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Book Review: British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Volunteers in the International Brigades, 1936-1939

Book Review: British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Volunteers in the International Brigades, 1936-1939

Abstract

Richard Baxell, British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Volunteers in the International Brigades, 1936­1939, Routledge: London, New York, 2004; 240 pp.; 0415324572, £70 (hbk) Since the end of the Spanish Civil War, two sharply contrasting narratives of the InternationalBrigades(IBs)havedominatedourunderstandingofthisfascinatingdimen- sion of the conflict. One seeks to glorify the volunteers' exploits by treating them as self-sacrificing individuals whose political convictions impelled them to participate in the crusade against international fascism, while the other casts them in a sinister role by emphasizing their ideological and organizational ties to Stalinism. Richard Baxell's book continues the recent trend towards more objective writing about the IBs, while also con- tributingtotheongoingpolemicaboutthehistoricallegacyofthisvanishinggenerationof remarkable individuals. Baxell addresses central questions raised by other scholars concerning the precise numbers, social origins and ideological motivations of those who volunteered to fight in Spain, as well as the extent to which the brigaders were both manipulated and controlled by the communists. For the most part, this slim volume adds little to what is already well known. Nonetheless, the author's methodical scouring of the Public Record Office (PRO) and the International Brigade archives housed at the Marx Memorial Library has yielded some hitherto unknown details about the volunteers'
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