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283 of 294 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War is often poorly understood, indeed misunderstood, firstly because of its complexity (as Antony Beevor makes clear there were multiple conflicts going on at different levels, not least the strife between different Republican groups which weakened the Republican government fatally), secondly because most of us outside Spain know about the war from...
Published on 14 Aug 2001 by Dr. Sn Cottam

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25 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confusing
The Spanish Civil war was a war between many different factions with various alliances which were made and broken throughout its course. This book does a good job of describing the events and the different factions involved. However, I was left confused and not really sure who was fighting who and for what reasons at many points. I found it hard going to get through. Most...
Published on 30 Jun 2004 by Mr M M Hill


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283 of 294 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the Spanish Civil War, 14 Aug 2001
By 
Dr. Sn Cottam "Steve the medic" (Preston, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
The Spanish Civil War is often poorly understood, indeed misunderstood, firstly because of its complexity (as Antony Beevor makes clear there were multiple conflicts going on at different levels, not least the strife between different Republican groups which weakened the Republican government fatally), secondly because most of us outside Spain know about the war from those who fought on the Republican side and subsequently wrote about it (best known of whom is of course George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia).
Antony Beevor cuts through the confusion with a marvellously clear and concise account of the war, not sparing the reader a taste of how horrific conditions were in Spain for combatant and non-combatant alike. The introductory chapters on the state of Spain and the origins of the Civil War are particularly enlightening.
The book also makes clear and obvious why the Nationalists won - they were better organised, more professional soldiers, better tacticians - and had the support of Hitler and Mussolini, to say nothing of the fatal internecine conflict among the Republican parties.
Perhaps Beevor is a little sniffy about the non-intervention of the western democracies but how realistic this would have been (and whether it would have done anything to help the fatally fissile Republican cause) is to me questionable. But as Beevor points out, as the Spanish proverb has it, history is a common meadow in which everyone can make hay, and there is plenty of raw material for discussion in this excellent book. It should be read by anyone who is interested in European history, 20th century history, politics or simply those interested in how a country can disintigrate into such horror in such a short time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars spanish civil war, 16 Sep 2009
By 
G. I. Forbes (edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This excellent book which must be considered the definative tome on the Spanish Civil War .It is a rewrite of the authors 1982 book "The Spanish Civil War". The updating was essential because of new Russian and German information which became available with the fall of communism.It is interesting to note that the English edition at 500 plus pages is only half the size of the Spanish edition.
The book is very well written and researched covering a)conditions and history that lead to the conflict b)the war and c)theimpact the war had for decades after it ended.
The maps are excellent if a bit confusing while the pictures are good but more would have been welcome, A book to be highly recommended.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic Spain, 18 Oct 2006
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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.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did they get here?, 1 Feb 2005
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
I live in Madrid, and hear many a spaniard, basque, catalan, andulician, galician, etc., comment about their various regions and the politics. The eldery population talk about the past in good and bad terms. This book helped me understand the war that started, the political interest or non-political interest in Spain when the deadly Civil War took place. It has even helped me to understand some of the political reasoning in modern day Spain. I hear many a person (citizens and politicians) quoting the Civil War when they discuss politics in 2005 which is a somewhat worrying thought.
The battles are described well and the reasons behind the battles. The confusion and slaughter of a Civil War is brought out in the words. On a couple of occasions the Author quotes something that happened and states that it is only a rumour which I have never seen before.
It is an honest and clear description of what must have been a very confusing period for the soldiers and civilians of this war. I am not much for history books but I could not put this down.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping away the romanticism...., 17 Oct 2009
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a serious and scholarly piece of work. People of a certain age and political persuasion tend to view the Spanish Civil War as a passionate but doomed attempt by Republicans to maintain their democratically elected government against fascist forces. All that romanticism is ripped away by Beevor's book. His excellent research reveals all the ambition, violence and thuggery on both sides - as well as the idealism of some of the participants.

Few emerge from the story blameless. Franco's side is shown to be personally ambitious, ruthless and vengeful while the Republicans were too hopelessly divided to take full advantage of the situation and not helped by incompetent and short-sighted leaders who led their men into futile battles. The antipathy of the communists to the anarchists is well-known but Beevor explores this further. The interference and collusion of outside powers is also very well documented here. I hadn't realised that there were German arms manufacturers selling weapons to both sides!

The Battle for Spain does not just concentrate on the progress of the battlefronts. He also discusses frequently how the civilian population was coping and the terrible privations many Spaniards (especially Catalans) for forced to suffer.

The beginnings of the conflict and its awful aftermath are particularly well described. This is a brilliant, but ultimately depressing, read.
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43 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Piece of Work, 3 May 2007
By 
Steve Keen "therealus" (Herts, UK) - See all my reviews
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The Spanish Civil War is an endlessly fascinating period of history. Mixed in with the undoubted tragedy there's a frisson of romance about it. Artists, writers and idealists of many stripes flocked to "help". The likes of Ernest Hemingway, Laurie Lee, George Orwell and Victor Serge have given the Republican side literary credence. Picasso, Dali and others depicted the bestiality in visual art. Numerous commentators and agitators stood on the sidelines or frontlines and stirred the political stew - Trotsky to name just one. Eric Hobsbawm (The Guardian, 17/2/07) has pointed out the very clear paradox of the Spanish Civil War - that it is one of the few conflicts whose history is not monopolised by the victors.

Although this book has been said to be better balanced than average, the balance is still with the Republican side. We know full well how the Republicans "motivated" their own troops. There is less on this subject with regard to the Nationalists, especially the feared Moroccans. What motivated these colonial troops? And would Trotsky's advice for winning them over have worked?

Beevor exposes the idiocy of some in the Republican leadership in pursuing fatuous stunts like that at the Ebro, with catastrophic losses of men, matériel and morale, in the pursuit of a propaganda-worthy victory. There is also something that appears verging on sabotage in the way the Republican generals repeatedly launch initially successful attacks, only to allow their forces to get sucked into trying to mop up isolated resistance rather than pursuing their advantage. It all too often seems like the hesitation born of fear of failure results in increasing amounts of failure, which is then blamed on the hapless ex-Trots of the POUM.

There is less detail of this kind on the Nationalist side. He upbraids Franco for his obsession with Madrid, which nevertheless remained out of his grasp until the very end of the war, his vanity, and his strategic ineptness, and it is apparent that his German and Italian allies were at least close to considering him a buffoon. But there are fewer such stories than there are about Republican leaders such as Negrín, for example.

As Beevor's story progresses, the full horror of Stalinism's insidious effect on the war becomes increasingly tragic in its consequences, with the paranoia rampant in the ranks of the communists, contracted through their Russian commissars, spreading like a contagion within the entire Republican movement, so that trust and comradeship rapidly disintegrate. It is apparent from his account that the fragmented Republican factions were as afraid of each other as of Franco, sometimes with justification (Delores Ibárruri, La Pasionaria, is still commemorated by Trotskyists as L'Assassionaria).The virtual transformation of the International Brigades from volunteers to prisoners is a chilling development. The brutal punishment of Brigadistas after the battle of Brunete following their disintegration will surely have anyone contemplating a similar commitment now, should the opportunity arise, thinking more than twice.

Beevor adds to Stalin's tally of crimes the charge that, far from providing fraternal succour, the Soviet Union profited from its sale of arms and services, overcharging for these items in Spanish gold.

The book includes many references to the reports being made by Soviet agents back to Moscow and Stalin, which are enlightening in indicating the degree to which news from the war was dimensioned according to what Stalin wanted to hear - that blame for military defeats were due to the "fifth columnists" of the "international fascist" POUM, for example, thereby implicitly blaming Trotsky, despite Trotsky's own disavowal of his former devotees because of their participation in the Popular Front. The schismatic gene in the left continues to this day - no less than three Trotskyist candidates in the 2007 French presidential election, plus a communist.

Beevor gives plenty of food for thought in the "What If?" zone.

For example, what would have happened had the US and UK not been so craven, not only backing away from support of the legitimately elected Republicans, but even at times providing tacit support for the Nationalists, though admittedly the Royal Navy did also provide cover for merchant ships supplying the Basques.

There is a certain macabre irony that of the nations supposedly operating a blockade of Spain, two of them were Germany and Italy, so whilst everyone else was blocking supplies to both sides, the Germans and Italians were blocking supplies to the Republicans and actively supplying the Nationalists. The other powers, notably Britain, turned a blind eye to this state of affairs. Beevor reveals, perhaps tellingly, that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's sister-in-law was openly a fascist sympathiser.

This made the civil war a very one-sided rehearsal for WWII. The Germans and Italians were able to field-test their armaments, battle-harden elite forces, and experiment with tactics - the blitzkrieg and one of its principal components, the Stuka, made their debuts in the service of Franco. Meanwhile, Soviet advisors received their initiation into the appliance of techniques which would not attract Stalin's disfavour because of their association with purged generals, rehearsed the infallible motivational technique of shooting their own retreating troops irrespective of circumstance, and perfected their blame-passing capabilities. The British and Americans not only chose to avert their gaze, they also intimidated the French into inaction. In fact, even at the death, as rampaging Nationalist forces slaughtered everything in their path, it was only the most searing embarrassment that persuaded the French to permit the retreating Republican forces to cross the border. But the relative humanitarianism of that act was soon smothered by their internment of refugees in horrendous concentration camps.

The irony is, as Niall Ferguson asserts in War Of The World, had the British acted sooner they would have caught the Germans underresourced and unprepared for full-scale conflict, thus averting WWII; had they done so, the Republicans would have been in far better shape to repulse the Nationalists, who would have been denied the men and matériel provided by the Germans, if not the Italians.

Beevor himself considers that history must always end with questions; conclusions are way too convenient.

The Battle For Spain is the first work of Beevor's I have read, but I doubt it will be the last. Overall, it is an impressive piece of work: thorough and well-written, even-handed at least insofar as it sees the flaws in both sides, and providing a plethora of localised stories for reflection. For example, how many, having read of the Republicans pitched over its side by marauding Nationalists, will be able to look into the ravine at Ronda in quite the same light again?

The account of the bombing of Guernica, harrowing as it is, is short on histrionics. Beevor reveals that the death toll was lower than the Republicans claimed, but the attack is confirmed as ruthless and brutal, a test of the effects of aerial bombardment by Richtofen and the Condor Legion. The collusion of the Catholic church in blaming such atrocities on the Republicans must rate as the greatest betrayal in Christian history since Judas: it was, after all, Catholics in Durango whose church was bombed and who were subsequently strafed as they fled. The bombing and strafing were courtesy of the Nationalists; the Catholic church put it about that the Republicans were responsible for the deaths. But short as it is on martial porn - overgraphic descriptions of carnage - the end of the war comes as something of a relief, aftershocks notwithstanding, because you don't need graphic descriptions to know it was hell.

It does, however, leave some questions unanswered, such as what was all this like for the people of Spain as a whole? What was it like to live in a Nationalist or Republican village but to be a non-combatant? Was it actually possible to be a non-combatant, or be relatively ignorant of the war? These questions are either overlooked or only partially answered, which is less a criticism of Beevor than an opportunity for someone else.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complex book on a complex subject, 25 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
A complex book on a complex subject This was an impulse buy from an airport bookstall. Prior to this read, the Spanish Civil War had meant little to me - a recollection of it being part of the story of the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was about all. Stalingrad had more than matched it's billing, so the name Antony Beevor was a big pull. The author made a valiant attempt to guide me through the complex political machinations of both the combatant sides and by the end of the book I think I had got there. On the way though, I did get lost and the author's tendency to mention the names of the major characters with no introduction meant that their significance could only be gained in hindsight. I was also a little surprised that the majority of the book looked at the war from the Republican point of view. This unbalanced picture may be perfectly valid and I intend to check this by reading another account. The reprisals, summary executions and massacres make for harrowing reading - unfortunately all too familiar in the 20th century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 July 2014
great
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Unknown War, 4 Nov 2009
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This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
The book is excellent and I found it a genuine attempt to sort out the tangled story of the Spanish Civil War. As the author points out, the accounts in Britain lack objectivity or are, I believe, just biassed.
The denial of arms to the Republicans, the legitimate government, by Britain thus driving them to turn to Russia, must be to our eternal shame. At that time not only were Germany and Italy supplying military equipment to Franco's Nationalist, they were crewing it and providing infantry units as "volunteers" as well. The feats of our contribution to the International Brigades do not redeem us. It ranks with the betrayal of Czechoslovakia.
Thought from a friend of mine: "The British buy their enemies and sell their friends"
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite Good, 9 April 2008
This review is from: The Spanish Civil War (Paperback)
The Spanish Civil War by Anthony Beevor is an interesting account of a conflict which in many ways was a prelude to the Second World War. Having read some of the author's other works I knew that it was going to be well-written with a well constructed narative, although it is not as good as either Stalingrad or Berlin the Downfall. The work itself shows the destructive impact of a Civil War especially on a country as divided on linguistic and political lines as Spain. It also shows how democracy was allowed to be crushed by facism by Britain and France and also how the Nationalist forces were able to exploit the divisions in their opponents to win. All in all a good book although I have read better by this author.
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The Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor (Paperback - 2002)
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