National Army Museum

Spanish Civil War

Paul Preston looks at the continued interest in the 1930s conflict, the subject of a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.

The last time that anyone did a serious count, there were over 15,000 books published about the Spanish Civil War. That was in 1968 and the counting was done by a team from Franco’s Ministry of Information. The scale of the literature then was partly a result of the fact that, since 1939, the propagandists of the victorious Caudillo had been producing, on an industrial scale, books and pamphlets interpreting the war in such a way as to justify the existence of the dictatorship. In turn, this material had stimulated counter-efforts from both defeated Republicans in exile, their foreign sympathisers and independent scholars the world over. In the thirty-three years following the publication of that official bibliography, books on the subject continued to pour out. The death of Franco himself in 1975 saw a massive boom in previously banned publications in Spain. University departments began to sponsor hitherto dangerous research. The result was a further flood of publications that has taken the total nearer to the 20,000 mark and a notable roster of television documentaries and movies.

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