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An Anarchist's Story: The Life of Ethel MacDonald Paperback – 30 Apr 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn Ltd (30 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841586854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841586854
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 472,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Dolan's book is both personal and universal. --The Scotsman

Chris Dolan has done a fantastic job of uncovering Ethel MacDonald's life story...fascinating and enlightening. --The Skinny

'An illuminating, sparkling crash course in events and ideas that shaped Glasgow and Europe for decades. A wonderful author, Dolan achieves the vim and colour one might expect of a scriptwriter, yet without colouring in too many blanks with hypotheses. An Anarchist s Story is a long-overdue, highly worthy account of a life more of us need to know about. When stories as astonishing as this are so well told, fiction looks dull by comparison.' --History Scotland Review

About the Author

Award-winning poet, author and playwright Chris Dolan was born in Glasgow. He writes regularly for radio and screen, and his screenplay for An Anarchist's Story was broadcast by the BBC in 2006. He has written features, reviews and travel pieces for various newspapers and magazines, including The Independent and Scotland on Sunday, and he has been Literary Reviewer and Features Writer for The Herald since 2002.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I stumbled upon this book by accident whilst looking for books about the Spanish Civil War. I had never previously heard of Ethel MacDonald and erroneously thought an Anarchist was someone who advocated lawlessness. What a mistake! I have found myself re-thinking my own political beliefs as a result of this book.

Ethel was a woman with deeply-held beliefs who travelled to Spain, virtually without money, to help the workers of Spain in their struggle for freedom. Not simply freedom from Fascism but from authoritarian rule in whatever guise. When Barcelona fell to the Nationalist forces, she put her life in grave danger by reporting events back to Great Britain, visiting people in prison and arranging safe passage for others to escape. She was eventually arrested and imprisoned herself, but rather than be cowed, she courageously continued her work from inside prison.Eventually, she was able to leave Spain but apparently always felt afterwards that she had somehow let down those she left behind.

I was incredibly moved by Ethel's story. A poor woman who would give away her own belongings in order to help others in need is a far cry from the world we inhabit today. I also shared Ethel's frustration regarding some of the parties of the 'left'and found myself questioning their motives. My blood boiled regarding the British and American Governments' policy of non-intervention which actually aided Franco and came away feeling I understood just a bit more about this hugely complex conflict.

As a previous reviewer stated, the one thing you won't learn too much about is Ethel herself. She never liked to talk about herself and so the picture we have is taken from archive papers and accounts by her contemporaries and family memebers. However, do not let that put you off.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've found one and she's a gem. A Scottish Anarchist hero that isn't a stereotype of what an anarchist is but someone who fought on the right side and actually saw the place that I dream of, Anarcho-sydicalist Catalonia.

Let her spirit rise.
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Format: Paperback
Chris Dolan's book is a welcome contribution to the historography of the Civil War in Spain. It unearths the story of Ethel Macdonald a young anarchist from working-class roots in Lanarkshire who's contribution to the anarchist cause against Franco needs telling.
Now that the 'pacto olvida' is showing cracks in Spain and historical research and discussion into the Civil War is becoming alive, it is welcome to see that here in Britain a 'pacto olvida' among historians of the Civil War is also showing cracks and the anarchist side is being written about. All praise to the brave men and women who left to join the International Brigade, and 'Homage to Caledonia' is a recent worthy contribution to those who went from Scotland, but it is timely to highlight the divisions within the 'left' and the despicable role of Stalin in the Spanish Civil War.
Cris Dolan's book is a timely contribution in this direction.
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