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The Spanish Civil War Paperback – 3 Apr 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1136 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 4Rev Ed edition (3 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141011610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011615
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Mr. Thomas has understood [the Spanish Civil War] incredibly well and has written it superbly. A full, vivid and deeply serious treatment of a great subject."
Vincent Sheean, "The New York Times Book Review"
"Stands without rivals as the most balanced and comprehensive book on the subject."
"American Historical Review"" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

A masterpiece of the historian's art, Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War remains the best, most engrossing narrative of one of the most emblematic and misunderstood wars of the twentieth century. Revised and updated with significant new material, including new revelations about atrocities perpetrated against civilians by both sides in this epic conflict, this "definitive work on the subject" (Richard Bernstein, "The New York Times) has been given a fresh face forty years after its initial publication in 1961. In brilliant, moving detail, Thomas analyzes a devastating conflict in which the hopes, dreams, and dogmas of a century exploded onto the battlefield. Like no other account, The Spanish Civil War dramatically reassembles the events that led a European nation, in a continent on the brink of world war, to divide against itself, bringing into play the machinations of Franco and Hitler, the bloodshed of Guernica, and the deeply inspiring heroics of those who rallied to the side of democracy. Communists, anarchists, monarchists, fascists, socialists, democrats -- the various forces of the Spanish Civil War composed a fabric of the twentieth century itself, and Thomas masterfully weaves the diffuse and fascinating threads of the war together in a manner that has established the book as a genuine classic of modern history. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Mar. 2013
Format: 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.
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Format: 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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Format: 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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