Only recently, with the virtual passing of an entire generation, has the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) ceased to be a subject of passionate historical and ideological debate. Even so, the martyrdom of the Second Republic (1931–39) has inspired the construction of a remarkably enduring historiographical edifice. Its main lines are well known—that in Spain, the democratic West failed to meet the earliest challenges of European fascism in the guise of General Francisco Franco’s military uprising against the government of the Popular Front. In so doing, it presumably emboldened Hitler and Mussolini to venture on to what became the Second World War.

At the same time, the Spanish conflict occupies a particularly important role in the apparently endless apologetics for Stalin and the Soviet Union. Whatever horrors the former may have inflicted on the latter, so the argument runs, in Spain at least the Soviets put...


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