This fascinating book about Britons in Spain by Simon Courtauld, a British journalist and Hispanicist, is absolutely not about escapism among the bougainvillea. To qualify for inclusion, someone must have engaged with Spain at a meaningful level in ways that had a lasting influence, either for the person concerned or for Spain itself. Some surprising figures crop up along the way.
There is, inevitably, a powerful if orthodox section on Orwell in Barcelona. But how many have heard of his contemporary Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell, who was in Málaga at the same time? He was the retired secretary of the British Zoological Society and wore a white suit with a flower in his buttonhole, even after Málaga was taken over by anarchists at the start of the Civil War. Chalmers Mitchell refused to leave when Franco’s forces attacked Málaga and gave Arthur Koestler a scratch lunch and the implements for suicide shortly before Koestler was arrested by the Nationalists. He retained a second set of implements for himself.
Going back a few centuries but touching on both Spain and Britain, there is a carefully etched account of the English College in Valladolid during the reign in England of Elizabeth I. The College (which still exists) prepared youthful Catholic priests from England for secret insertion back into the mother