The Spanish Civil war must be one of the most tragic European wars of all time. Spaniard against Spaniard, a bloody conflict characterised by the failures on both sides but mainly the Republicans, to recognise modern warfare when they saw it and the clash of two bitterly opposed, totalitarian beliefs, Stalinist communism and Fascism. The contribution of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia and indeed, France and Great Britain to the perpetuation of this conflict as a testing ground for troops, tactics and weapons is well documented in this book.
Antony Beevor works through the mire of 1930's Spanish politics with aplomb, if confusingly, between the plethora of parties on both the left and the right, many identified simply by acronyms such as the POUM and the JONS. However, once the reader perseveres through the initial, context setting chapters the book opens up into a rich account of the often bloody and generally wasteful war through to its conclusion in 1939 on the eve of World War 2. The final chapter relates the continuing, relentless repression of the left in Spain right up to the 1960's when the advent of the package holiday finally opened up the country to peaceful outside influences and with General Franco's death, brought economic growth and stability.
This book was written sometime ago (1982) and it shows. A less polished if undoubtedly scholarly Antony Beevor shows through in comparison with later works (Stanlingrad, Berlin) and overall, the book has a more `academic' feel to it. One cannot help but feel the hand of a publisher seeing an early work re-published with a new title as a money-spinner. That said, I am pleased that it was and would recommend the book to all but the very casual reader.