Spanish History

Two book reviews
Piqueras, José A.; Sanz Rozalén, Vincent (Hrsg.): A Social History of Spanish Labour. New Perspectives on Class, Politics, and Gender. New York: Berghahn Books 2007. ISBN 978-1-84545-296-4; 330 S.; £ 45.00.

Rezensiert für geschichte.transnational und H-Soz-u-Kult von:
Vladimir López Alcañiz, Department of Modern and Contemporary History, Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaE-Mail: [mailto][/mailto]

European contemporary historiography underwent a considerable transformation during the seventies. In only a few years, Europe witnessed the convergence of the impact of the events that took place on May 1968, the influx of French post-structuralism and Foucault's writings, the postmodernist criticism on metanarrative and on the "grands récits" and the questioning of the revolutionary ideal due to the so-called 'Solzhenitsyn effect'. It was all translated into the weakening of the certainties in which 'the historian's craft', to quote Marc Bloch, based his trust. The new history that was starting to take shape was more cautious, both against the illusions of objectivity and scientism and against the temptations of ideology. Plus, it was open to subjectivity, contingency and narrative and it was notably influenced by the anti-totalitarianism, which sprang after the discovery of 'Gulag Archipelago'




Kalyvas, Stathis N.: The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006. ISBN 0521670047; xviii, 485 Seiten; £ 15,99.

Beevor, Anthony: The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2006. ISBN 0297848321; xxxiv, 526 S.; £ 25.-.

Romero Salvadó, Francisco J.: The Spanish Civil War (= Twentieth Century Wars). London: Palgrave Macmillan 2005. ISBN 0333754360; xxv, 268 S.; £ 17,99.

Rezensiert für den Arbeitskreis Historische Friedensforschung bei H-Soz-u-Kult von:

Mary Vincent, University of Sheffield, Department of HistoryE-Mail: [mailto][/mailto]

The first two books under review here fall very much in the tradition of English-language writing on the Spanish Civil War, and, as is customary, both begin with seemingly obligatory historical background. It is not until p. 95 of Romero's relatively slim volume that the reader is finally told the story of the military coup of July 1936. Using chapter titles such as "The painful road to modernity" and "Old Spain", the author effectively turns the history of the civil war into the story of Spain; the conflict serves as a microcosm of Spain's painful road to 'modernity'. The emphasis is on causes, origins, and outcomes rather than the nature of the conflict or, indeed, the nature of civil war itself.

The books were written for different audiences: Romero's is aimed at the text-book market and offers a very competent synthetic account that is soundly based on recent historiography and reflects his usual interest in international affairs. Anthony Beevor's latest blockbuster, on the other hand, is aimed at a much wider audience, and has captured much public attention since it was first published in Spanish in 2005. A highly engaging, vigorous narrative, it contrasts with Romero's book even while, in some ways, mirroring it. Both texts are conventionally framed, making much use of familiar set-pieces. Romero's discussion of the factionalism of the Republican side (pp. 136-42), for example, while cogent and well handled, depends on presenting the Barcelona street-fighting of May 1937 as the explanatory set-piece of the Republican narrative. Indeed, the author provides only fourteen pages on the internal history of the Republic after the May Days before we reach the end of the road for the Republic in a section horribly entitled "Curtains". Beevor's set-pieces are used as literary rather than as analytical devices. Stories such as that of the siege of the Alcázar of Toledo (pp. 122-4) allow the author to present anecdote and personal detail in a way designed to illuminate the human drama-and tragedy-of war. Thus, the story of Unamuno's reaction to Millán Astray's legionary war cry "Viva la muerte" shows his heartbroken isolation as well as the perspicacity of his response: "you will win but you will not convince" (pp. 100-1). Such vignettes add to the narrative drive of the book, even though they are extremely well known.