BA Option taught by David Brydan, 2017-18

“Spain is Different”, claimed the famous tourist slogan of the 1960s. And the Spanish Civil War has often been seen in the same way, as a local tragedy rooted in the fratricidal divisions of Spanish culture, and the peculiarities and backwardness of Spanish political development. But the Spanish Civil War was at heart a European conflict. Its origins lay in the wider European crisis of the interwar period, in the struggle for ideological and political dominance between liberal democracy, communism and fascism. It was this struggle which transformed the Spanish conflict into a “little world war”, drawing in nation states, political movements and individual volunteers from across the continent, and beyond.

This course will explore how a military uprising on the periphery of the continent became a European conflict of global significance, engaging the military might of some of Europe’s major powers, paralysing European diplomacy, and mobilising the lives and passions of thousands of soldiers, activists, artists and intellectuals from across the world.

It will help students to develop a broad understanding of some of the key developments in interwar Europe, exploring the rise of fascism, the challenges to liberal democracy, political violence, and popular mobilisation. But it will also provide an opportunity to undertake a detailed study of how these themes played out in one of the most significant single events of the period, exploring the conflict through a range of visual, literary and archival primary sources.


Autumn Term

  1. Introduction
  2. Legacies of the First World War: The trienio bolchevique and Europe’s Revolutionary Wave
  3. The Primo de Rivera Dictatorship and Europe’s Authoritarian Turn
  4. The Second Republic and the Rise of the Radical Right
  5. The Second Republic and Popular Frontism
  6. 18 de julio: The Coup and its Aftermath
  7. Interventions: Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union
  8. Non-Interventions: Britain and France
  9. Global Mobilisation I: The International Brigades
  10. The Republic at War: Culture, Class and Propaganda

Spring Term

  1. Revolution Behind the Lines: Barcelona, Anarchism and Anti-Stalinism
  2. Rebel Spain: Nation, Religion and Repression
  3. Global Mobilisation II: Humanitarian Campaigns and Volunteers
  4. Interpreting Spain for the World: Writers, Artists and Foreign Correspondents
  5. The Slow Death of the Republic: Defeat and Exile
  6. Spanish Holocaust? Terror and Violence in Comparative Context
  7. Interpreting the Francoist State: Typologies of Fascism
  8. Spanish Legacies: Memory and Dictatorship
  9. European Legacies: Memory and Myths
  10. Conclusion

Preliminary reading

  • Tom Buchanan, Britain and the Spanish Civil War (1997)
  • Helen Graham, The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction (2005)
  • Helen Graham, The War and its Shadow: Spain’s Civil War in Europe’s Long Twentieth Century (2012)
  • Judith Keene, Fighting for Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (2001)
  • Lisa Kirschenbaum, International Communism and the Spanish Civil War (2015)
  • Christian Leitz and David Dunthorn (eds.), Spain in an International Context, 1936-1959 (1999)
  • Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (1999)
  • Stanley Payne, The Spanish Civil War (2012)
  • Paul Preston, The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge (2006)
  • Francisco Romero Salvadò, The Spanish Civil War: Origins, Course, and Outcomes (2005)