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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Wales and the Spanish Civil War - The Dragons' Dearest Cause
Robert Stradling
ISBN: 9780708318171 (0708318177)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Hydref 2004
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
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Dadansoddiad ysgolheigaidd o brofiadau ideolegol, gwleidyddol a diwylliannol y Cymry o Ryfel Cartref Sbaen yn yr 1930au, yn cynnwys gwybodaeth ar gefndir a chanlyniadau'r brwydro. 4 ffotograff du-a-gwyn, llyfryddiaeth a mynegai.

A scholarly analysis of the Welsh people's ideological, political and cultural experience of the Spanish Civil War, dealing with not only the war years themselves but also the background and aftermath. 4 black-and-white photographs, a bibliography and index.
The war in Spain that raged from 1936 to 1939 and served as a rehearsal for much that happened during the world conflict that followed, has taken on a mythical aura in the annals of the political Left in most parts of Europe. Films like For Whom the Bell Tolls, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, and many books published subsequently, have tended to present the civil war in a heroic context as a struggle between a virtuous Republic and an evil, Fascist uprising led by the unspeakable Franco. What has sometimes been overlooked is that terrible deeds were done on both sides and, in particular, that those who fought to defend the legitimate Republic were hopelessly divided by ideology and selfish interest. If you don’t believe that, read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, still one of the most eloquent and honest testimonies of what happened during those bloody three or four years.

Perhaps it is time for a more clear-eyed account of the politics that led to the Army’s revolt against the democratic government and the battles and atrocities in which so many died. Robert Stradling, who taught European History at Cardiff University for nearly thirty years, has written an informed, if sometimes opinionated book which draws much of its material from written sources such as memoirs, diaries and archival material which are only now seeing the light of day. He also draws on poetry, fiction and the visual arts to paint a picture of a conflict that gripped the imagination of a generation and has reverberated ever since.

Particular attention is paid to the contribution made by men from Wales, about two hundred in all, mostly miners, who went to Spain to fight in defence of the Republic with the International Brigades. For them the war had a wider significance: it was to have been a means of halting the spread of totalitarian regimes such as Hitler’s and Mussolini’s, and to reinforce democratic government throughout Europe. Both dictators sent troops, equipment and money to help the Fascist insurgents and it was German planes that bombed Guernica.

This book will rile those who are wedded to the traditional view of the war. Stradling argues that the myth was passed down to succeeding generations in order to strengthen left-wing ideas of ideological rectitude which bear little resemblance to what actually happened. But I found it informative and well-argued, a useful contribution to our understanding of an event that is now beyond living memory. If it is largely a contrary view, we should nevertheless give it a fair hearing.

Meic Stephens

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgement should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio’r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatad Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
Wales and the Spanish Civil War:
The Dragon’s Dearest Cause?
Robert Stradling
pp xvi244 inc. 8pp ills. October 2004
Paperback ISBN 0-7083-1816-9
Hardback ISBN 0-7083-1817-7
Many nations were involved in the Spanish Civil War, but in Wales it retained a special significance, representing a heroic saga of mythical resonance.
Wales and the Spanish Civil War brings a rigorous and critical analysis to bear upon this hallowed tradition. Though focusing mainly on the period of the war itself (1936–9), Robert Stradling also examines how Wales’s part in the struggle was invested with interpretations more to do with politics and power than with history. He suggests that the message it imparted to subsequent generations was intended to strengthen received ideas of ideological and ethical rectitude, as well as those of national character and identity.
Several chapters are devoted to the volunteers who went from Wales to fight for the Spanish Republic in the International Brigades. The author draws on a wide range of materials, including recently discovered memoirs, diaries and archival material, as well as newspaper reports, literary fiction, poetry, the visual media and other memorabilia covering this key event of the 1930s. The book will fascinate and irritate in equal measure, but will be essential reading for anyone interested in the history and culture of Wales in the twentieth century.
Robert Stradling taught European History at Cardiff University for nearly thirty years, specializing in Spain and Germany. His many books include
Europe and the Decline of Spain (1981), Philip IV and the Government of Spain (1988),
The Spanish Monarchy and Irish Mercenaries (1994), Cardiff and the Spanish Civil War (1996),
The Irish and the Spanish Civil War (1999) and, most recently, History and Legend: Writing the International Brigades (2003).
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