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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, Dynamic but DATED
Thomas's book is often the first people read when they come across the SCW (Spanish Civil War). It is a monument to a lifetime of work and revision (being updated four times for this present edition) and a pioneering work of scholarship. However, it was written in 1961 and although it has been updated to try and include new waves of research, it is woefully inadequate and...
Published on 30 Oct 2009 by MH Lambert

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still No Consensus
The original research for this book was back in the 1960's. When published it was rightly regarded as a blockbuster despite leaning heavily in favour of the Republicans and, together with Gabriel Jackson, proclaiming the communists as allies in the fight against fascism. The Cold War played a major, if unspoken role, in the writings about the Spanish civil war at this...
Published 20 months ago by Dr Barry Clayton


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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, Dynamic but DATED, 30 Oct 2009
By 
MH Lambert "flux1984" (Disunited Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Thomas's book is often the first people read when they come across the SCW (Spanish Civil War). It is a monument to a lifetime of work and revision (being updated four times for this present edition) and a pioneering work of scholarship. However, it was written in 1961 and although it has been updated to try and include new waves of research, it is woefully inadequate and these shortcomings become more apparent in new books on the subject. This is not a reflection on Thomas, but on the time he published the book.

The work itself is generally written from a high-political position, that is he deals with the decisions made by generals and politicians rather than on the ground. This allows the reader to engage with all the issues as they unfold; from military decisions of Miaja and Rojo to the political intrigue of Franco and the various elements of his coalition. It is also an incredibly detailed narrative history, placing the reader at the heart of the moment with an incredibly well-written chronology. This, I feel is the book's greatest strength. This is hindered by its ENORMOUS length but for those wanting a one-volume work frequently turn to Thomas as a reliable and "neutral" observer. This is where my objection sets in.

Thomas himself is a notorious conservative (small c) and frequently reflects a centre-liberal position. This is not a major issue as he still incorporates evidence from the left and right. However, the way in which he does this is a real problem. If you take a look in his bibliography and footnotes you will find many accounts of atrocities or military escapades are supported by what are now accepted as Francoist propaganda. Particularly, Herbert Rutledge Southworth's work on the many lies and myths produced and developed by the regime and Preston's commentary on right-wing historiography undermine many of the claims made by Thomas. This is not entirely his own fault as he was writing in the late 1950s when the range of material was quite narrow but recent critical works have shown many of them to have embellished - if not invented - evidence. It just means that to the extent the book is heralded as "neutral" and "objective" should be treated with a severe health warning.

One example (mentioned by another reviewer) is that of Ronda and the massacre of 500 from the top of a cliff. Investigations by Buckley and Corbin (made more difficult by the Franco regime's mass destruction of documentation) have shown that this is a total fabrication and that the scale of the killings was much less, not committed at the location and frequently committed by PERSONAL not POLITICAL conviction. This is on instance. The work is peppered with accounts which are taken at face value and should be - and have been - genuinely challenged. Radcliff's work on the "anarchist" stronghold of Gijon has produced a different outcome and native Spanish historians - Moreno Gomez, Casanova, Espinosa among others - have highlighted the incredibly suppressed but brutal and destructive importance of Nationalist violence. Richards' book "A Time of Silence" really gets to grip with this.

Overall I cannot overstate the significance of the book as a historical landmark. It provided the gateway to generations of historians on the subject and the work is rightly seen as an excellent and pioneering contribution to the history of such a contested conflict. However, I have serious reservations about the age of the book despite numerous updates. It is a monumentally detailed history but unquestioningly incorporates Francoist and Rightist propaganda whilst not taking account of the post-war feuds within and between leftist factions.

It will continue to be a testament to the conflict but one should read it with caution. I strongly recommend Graham's book on the Republic for a more academic assessment or Beevor's popular history which is accessible and takes account of the plight of the vanquished.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still No Consensus, 29 Mar 2013
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
The original research for this book was back in the 1960's. When published it was rightly regarded as a blockbuster despite leaning heavily in favour of the Republicans and, together with Gabriel Jackson, proclaiming the communists as allies in the fight against fascism. The Cold War played a major, if unspoken role, in the writings about the Spanish civil war at this time.

Unfortunately, the book is now woefully dated. The opening up of local and national archives on the death of Franco, and the release of masses of documents from soviet archives in the past decade has greatly reduced the value of this book.

There is still no consensus view of the civil war. Arguments rage as to whether it was a contest between Christianity and atheism, or fascism and communism, or capitalism and socialism. The bitterness engendered by the war still lingers in Spain.

What is clear is that the war was savage, bloody and protracted. It was also the biggest example of anticlerical violence in modern times. Atrocities on both sides were despicable involving nuns and other innocent civilians. Anarchists and released criminals massacred thousands as did the adherents of Franco's forces.
The atrocities were akin to those inflicted by the Jacobins in the late 18th century.

Today one needs to read the works of, for example, Payne, Beevor, and Preston, if you want to get a more up to date version of events. Even these and other recent books and articles have not quelled the disputes among historians as to the causes and consequences of this simply dreadful war. Preston has even called what happened a 'holocaust'.

Two other things are worth mentioning with the release of the archives mentioned above. Firstly, the military aid given by the Soviet Union to the Republicans was far less than was previously thought-and much of it was of very poor quality. Stalin in fact was concerned to see that the Soviet Union did not get too heavily involved for fear of antagonising Hitler. Secondly, the view, commonplace in the 60's and 70's, that the civil war was in fact the beginning of the Second World War is now largely discounted by leading authorities in this field.

Finally, the depth of ignorance about this terrible conflict that took place only 2 hours flying time from this country never fails to amaze this reviewer. In, for example, school history curricula it hardly rates a mention.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced View of a Struggle which Still leaves its marks., 16 Mar 2006
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book so much that I was at first shocked by the reviewer who said it was useless for him. On second thought, it probably is not a book for people without some background in 19th and 20th century European history. Most books on the subject tend to divide the various factions between villains and heroes. The reality is that so many horrible murders were carried out on both sides that it's difficult to see who the "good guys" are. When you here that in the beautiful Andalusian town of Ronda, left-wing militias gathered together much of the middle classes of the town and pushed them over the edge of the steep cliff, a panoramic beauty spot much visited by tourists, or that in Paracuellos many "bourgeois" captives were massacred in cold blood by left-wing death squads with probable Communist party connections, it makes your blood run cold. Priests slaughtered, nuns raped and assassinated, all these things are fully balanced out by the atrocities carried out by Franco's troops. Hugh Thomas is not a famous right-winger, so his description is all the more valuable and his sources impeccable. Perhaps the book's only failing is that not enough effort is made to understand the background of the conflict. Was this civil war really necessary? This is a splendid source for people hungry for knowledge about 20th Century, and is highly recommended.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impartial and reliable account of the Spanish civil war, 4 Mar 2001
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
This is not a common work. First of all, it must have been extraordinarily difficult to explain the Spanish civil war taking a distance and being able to be objective, neutral when describing such a controversial event. Besides, the explanations of the facts are very clear. The author manages to make the reading of this book a pleasure for those fond of History. Absolutely recommendable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas, 14 Feb 2010
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This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Originally published in 1961, this is the definitive english language history of the Spanish Civil War, describing the major political and military events of the conflict in 600-plus pages of narrative, with numerous maps, some photographs and appendices giving statistics of industrial production, imports and exports, military aid supplied by other countries, casualties and collateral damage.

In it's descriptions of the fighting,the book concentrates on events at the operational level upwards, rather than at the individual or small unit level. At the expense of "human interest", this helps maintain the flow of the narrative and prevents an already long book from becoming even longer. There is a useful bibliography listing much of the material about the war that was available at the time of publication.
This review is based on the 1961 hardback first edition.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 12 Oct 1999
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
An epic text on an epic story. Hugh Thomas leaves no stone unturned in bringing the force and meaning of these great events to the fore; laying all before the reader. A massive tapestry intricately worked.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Divided on all dimensions, 12 Aug 2002
By 
R.G.Bitter (Amersfoort Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Spaniards in the thirties appear to have been split on about any political dimension -church; authoritarianism versus democracy or anarchy; centralism versus decentralism; republicanism versus monarchism. And on all dimensions the extremes were much stronger than the center. Alliances were formed but political differences only faded just before military collapse. This makes the Spanish Civil War a fascinating read and Thomas' book is a great achievement. It is not an easy read though. Obviously, the complexities of Spanish politics in the thirties and the detail of the account are the main cause. However, the writer could have helped with occasional summaries or an annex listing parties and what they stood for. By contrast, such (unexplained) statements like the one that Spain was called the 'European Adlershot' did not help me. Neither did about half the maps which only indicate towns not mentioned in the text. On balance however this is just to say there are some final touches for an editor to make to this very good book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 16 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Hardcover)
It is the classic work on the Civil War and you can see why. It is well researched and such a vast subject no-one would be likely to write another history for a long time. The book is perhaps too detailed and the difficulty with the language and geography, not so familiar as other countries such as France to most people makes it a difficult read. It is still worth the effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing comes close, 3 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Simply the best history of the War in any language.

His balance, as between the sides, parties and other actors, puts to shame other writers on the complex subject, whose approach too often suffers from an apparently juvenile bias
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hugh Thomas' The Spanish Civil War, 16 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
Excellent, though heartbreaking to read. Thomas is truly the ultimate expert on unfolding the Spanish Civil War.
The fact that he is not Spanish, I think, allows for the necessary distance for a balanced analysis. That, and the fact that he's an imminent historian!
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The Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas (Paperback - 3 April 2003)
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