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5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorn in the Side of Francoism, 27 Feb 2010
MH Lambert "flux1984" (Disunited Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: El mito de la cruzada de Franco (The Myth of Franco's Crusade) (Paperback)
Bizarrely this book was originally written in English - never reprinted to my knowledge, but for no good reason - but has become legendary as the essential guide to understanding the myths, lies and hypocrites of the Spanish Civil War. Most thematic books written in the 1960s on the Spanish Civil War have become hopelessly dated or wildly out of date. Not only has this book received numerous reprints, it has stood the test of time and acts as a beacon to all those - of the Left and Right - hoping to get to grips with the war. Along with his other superb books - "Antifalange", "Guernica! Guernica!" and "The Brainwashing of Francisco Franco" - "The Myth of the Francoist Crusade" is a gem.

What stands out most for me about the book is the simple, linear way it is written - especially as my Spanish skills are still patchy to say the least. Southworth leads you by the hand, carefully unpicking the evidence frequently repeated arguments are based on and deconstructs the perceptions and basis of them and leaves you appreciating the myriad of personal, political and powerful rivalries generated by the war. This edition is particularly poignant for the inclusion of two appendices, one on the rivalry with Gorkin and Bolloten and the other on the devious Ricardo de la Cierva, and an introduction written by - perhaps the best historian the topic has even seen (but don't let him know I said it!) - Paul Preston.

The main bulk of the book in context is a little dated now, aiming to undermine the legitimacy of Francosim and the myths surrounding the war rather than understand the conflict as a whole and recent historians have done. That said, the arguments contained are more relevant today than before. Southworth attacks not only the evidence - and its originators - but also challenges the representations of the war on all sides. What struck me about the book was its superb attacks on legends of the Left and the Right. For example, Southworth commits most of the book to demonstrating the brutality, complicity and duplicity of the Church, state and international powers in defeating the Republic and the falsehood upon which the pious crusade is based. He categorically shows how the barbaric and devastating massacres committed across Spain by Nationalist forces have been hidden, evidence altered and memories mystified. Southworth consistently demonstrates how much of the footnotes and bibliographies referred to by some historians used to show "objectivity" are basically regimist tracts that contribute little - if anything - to appreciating the dynamics of the Civil War. He challenges Rightist and regime testimonies and - with a ruthlessly reliability and range of references - delves into how they came about and why they are not a reflection of reality but - to paraphrase Napoleon - a lie, agreed upon. He also argues against the legend of the anarchist revolution and of the concerted Soviet conspiracy - one of the main reasons I started reading about the conflict. Much of his position rings true with more contemporary works of Ealham - particularly his essay in "The Splintering of Spain" and Horn's article on the language barrier in understanding the revolution in Barcelona. Leagues ahead of its time.

Those without a firm footing or an awareness of the Spanish Civil War or the layers of lies heaped upon the historiography may struggle with the book. It is not one for beginners. That said, the written style and easy-to-follow narrative make it an excellent starters for those wishing to expand their Spanish skills and knowledge of the topic. There is, after all, a reason it is mentioned in every major historian's bibliography. Buy it, read it, share it. And read it again.
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El mito de la cruzada de Franco (The Myth of Franco's Crusade)
El mito de la cruzada de Franco (The Myth of Franco's Crusade) by Herbert R. Southworth (Paperback - May 2008)
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