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Fighting for Spain (Hardback)

The International Brigades in the Civil War, 1936–1939

Photographic Books 20th Century Military

By Alexander Clifford
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 264
Illustrations: 100 b/w illustrations
ISBN: 9781526774385
Published: 15th September 2020


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In the English-speaking world, the Spanish Civil War is perhaps best remembered through the exploits of thousands of foreign volunteers from across the globe who joined the International Brigades – a force of communists, socialists and others who took their opposition to fascism to extraordinary lengths. Their passionate political commitment to Spain’s cause and determination in battle placed them among the crack troops of the Republic’s People’s Army.

Yet while much has been written about the political, social and cultural significance of the brigades and their experience in Spain, less has been said about their performance as front-line troops. It is this military history that Alexander Clifford focuses on in vivid detail in this highly illustrated new study.

His account tells the story of the brigades as combat units, tracing the course of each major battle in which they fought and showing the drastic changes they underwent as the war progressed – from an untrained militia in 1936, to the tried and tested shock troops of 1937, to a shadow of their former selves by 1938 after repeated maulings and the introduction of Spanish conscripts to fill their ranks.

Author Alexander Clifford already has a number of books on the Spanish Civil War under his belt and it's clearly a subject that grips him. His latest book on the subject is no less gripping and is compelling and well illustrated with photos - at least one of these gruesome - and maps.

I knew very little about the International Brigades (in fact I thought it was International Brigade, singular) before reading this book. George Orwell served, I suspect most people know that, but so too did many other ordinary people from many countries, the majority returning to their homelands and to anonymity after the conflict had ended.

The book's format is agreeable: a central narrative and potted biographies of some of the participants scattered throughout the 235 pgaes. There is an index, a bibliography and a useful appendix listing the IB units; recommended.

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Paul Nixon

Fighting for Spain should be read by those wanting a balanced picture of the International Brigades. Alexander Clifford doesn’t attempt to make heroes out of people who were imperfect in many ways and yet often behaved heroically. He paints them as ordinary men who rose above the ordinary by participating in a war they could easily have ignored but chose not to. His book is a fitting tribute to their courage. It is well-illustrated with maps and photographs, and has a useful bibliography.

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Penniless Press

The book has lots and lots of pictures, quotes from primary sources, and biographical details on different prominent fighters, making the book very interesting. I enjoyed a lot reading it and I’m very glad that I was able to attend the virtual launch too. The book deals with the major battles of the war, talks about training, and so forth. 5/5 stars!

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Coffee and Books

Fighting for Spain is an excellent addition to the literature on the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.

Accessible and well written, backed up with useful maps and images, it includes a wealth of information on the formation and composition of the Brigades and their role during the war.

Richard Baxell, author of the bestselling Unlikely Warriors.

A richly illustrated, highly readable and informative history with fascinating profiles of key figures.

Peter Anderson, author of Friend or Foe? Occupation, Collaboration and Selective Violence in the Spanish Civil War

About Alexander Clifford

Alexander Clifford is a history teacher by profession who has studied at the universities of Leeds, Munich and Northumbria, and is an expert on the Spanish Civil War. His previous publications include a study of the Republican army, The People’s Army in the Spanish Civil War: A Military History of the Republic and International Brigades 1936-1939, as well as Divided We Fall, an interactive novel app set in the civil war.

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