The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

A Divided Iberia

The Battle for Spain


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 436pp £25

Antony Beevor began the first version of this book thirty years ago. It was published in 1982 under the title The Spanish Civil War. Since then a vast quantity of new material has become available, as a result of research and publications by Spanish historians, and the opening of Soviet files. The revision has been on such a scale that this may properly be regarded as a new book.

The author remarks that he has found that ‘the huge increase in information available today has tended to swell the number of vital questions rather than reduce them’. This may be, he adds, ‘due to the author losing some of the more passionate concerns of youth’. Perhaps he has. But the previous point is nevertheless valid. However straightforward the issues in Spain might once have seemed, to idealists of left and right alike, they now, seventy years after the outbreak of the war, seem confoundedly complicated.

To offer one example: The Nationalists declared they were fighting against international Communism. The British Government adopted the policy of non-intervention, partly so as not to irritate Hitler and Mussolini, but principally because of its fear of Communism. Yet it was the Nationalists’ launching of the Civil War that gave

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