(L: The Spanish people’s fight for liberty / compiled by A. Ramos Oliveira (1937), R: Guernica: Crimes Committed by Fascism (1937)

We delve into shelfmark H. Spanish Civil War to find some remarkable volumes acquired during the conflict in the 1930s.

The Spanish Civil War was fought from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939 between the Republicans, who were loyal to the established Spanish Republic, and the Nationalists, a rebel group led by General Francisco Franco. The Nationalists prevailed, and Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years, from 1939 until his death in 1975.

The London Library holds a collection of books about this tragic episode in the recent history of Spain, which can be found under the shelfmark H. Spanish Civil War. Many of the books were published and acquired by the Library while the conflict was going on, and some of them were published outside Spain, because there were very poor means for publishing them there, and also because they intended to attract international support for the Spanish Republic.

Of special interest are the books that include graphic materials, such as photographs taken during the conflict, showing the War fronts and the effects of the War on the Spanish cities and population. An example of this is the book entitled The Spanish People’s Fight for Liberty, a compilation of images from different photographic and press agencies, including Alliance Photo, Keystone Press Agency, Wide World Photos and Associated Press Photos, published by the Spanish Embassy in London in 1937. The images were taken at the beginning of the War and the selection pays special attention to the Republican side. Another interesting book is Guernica: Crimes Committed by Fascism (1937), a testimony of the aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica on 26 April 1937, which is considered to be one of the first raids in the history of modern military aviation on a defenceless civilian population. The book includes several photographs of the complete destruction of the town caused by the Condor Legion bombings as well as the testimony of an eye witness.


(L: Un an de lutte pour l’indépendance et la liberté / par Joan Comorera (1937), R: British Battalion, XV International Brigade memorial souvenir (1939)

On the other hand, the collection includes speeches and addresses by important figures of both sides of the conflict. For instance, the book Palabras de Franco, published in Bilbao in 1937, collects a series of addresses made by the General in key moments of the first year of the War; and we can find an example of the Republican side in the book For the Independence of Spain, for Liberty, for the Republic: Union of all Spaniards!, the complete text of the report to the plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain in 1938, by Dolores Ibárruri, “La Pasionaria”, the communist leader best known for her defence of the Second Spanish Republic and the famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! (“They Shall Not Pass”), pronounced in a speech during the Siege of Madrid in 1936.

Finally, we can also find some literary works about the War, such as Poes ías de Guerra (1937), a collection of poems that was published by the “Quinto Regimiento de Milicias Populares”, a famous military body of volunteers of the Second Spanish Republic. The Fifth Regiment of the People’s Militias was created as an initiative of the Spanish Communist Party and the Unified Socialist Youth, and it had a strong antifascist ideology. Some famous communist writers and poets were enlisted by or connected with the Regiment, for instance Rafael Alberti and Miguel Hernández, who wrote some of the poems in this anthology. Other examples of literature and the Civil War are the works by foreign authors that worked as war correspondents or fought as volunteers in the conflict, such as Arthur Koestler, Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. Of the latter, the library holds the first edition of his acclaimed book Homage to Catalonia, published in April 1938, an account of his personal experiences during the War in Catalonia and Aragon from December 1936 until June 1937.