil War has always interested & horrified me.

The problem is it is (more than many civil wars) viciously complex with multiple parties and personalities.

Beevor's book is a very good study of the war but it not easy going. The Communist infighting within the Republican movement adds layers that require concentration.

Having a map handy helps too.
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on 16 March 2016
This is wonderful history-writing – both content and style. The author delivers a paced narrative of this terrible war – attention is paid in particular to the battlefield. Political controversies that determined sides at the time and debates ever since – these are considered and judged. Anthony Beevor confirms a deserved reputation as a researcher and a writer.

The account is arranged in forty relatively short chapters in seven sections. I found it straightforward to follow. The war did not begin on July 18 1936: a short early section traces division and discord to the 15th century. It did not end on 29 March 1939: the aftermath is reviewed to the death of the dictator. A final chapter offers his take on the big questions and the “what ifs”.

The meat of the book is the war itself.

This was a vicious conflict – civil wars are. The author does not feast on gory detail – he catalogues the toll in lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. He is at his best on the military war, especially its major battles.

The author makes sense of the forces on each side – anarchists, social democrats, Basques, Catalans and communists for the republic; Carlists, falangists and the officer class for Franco. He has been accused of bias, pro-republic and anti-Franco. However, the truth is that the victors exacted a very heavy price for defeat and – in a war where neither side was blameless – they spilt more innocent blood. The last twenty years have revealed concealed secrets and bodies.

Moreover, he does not spare the left. As the war continued, the republic lost its democratic legitimacy - centralization of command gave way to authoritarian rule. The machinations of the communists are skewered – both the PCE and their Soviet advisers. Show trials, gulags and purges found their way from Moscow to Spain. Had they triumphed, he suggests, a republic under a Stalinist leadership may have delivered the same repression imposed on the satellite states of the east after 1945.

The international dimensions of the struggle are woven in. Unlike others, he does not lionize the International brigades. A decisive role is accorded the German Condor Legion, superior to the more numerous but less effective Italian troops sent by Mussolini. Soviet support may have saved Madrid in 1936 but it was always given and, later, taken away according to wider considerations of the Kremlin. The democracies – especially Britain – come in for sharp criticism.

Could the Republic have won? His answer is – it might not have lost, it might have survived until the rest of Europe joined in. The republic should have conducted a defensive war. Major ground offensives were prompted by political dictate rather than by strategic sense; republican forces were left open to enemy artillery and air power, with disastrous consequences.

This edition was published in 2005, a substantial reworking of the original of 1982 using the now accessible Soviet archives.

In 2005 the author wondered whether as citizens of relative comfort we could really understand those people those times. The past he wrote is another country. It is hard not to wonder whether that other country is not Syria 2016. A conflict of complexity and intolerance and appalling brutality, and proxy fighters too; and of course the same tide of the dispossessed and the terrorized.
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on 20 October 2013
I have read and greatly enjoyed the authors' other works; Stalingrad and Berlin, however whilst no doubt meticulously researched, The Battle for Spain is a detailed and heavy read. Many, many names of leaders, acronyms of parties, flipping between towns and regions and forwards and backwards in time which can leave a person exhausted. I didn't read the book during one period of time, I had to take a break and take it back up again after struggling to maintain clarity. A criticism yes, but not a criticism of accuracy.

The story is harrowing and details yet another failing of the European powers to stop a barbarous war and how outside intervention exacerbated the situation further. Europe, the USSR and USA failed the Spanish people during the war but I can but wonder how the Spanish themselves explain this inglorious episode in their history in their schools. An excellent book but be prepared for a detailed account.
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on 19 January 2014
An incredible story that everyone should read, if only to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again. The large number of factions are difficult to come to terms with at first but fall in to place and reading gets easier as the book proceeds. Any one interested in 20th century history hold read this book and everyone should be interested in that history. This book is not just about Spain!
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on 31 December 2014
Subject matter was quite fresh & new - things I'd never heard. I stayed in Pozuelo Estacion on my Spanish exchange (the surgeon's family were staunchly for Franco) - I didn't know it was the place where the Communists were routed. I thought it looked a bit deserted & that was in 1975! Amanda Vaill in Hotel Florida also agrees that Stalin changed his mind about the game he was playing with Spain mid-conflict so that is probably why till now there are so many 'romantic myths' re the International Brigaders. See my review also on Martha Gellhorn.
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on 22 June 2009
I started reading this book knowing nothing at all about the Spanish Civil War but learned a whole lot about it as I progressed through the chapters. Generally the book is excellent. It is informative, and I think, relatively neutral. The only small complaint I have about it is that too often I had to remind myself of who the characters and organisations referred to in the text were but this was not too big a burden. I would recommend the book to anyone like me wanting a general introduction to this subject.
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on 1 October 2015
I love Spain and spent a month driving around there recently, the people were friendly and helpful and I bought this book due to my interest in the country. It is well written and balanced account with a reasoned approach. I couldn't discern any bias and as such I found the book informative and to be honest a little scary due to the matter of fact way the war is portrayed. I look at Spain in a whole different light now, it is a sad indictment to man's inhumanity to man (on both sides) and should be a lesson to those who follow any dogmatic approach to how we/people should live our lives. The subject and book by it its very nature is full of facts and lots of different factions / people who were involved and it can be a little difficult to keep up with them all. This isn't a criticism it is just a warning that you should be aware of. In this review I've tried very hard not to show any bias myself but the one thing it has done is increase my dislike of politicians of whichever persuasion and my admiration for those on either side who put their lives on the line.
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