Article

Spanish Civil War

George Esenwein

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online July 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0056
Spanish Civil War

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It is well known that, like the Catholic Church, the military in Spain has long played a key role in public affairs. This was particularly evident during the second half of the 20th century, when a bloody civil war (1936–1939) resulted in a military dictatorship under General Francisco Franco, who would rule Spain for the next thirty-six years. Throughout his reign, Franco sought to legitimate the military intervention which had brought him to power by using history as an ideological tool of the state. The result was that the majority of Spanish historians fell into the role of a conservative and decidedly official establishment. The one-sided political partisanship of Francoist historiography was amply demonstrated in the early years of his rule, when official histories written from the victors’ point of view became the standard sources on the subject. Over time, the ideological tone of the military-centered official histories became less strident but was nonetheless still distinctly colored by the passions and deeply rooted political biases of the regime. Outside of Spain, the tendency to interpret the Civil War in political terms also dominated writings about the conflict. But in contrast to Spanish historiography, Western scholarship was not focused on the military side of the war. Apart from books about the International Brigades, articles and monographs relating to the military assistance provided by foreign powers, or studies which dealt with celebrated engagements of the war, no full-scale military histories of the Civil War were ever produced by non-Spanish historians during the Franco era, 1939–1975. On the other hand, reliable and detailed accounts of key military campaigns could be found in general works, such as Hugh Thomas’s The Spanish Civil War (Thomas 2001, cited under General Overviews). The demise of Franco’s dictatorship in the mid- and late 1970s saw an explosion of new publications on the Civil War. Yet, partly because of their ideological associations with the past and partly because they represented an outdated mode of historical investigation, traditional military histories did not prove as popular as studies devoted to local or regional affairs or to the international aspects of the war. Recently, there has been a resurgence of publications dealing with the military side of the Civil War. Most of the newer works differ from those produced by Francoist historians in that their overall interpretations are not being filtered through an ideological lens. Nor are they as narrowly focused on the purely technical aspects of military operations, as many previous studies have been. The greatest attention has been paid to struggles at the regional level and the impact that bombings and wartime conditions in general had on both combatants and noncombatants alike. Without making any claims of being exhaustive, this bibliographical article seeks to give the reader a sense of the broad range of sources which have been published on the subject since the outbreak of the Civil War and which can be used as a point of departure for future investigations. It is also hoped that, by being exposed to such a diverse and varied group of publications, the reader will gain a greater sense of how much historical trends and patterns of interpretation of a particularly complex and contentious subject have evolved over a seventy-year period.

Article.  6970 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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