Battleground Spain, 1936-1939

Battleground Spain, 1936-1939
Tutor: Carl-Henrik Bjerstrom
The Spanish war of 1936-1939 was one of the truly momentous events of the twentieth century; it
produced modern Europe’s longest surviving dictatorship and had profound international
repercussions, not least by confirming European democracies’ policy of appeasement towards
fascism. Although the war was primarily an outcome of escalating social and political tension within
Spain, at the time it also constituted the centre ground of European history and the decisive flash
point for a whole set of European conflicts destabilising the continent since the First World War. This
fact was keenly perceived by contemporary observers across the continent; many non-Spaniards
engaged directly with the war, and many gave their lives in support of the causes perceived to be
defended by the belligerents. In their minds, the Spanish conflict articulated some of the deepest
fears and wildest hopes of the era. To fully understand why, it is essential to analyse the war and its
particular character in a comparative European context.
This course explores in depth the nature of the Spanish war of 1936-1939 and the reasons why it
reverberated so widely beyond Spain’s national borders. The course places events in Spain in the
context of Europe’s ‘dark’ twentieth century, marked by the violent pursuit of collective purity and
strength, without losing sight of specific national developments and factors influencing its outcome.
Key historical and historiographical issues concerning the war form the core of the course, but the
aim is to link these debates to a wider analysis of the structural changes conditioning contemporary
politics and culture across the continent. By adopting this perspective, the course encourages
students to think comparatively and to reflect on the place of the Spanish war in various longer
narratives of Europe’s turbulent twentieth century.
1. Introduction
2. (National and international) Origins of the war
3. Axis intervention
4. Constructing Francoist Spain
5. International mobilization on the left
6. Fractures in the Republican camp
7. The cultural battle at home and abroad
8. The end: repression, exile, and social ‘peace’
9. Diplomacy and resistance: Spain in WWII
10. The Spanish Civil War in twentieth-century Europe