Abstracts and Bios

Panel 1: Transnational Actors: Veterans, Activists and Parliamentarians

Eoghan Moran (Queen Mary University of London), A Dialogue Across Borders: Prieto’s Paris Exile and the Origins of the Popular Front

This papers proposes to examine the cross-border networks and spread of ideas between French and Spanish socialists in the year following the political crises of October 1934. Amidst a remarkably similar political context, social-democrats in both countries sought exit routes from the deep crisis of republican parliamentarism, and their own place in it.

The presence throughout this period of an influential contingent of Spanish socialist fugitives offered a unique vector for contact and cooperation, through which new ideas and practices were disseminated in both directions. It was no coincidence that over this period the leaders of the two socialist parties’ centre faction, Vincent Auriol and Indalecio Prieto, were in constant contact and collaboration, and at this time began both to propose to their parties a new kind of political instrument to mobilize a fragmented left in defence of democracy: the Popular Fronts. At the same time these experiences and webs of contacts went far in structuring French public opinion’s views of Spain, providing essential background to the rapid mobilization of French public opinion in July 1936.

Piecing together the social history of the exiles in France from a variety of Spanish and French sources, some only recently rediscovered, and relating the new political projects that Prieto and Auriol’s meeting of minds engendered, this paper hopes to offer a previously unidentified transnational dimension to the formation of the Popular Fronts in France and Spain.


Eoghan Moran is a third-year doctoral candidate at Queen Mary, University of London. His research examines the crisis of parliamentary democracy in France and in Spain in the 1930s, and the range of reciprocal interactions and contacts that structured the development of the two countries’ Popular Fronts.


Ángel Alcalde (Leibniz Institut, Mainz), War Veterans’ Transnational Networks and the Spanish Civil War

In the interwar period, war veterans were important political actors in both national and international politics. It has been commonly accepted that the French veteran movement was predominantly pacifist and loyal to the Third Republic, while the main Italian and German veteran organizations were close to the Fascists and the Nazis. The reality, however, was far more complicated, and the Spanish Civil War reveals this complexity. In France and other countries, the proverbial First World War veterans’ pacifism was embroiled in a deep crisis due to the Spanish Civil War, and Fascism was the main cause behind it. Drawing on archival and published sources in five different languages, this paper analyses the intense activity of different international veteran organizations—the Fédération interalliée des anciens combattants (FIDAC), the Conférence internationale des associations de mutilés de guerre et anciens combattants (CIAMAC), and the fascist-dominated Comitato Permanente Internazionale dei Combattenti— during the Spanish Civil War. The paper focuses on the fascist network and discursive strategies in the realm of international veteran politics during 1936-1939. It argues that Fascism succeeded in dominating the international networks of war veterans, thus appropriating the veteran discourses about ‘peace’, and contributing to preventing international aid to the beleaguered Spanish Second Republic.


Ángel Alcalde obtained his PhD in History and Civilization from the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) in 2015, with a dissertation on ‘War Veterans and Transnational Fascism’. He has published widely on the history of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship, including two books: Lazos de Sangre (IFC, 2010) and Los excombatientes franquistas (1936-1965) (PUZ, 2014).


Ke Ren (Bates College), From Guernica to Chongqing: The World Conference for Action on the Bombardment of Open Towns and the Restoration of Peace and Transnational Mobilisation between Spain and China

The Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War were the two major conflicts between nascent Republics and fascist movements that broke out before World War II. Many international activists (including W. H. Auden, Robert Capa, Joris Ivens, and Norman Bethune) first volunteered to go to the front in Spain and then to China. At the same time, transnational organizations and peace movements formed in the first days of the Spanish Civil War also began to mobilize support for China against Japanese aggression. One of these was the Rassemblement universel pour la Paix or International Peace Campaign (RUP/IPC), a major anti-war movement organized by British and French activists in 1936. An organization that comprised 43 member states, the RUP/IPC resurrected a Peace Tower at the 1937 Paris Exposition Universelle, where Picasso’s Guernica was displayed, while establishing a large China Branch to support the war of resistance against Japan. This paper explores the RUP/IPC-organized World Conference for Action on the Bombardment of Open Towns and the Restoration of Peace, held in Paris in 1938 to protest against aerial bombing in Spain and China, as one of the key events that furthered the emergence of a transnational movement against fascism.


Ke Ren is Visiting Assistant Professor of Chinese History at Bates College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2014. He is writing a biography of the flamboyant Chinese diplomat-writer Chen Jitong in fin-de-siècle Paris, while beginning a research project on the Rassemblement Universel pour la Paix.


Jonathan Sherry (University of Pittsburgh/Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Transnational Mobilisation and Republican Justice: Solidarity Campaigns on Behalf of Imprisoned Anti-fascists during the Spanish Civil War

Popularized by George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, perhaps the most widely read book on the Spanish Civil War globally, the repression of the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) has sparked the interest of left wing scholars and academics alike for over half a century. But while the repression of the POUM after May 1937 is well known, much less has been written about the trial of its leaders in October 1938, a trial which took place in a drastically different context long after Orwell had left Catalonia, and which inspired a transnational humanitarian mobilization against the perceived “exportation” of the Moscow Trials to Republican Spain. The POUM’s trial 16 months later and the transnational solidarity movement built around it remain almost entirely unstudied.

This paper, inspired by a dissertation chapter in progress, argues that the POUM’s prosecution during the Spanish Civil War triggered a unique sort of transnational, left wing, non-state mobilization, as groups from North America and Europe sought to secure a fair trial for the POUM defendants, who had been accused of treason, espionage, and “Trotsky-fascism” at the height of the Soviet mass repressions. It looks at actions organized by the League for the Rights of Man, the Second International, the London Bureau, and other organizations. Drawing on research in various archives, and especially the recently opened Archivo Juan Negrín (archive of the Prime Minister) in Las Palmas, this paper asks what impact these delegations and campaigns had on the prosecution.Using internal judicial and government materials, it comments on the ways in which transnational mobilization shaped Spanish Republican justice, militating against the Stalinist attempt to internationalize its anti-Trotskyist “Show Trial” form. Finally, it attempts to place this sort of humanitarian mobilization within a broader history of non-state humanitarianism and the development of human rights organizations, and assess its role in that development.


Jonathan Sherry is currently a Visiting Fulbright Research Fellow at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and PhD Candidate in History at the University of Pittsburgh. His research addresses Soviet involvement in the Spanish Civil War in relation to Republican justice and legal culture. In addition to winning the 2015 George Watt Prize for Essays on the Spanish Civil War, he is the recipient of many fellowships, including a Council for European Studies Doctoral fellowship (2016), a Fulbright fellowship (2015), a Mellon Doctoral fellowship (2014), and a Botstiber Institute fellowship (2013). He has spent nearly two years in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where he was among the first several scholars to access the recently opened Archivo Juan Negrín, archive of the last Spanish Republican Prime Minister. In September, he will relocate to London as a Visiting Research Fellow at Paul Preston’s Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Panel 2: Help the Spaniards, Save the Children

Magdalena Garrido Caballero (Universidad de Murcia), The Friends of the Soviet Union’s Aid to War Children

This paper proposal deals with an International organization called Friends of Soviet Russia, in particular, it is focused on the Spanish Section that supported Spanish Second Republic, the antifascist cause and facilitate Spanish children go to the Soviet Union, and keep in contact with their families. The main sources used in this research paper are composed by files from national archives, testimonies, press and specialized historiography in order to show how these sorts of associations aided to Spanish children. Besides this, children were used as favorable propaganda of the Soviet Union in the interwar period by Spanish Friends of Soviet Union which were stigmatized by Rebel faction’s propaganda and Franco’s dictatorship.


Mª Magdalena Garrido Caballero teaches History at University of Murcia (Spain) has a PhD in History at University of Murcia (2006). She has been visiting researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences (2002 and 2003), Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies, European Institute (LSE) (2004, 2007-2009) and researcher at Spanish National Research Council (2009-2010). Some of her publications include Compañeros de viaje. Historia y Memoria de las Asociaciones de Amistad en el siglo XX (2009), Las relaciones culturales hispano-soviéticas, 1931-1939, Ayer 74 2009: 191-217Rusia tras la Perestroika. Propaganda política, cultura y memorias del cambio (2011), El influjo de la Revolución de Octubre en la novela social de avanzada española de los años veinte. History. Magazine of Education and Science (Revista del Instituto de Historia Universal de la Academia de Ciencias de Rusia) vol. 8 (2011) and Los niños de la guerra civil española en el Reino Unido y la Unión Soviética, Bulletin of SpanishStudies (Reino Unido, Routledge), vol. LXXXIX (2012), 241-254.


Célia Keren (Université d’Aix-Marseille), The Evacuation of Spanish Children to France: The Theory and Practice of a Cross-Border Partnership

At least 10,000 children were transported from Republican Spain to France during the Spanish Civil War. The initiative originated from French civil society, with the Confédération générale du travail (CGT), the French trade union centre, as the key player, and it started in the fall of 1936 as a collaborative venture between French trade unions and Spanish Republican authorities. The objective of this paper is to analyse the rapidly evolving relations between the Spanish government and foreign help committees, as well as the ideologies of internationalism, national sovereignty and humanitarianism underlying these fast-changing power relations. Indeed, the internationalist spirit of working-class and antifascist solidarity between the French CGT and the anarcho-syndicalist Spanish ministry of Welfare had soon receded. It was replaced as soon as the summer of 1937 by growing tensions between, on the one hand, a Spanish government increasingly prone to controling every aspect of the evacuation programme, and the inescapable fact that it was economically reliant on foreign, private help committees who wanted to be more than mere cash providers.


Célia Keren, a former student of the Ecole normale supérieure of Paris, is agrégée in History and a former member of the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid. She holds a PhD in History completed in 2014 at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales of Paris under Professor Laura Downs, with the thesis title “Mapping a Transnational Mobilization: The Evacuation of Spanish Children and their Care in France (1936-1940)”. She is currently teaching at the University of Aix-Marseille as an Attachée temporaire d’enseignement et de recherche.


Kerrie Holloway (Queen Mary University of London), The International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees from Spain and the Dawn of Modern Humanitarianism  

Modern humanitarian organisations are typically characterised by four aspects – bureaucracy, professionalization, transnationalism and longevity – and the dawn of the modern humanitarian age is most often dated to the end of the Second World War. However, if we think of the Spanish Civil War as a precursor to World War II, it is also accurate to view the humanitarian aid given during the Spanish Civil War as a precursor to modern humanitarianism. Many of the main humanitarian organisations existed along the same lines as the majority of interwar agencies: they were small, private organisations run by amateurs, often middle- and upper-class women who did not have to work for a living and who were just trying to help; they were supported by individual donors; and they were created solely for the Spanish conflict and ceased to exist when the war ended. One organisation, however, the International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees in Spain, hereafter the IC, exhibited many of the same characteristics of modern relief agencies and should be re-inserted in the history of humanitarianism as the origin of the modern aid movement, instead of included with, or rather omitted completely from as is often the case, humanitarianism during the interwar period. Indeed, as Howard Kershner, the IC’s Director of Relief for Spain, stated in his book Quaker Service in Modern War, the IC was ‘the curtain raiser of modern relief just as the civil war in Spain was the beginning of modern war.’ By looking at the structure and actions of the IC, this paper will argue that it was during the Spanish Civil War that aid organisations became increasingly complex bureaucratic organisations, although they did not reach the same levels of professionalization as post-WWII organisations, and aid organisations during the Spanish Civil War were essential in bridging the gap between pre- and post-WWII humanitarianism.


Kerrie Holloway is a third-year PhD candidate in History at Queen Mary University of London. Her thesis is entitled ‘Britain’s Political Humanitarians: The National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief and the Spanish Refugees of 1939’, supervised by Dr. Helen McCarthy. Her thesis examines the ways in which the National Joint Committee interacted with the refugees, other aid agencies and different governments and analyses how their political focus affected their work. She has also recently published an article in the Journal of European Studies that came out of her MA thesis, ‘The Bright Young People of the late 1920s: How the Great War’s Armistice influenced those too young to fight’, in December 2015.


Sebastián Farré (Université de Genève), Help the Spaniards! Financing and Organising a Humanitarian Operation during the Spanish Civil War 

This proposal aims to study the problems and limitations of the humanitarian mobilizations by “transnational”actors involved during the Spanish Civil War. Using the specific archival documents of the International Save the Children Union and of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and comparing key “neutral” institutions, specialized in humanitarian action, this contribution uncovers the reasons of their intervention in Spain, as well as their methods and techniques used to rescue Spanish population.These institutions are considered by many scholars as impartial actors. From their perspective, they played a key role serving civilian population, soldiers and prisoners during the wartime. In this presentation, we would like to question the importance of the mobilization of these actors, to explore the ways of interventions by their representatives on the ground, as well as to challenge the international or the transnational framework of this intervention, along with their attitude to two conflicting counterparts.


Sébastien Farré Simon is lecturer at La Maison de l’Histoire, University of Geneva. He was a lecturer at the University of Geneva’s Department of History from 2007-2014, and a fellow of the Swiss National Research Foundation from 2010 to 2012. During that time, he was a visiting researcher at the History Department of Columbia University in New York, and at the Modern European History Research Centre in the University of Oxford’s Faculty of History. His researches focuses on humanitarian Relief history, on the Spanish Civil War, on the Spanish emigration.


Panel 3: Transnational Medical Interventions

Àlvar Martínez Vidal (Universitat de València) and Xavier García Ferrandis (Universidad Católica de Valencia), Spanish Medical Refugees in French Internment Camps: Health Care, Clinical Supervision and Scientific Research (1939–1942)

 The humanitarian crisis provoked by the flood of refugees during the last weeks of the Spanish Civil War, along with policies of exclusion and control applied by French authorities during the first months of exile, has been the subject of a vast body of literature. However, the health crisis caused by the Retirada (exodus), and the later imprisonment in inhumane conditions of hundreds of thousands of people who had suffered the hardships of three years of war, has received much less attention. The limited consideration it has received, simply reported the ‘facts’ provided by the official French health authorities.

A large number of healthworkers were among the Spanish refugees who crossed the French border, including hundreds of doctors, nurses, practitioners, and other healthcare professionals. These healthworkers, who shared the fate of the Republican exiles, spontaneously provided care in difficult circumstances to the Spanish sick and wounded, both inside and outside the camps.

This contribution aims to focus on health activities and on scientific research developed by Spanish doctors -mainly Catalans- interned in French concentration camps, which were carried out in conditions of extreme shortage.


Seb Browne (University of Kent), Across the Pyrenees: Medical Care of the Defeated in French and Spanish Concentration Camps and Prisons following the Spanish Civil War

The Insurgent offensive against the Republican Army in Catalunya begun on 23 December 1938 prompted the beginning of an exodus that was to result in the flight of 470,000 refugees into France, the greatest number crossing the frontier in the two weeks that preceded Franco’s closure of the border on 10 February 1939. Republican forces fought a well-organised retreat and much of the army of the Levant passed over into France where it was disarmed and its soldiers incarcerated in concentration camps, with initially little or no shelter or sanitary facilities and treated as prisoners of war. Nevertheless, not all of the army in the north was able to flee and concentration camps at Reus and Tarragona were hastily constructed to accommodate the 116,000 Republican soldiers and prisoners captured by Francoist forces, and the number in the prisons and camps of the new regime was to swell even further with Insurgent victory in April 1939. The experience of the interned soldiers and that of the many thousands of civilians including

children subjected to the repressive measures of the Francoist penal system, echoed on one level that of their compatriots in France as they too were subjected to life in unhygienic and insanitary environments and exposed to the extremes of weather, hunger and work in labour battalions, and this paper explores the medical experience of the vanquished of Spain’s brutal civil war.


Seb Browne is a PhD candidate in his final year at the University of Kent. Twenty years as an Operating Department Practitioner before becoming a full time student in 2007, and an interest in contemporary Spanish history, led him to an examination of the important but largely overlooked contribution made by Spanish medical personnel during the Spanish Civil War.


Alfons Zarzoso (Museu d’Història de la Medicina de Catalunya), War and Surgery between Catalonia and England: Political Exile and Medical Training of Pere Gabarró (1936–1947)

In this paper I would like to show how the Catalan surgeon Pere Gabarró rebuilt his professional life and became a plastic surgeon after living a long exile in England. That was the first of the two exiles experienced by that medical doctor, being the second one what has been called as “home exile” after his return to Spain in 1947.

My contribution is centred on the period when Gabarró was a refugee from the Spanish Civil War. Gabarró started working in 1939 under the orders of Sir Harold Gillies and his team of pioneers in plastic surgery. He was later in 1942 appointed as a surgeon in Manchester where he stayed for five years. During that time Gabarró took profit of his training with those pioneers and he acquired a great surgical experience in a very difficult context marked by the experience of a new war. This is an interesting case where the material culture of medicine is mixed with other textual resources in order to better understand the creation of surgical knowledge. Gabarró’s view, and his immense archive of English medical records, allows understanding the consolidation of a medical speciality, plastic surgery, in the particularly difficult context of war and exile.


Alfons Zarzoso is curator of the Medical History Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona since 2000. He has curated medical exhibitions and developed website related projects on contemporary medical press and adverts, medical specialities or medical exile.  He is also an associate lecturer at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where he teaches history of medicine.


Stephanie Wright (University of Sheffield), Franco, Foreigners and Disability in the post-Civil War Era

Though the ‘Nationalist’ war effort in the Spanish civil war was often justified at the time as a defensive war against a ‘foreign’ enemy, the rebel army counted upon significant support from German, Italian and Moroccan troops. Indeed the Moroccan Regulares soldiers, for example, were regarded as some of the Francoist army’s most valued fighters. This paper, therefore, aims to explore the experiences of Franco’s non-Spanish combatants in the aftermath of the civil war, particularly those who sustained injuries as a result of their involvement in the conflict. It will examine the measures put in place to address the needs of foreign veterans, comparing these with those introduced to deal with native Spanish ex-combatants. By exploring the extent to which the Francoist regime took responsibility for the well-being of its foreign veterans, and by analyzing the bureaucratic structures introduced to manage disabled foreign soldiers, this paper will provide a fresh perspective on the legacy of the transnational mobilization which took place during the Spanish civil war.


Stephanie Wright is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield, researching Nationalist disabled veterans and perceptions of masculinity in Franco’s Spain. More specifically, Stephanie’s research examines the activities of the Benemérito Cuerpo de Mutilados de la Guerra por la Patria and how disabled Francoist ex-combatants challenged hegemonic notions of what it meant to be a man in Franco’s Spain.


Panel 4: Propaganda and the Spanish Civil War as a Transnational Conflict

Elisabeth Bolorinos Allard (Oxford University), Ideal masculinity, martial identity, and the Moroccan Regular in the propaganda of the Insurgents 

Modern nationalism took shape and evolved parallel to the development of modern masculinity and adopted the masculine ideal of the heroic soldier as a central means of its self-representation. In the context of the groups and military cultures that formed the insurgent ‘bando nacional’ this masculine/martial stereotype is articulated primarily in the figure of the ‘soldier monk’, which embodied the noble, austere, and fervently Catholic Castilian knight of the sixteenth century, and in the figure of the fanatically violent legionnaire with his cry of ‘¡viva la muerte!, a martial model that that was forged through the harsh experience of the colonial campaigns in Morocco. It was among the Spanish military in Morocco that the July 1936 coup was conceived and carried out, and Moroccan troops, the Regulares, fought within the ranks of the Insurgent army throughout the Civil War.

The significance of this contact with Moroccan culture in the formation of military Africanist and later Francoist identities has been emphasised by scholars in a range of disciplines. This paper draws attention to the figure of the Moroccan Regular as a martial/masculine ideal in the propaganda of the Insurgents and explores the ways in which these perceptions of Moroccan manhood in turn informed their constructions of ideal Spanish masculinity. It draws on a range of textual and visual sources, including Falangist newspapers during the Civil War, Carlos Sáenz de Tejada’s sketches, Joaquín Arrarás’ Historia de la cruzada española (1939-1941), and Tomás García Figueras’ Acción de españa en el norte de África (1939).


Elisabeth Bolorinos Allard is an AHRC funded doctoral candidate in Spanish cultural studies at Trinity College, Oxford. Her thesis explores Spanish constructions of Moroccan Muslim and Jewish culture in relation to constructions of Spanish identity during the colonial campaigns in Morocco (1909-1927). More broadly she is interested in the connectivities of ethnicity, religion, and culture in definitions of identity in Spanish nationalism. In October 2016 she will be taking up a lectureship in Spanish literature at Balliol College.


Rocio Velasco de Castro (Universidad de Extremadura), The Power of Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War: the Instrumentalization of Moroccan Troops

Although the Spanish Civil war is an extensively studied topic, the role of Spanish Morocco in this conflict still requires attention. By framing the historical background of Spanish-Moroccan relations, this paper analyse how the military leaders of the coup d’état used the propaganda inside and outside the Protectorate for their objectives and what were its consequences in social and historical dimensions. On the one hand, an idealistic concept of Spanish-Moroccan “brotherhood” was promoted inside the Protectorate to increase the recruitment of Muslim soldiers. On the other, Nationals conceived the demonization of Moroccan troops in Spain as a psychological weapon to inspire terror in the enemy meanwhile Republican Forces were encouraged to fight against an “underdeveloped state” imposed by Fascists and Muslims.

Nevertheless, the use of Moroccan soldiers had destructive effects in the Protectorate and its native population. It created rifts within the Moroccan communities themselves, dividing villages into those who sympathized with the Spanish colonizer or those who fought for Moroccan nationalism, and created greater poverty. All these consequences will be exanimated. For that purpose, the Moroccan and Spanish points of view have been contrasted through archival documents and bibliography.


Rocío Velasco de Castro is Associate Professor at the University of Extremadura (Spain), Graduated in Arabic Philology, Master in History of Contemporary Spain in the International Context and Ph.D. in 2011 in Arabic and Islamic Studies (University of Seville). For further information, including publications, see: https://unex.academia.edu/velascodecastrorocio.


Mercedes Peñalba Sotorrio (University College Dublin), The Spanish Civil War as an Instrument of anti-Bolshevik Cultural Mobilization

This paper deals with the use of Spanish Civil War as a corner stone of Nazi propaganda aimed at cultural mobilization of other countries against Bolshevism and diversion of attention from Germany. This follows John Horne´s argument that the WWI mobilization should not be seen just as the raising of mass armies or the concentration of economic resources, but also as the engagement of nations with the war effort, imaginatively, culturally and organizationally. Wartime propaganda appears as an important instrument of this type of mobilization. In this sense, the Spanish Civil War provided Germany with an opportunity to reinforce their ongoing anti-Bolshevik campaign that aimed at mobilizing other nations against bolshevism, while hiding Germany’s long-term objectives. Feeding on the fear of Bolshevism that had been growing in Europe since 1917, the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda launched two coordinated campaigns, following German intervention in the Spanish Civil War. The paper examines the relationship between both campaigns, aimed to support the Franquist regime, and to influence international public opinion, turning the war into one of the best-known examples of communism’s voracious and bloody character.


Dr. Mercedes Peñalba-Sotorrío is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for War Studies (University College Dublin) working on the effects of Nazi propaganda on Spain during World War II. She is the author of La Secretaría General del Movimiento: construcción, coordinación y estabilización del régimen franquista (2015).


Panel 5: International Volunteers and their Reception in Spain

Lourdes Prades-Artigas and Lidia Martinez-Altarriba (Universitat de Barcelona), SIDBRINT: A Digital System on the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War

Seventy-nine years have happened from the creation of the International Brigades in the frame of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). After almost eight decades, most of the foreign volunteers who integrate the International Brigades keep on being invisible for the history on the digital information systems.

The recovery of the historical memory on the Spanish Civil War demonstrates the need to develop information systems that support the identification, processing, indexing and retrieving of historiographical sources for research, teaching and reconstructing the past. SIDBRINT (Digital System on the International Brigades) URI http://sidbrint.ub.edu/en is a cooperative and collaborative website of the University of Barcelona. It is the first specialized system for giving the Brigade Members digital identity and visibility. It also supports the research, the legacy of this transnational mobilisation, the historical memory and the didactics of the Contemporary History.

The strength of the project is the desire to work in a collaborative way. Individuals, associations, archives, libraries and research centres are working with SIDBRINT. The goal of SIDBRINT is to combine the efforts of individuals and institutions from different countries, in the same way that the International Brigades decided in 1936 to join forces to stop fascism.


Lourdes Prades-Artigas, PhD in Contemporary History, is the Head Librarian of the “Pavelló de la República” Library of the University of Barcelona. Her research area is International Brigades, Spanish exile and censorship during the Franco Regime. Another interest area is the recuperation systems and databases on contemporary history. Her publications can be found here: http://cataleg.ub.edu/search~S1*cat?/aprades+artigas/aprades+artigas/-3%2C0%2C0%2CB/exact&FF=aprades+i+artigas+m+lourdes&1%2C12%2C/indexsort


Fraser Raeburn (University of Edinburgh), Demobilisation and Remobilisation: British International Brigade Volunteers and Narratives of Victimhood during the Second World War

Although the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, the mythology of the International Brigades marched onwards. Shaped almost immediately by the advent of the Second World War, the narrative embraced not only the continuation of the volunteers’ antifascist fight in this new war, but also their new status as victims of state repression. Their previous role as transnational fighters had supposedly led to their being considered unfit to participate in the new struggle.

While this narrative of victimhood has been questioned to some extent in an American context, in Britain it remains uncontroversial to maintain the state adopted an unfair and short-sighted policy in restricting volunteers’ participation in the conflict. However, new evidence suggests that such blanket conclusions are problematic. While the British state certainly monitored ex-volunteers on a broad scale, direct intervention was carried out in a far more targeted and nuanced fashion that took into account evidence and context beyond an individual’s status as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. This in turn points to some of the problems inherent to the study of International Brigade volunteers: namely, that distortions in the preservation of personal sources and narratives impedes historians’ ability to make satisfactory conclusions regarding volunteers’ collective experiences.


Fraser Raeburn is a second-year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh funded by the Wolfson Foundation. His research deals with Scottish participation in the Spanish Civil War, with some initial findings recently published in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies. He is a Contributions Editor at Pubs and Publications and co-founder of the Scottish History Network.


Richard Baxell (Independent Scholar), Britons in Spain? The Saklatvala Battalion of the XV International Brigade

During the Spanish Civil War some 35 000 men and women from around the world volunteered for the International Brigades. Hailing from some 52 different nations, volunteers were divided up into units based primarily on their nationality and language. Almost 2500 served in the British Battalion, part of the (mainly) English-speaking Fifteenth International Brigade.However, though known as the ‘British Battalion’, el batallón inglés, it was also a mix of volunteers from around the world. There were many from the far-flung outposts of the British Empire – Canada, India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand- plus several from Holland and the Scandinavian countries, included principally because they could speak English. There were a number of Greek Cypriots and a large contingent of Irish, some of them living in Britain, but others not. There was also many Jewish volunteers, mainly the children of East European refugees.

In the main, the different groups cooperated effectively, but rivalries between nationalities certainly developed, as did prejudices, including some anti-Semitism. However, it was the dispute that arose between a number of Irish volunteers and the predominantly British leadership in December 1936-January 1937 that presented the most serious threat to the British Battalion’s discipline and unity.


Virginia López de Maturana and Guillermo Marín (Universidad del País Vasco), Outsiders in the Square. German Nazis and Italian Fascists in a Quiet Town and a Country at War (Vitoria, Spain, 1936–1938)

The city of Vitoria, a locality of traditional social majority unaccustomed to major shocks, lived between 1936 and 1938 an unprecedented symbolic and propaganda activity. The city was early positioned for the Nationalist side, who after some months in October 36, would give rise to what became known as Francoist regime. Although Francoism did not recognize it at first, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported , morally and materially, to the rebels. This proposed text explores the stay of those “exotic strangers” nazis and fascists in Vitoria, his reception by local authorities, and the emotions raised among the locals, in a period that joining Germany and Italy breathed in press, on the radio, in theaters and on the streets. A local view, within a European context of tremendous ideological complexity.


Virginia López de Maturana (1981) and Guillermo Marín (1983) are Doctors in History from the University of the Basque Country. The chronology of their studies is located in the Francoist period. Social policies, symbolic world and mechanisms of nationalization are some of their most remarkable research lines.


Panel 6: Military Intervention: Global Perspectives

Robert Upton (University of Leeds), Hindu Nationalists’ Calls to Fight for Franco in Spain

This paper will explore calls to participate in the Spanish Civil War among Hindu nationalists in India. The late 1930s saw a crucial period in the development of modern forms of Hindu nationalism, in some ways laying out the trajectories of the present-day Hindu nationalist movement. These developments were not merely contemporaneous to European fascist movements; they were self-consciously influenced by them, even imitative of them. This paper will study such Hindu nationalists as the journalist and editor B. S. Moonje, a devotee of Mussolini, whose visit to Rome in 1934 gave rise to his enthusiasm for the militarisation of Hindu youth. Moonje’s newspaper Mahratta was one of several newspapers that, in addition to admiring Italian fascism, chimed with many European fascists in calling for Indian youth to fight for the nationalists in Spain. It will study the conceptions of nationalism that the war helped to shape and burnish in India, and how the experience of calling for mobilisation helped develop notions of Hindu nationalism’s nature, and its relationships to what many Hindu nationalists may have seen as a Francoist clerical fascism.


Robert Upton is currently (2014 – present) a Teaching Fellow in Indian History at the University of Leeds. His current research focuses on the Hindu right, 1920-1939. His PhD (Oxford University, 2013) was a transnational study of late nineteenth century Hindu patriotism (being revised for monograph publication).


Sana Tannoury-Karam (Northeastern University), Defending Arab Freedom in Madrid: Arab Communists in the Spanish Civil War

The memoirs of an Arab communist who fought during the Spanish civil war reveal that when asked about his identity upon his arrival to Madrid, he replied that he was an Arab volunteer who had come to defend Arab freedom at the Madrid Front. For Arab communists who joined the fight, the Spanish civil war was crucial ideologically and globally, but also on a more local Arab scale. On the one hand, Arab communists fighting in Spain carried their local struggles to the civil war; on the other hand, through their communication with their parties and compatriots back home, they also transported the war to the Arab region, creating a space in the Arab communist milieu through which events in Spain were interpreted and adapted to fit local issues. This paper examines these transnational implications of the Spanish civil war by looking at how Arab communists engaged with the war, both in Spain as well as at ‘home’. I examine how this mobility of people and ideas shaped the Arab communist movement, arguing that the civil war was experienced and interpreted within the framework of anti-colonial and anti-fascist currents; the latter became a defining characteristic of the Arab communist movement during the interwar period.


Sana Tannoury-Karam is a PhD candidate of World History at Northeastern University. Her dissertation “Breaking the Silence: A Forgotten Generation of Arab Communist Intellectuals, 1920-1948”, is an intellectual and cultural history of an invisible generation of communists who engaged with local and global struggles, thus contributing to the existence of a multiplicity of voices and opinions in Arab communist history.


Raanan Rein (Tel Aviv University), Fighting for Social Justice on Both Sides of the Mediterranean: Jewish Volunteers from Palestine in the Spanish Civil War 

A strong sense of alienation from mainstream Jewish society in Palestine was a central reason why some 200 young men and women left for Spain in order to fight for the Spanish Republic. Some of them were appalled by the discrimination against the Arab laborers. The Jewish Yishuv leadership had adopted a policy calling for the exclusive hiring of Jewish laborers and watchmen in all Jewish settlements in the 1920s and 1930s. Against the background of increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, the Yishuv leadership was concerned with providing employment to a growing number of people. Following the Arab riots of 1929, there were many in the Yishuv who felt that it was essential to terminate the dependence of the Jewish settlements on the Arab work force. But the implementation of this policy deepened existing tensions between the Yishuv Zionist leadership and the Palestine Communist Party (PCP), to which many of the future brigadistas belonged.

Based on autobiographical writings, individual testimonies and personal correspondence, this paper examines the history of those Jewish volunteers, their motivations, their encounters while in Spain, and the role played by their Jewish identity.


Dr. Raanan Rein is the Elías Sourasky Professor of Latin American and Spanish History and Vice President of Tel Aviv University. He is the author and editor of more than thirty books and over one hundred journal articles and book chapters.


Panel 7: Transnational Identities and Life Narratives

Gina Herrmann (University of Oregon), Spanish and Catalan Women at Ravensbruck

The only Nazi camp designed for women, Ravensbrück, near Berlin, saw some 200 Spanish and Catalan women pass through its gates. They were deported to the camp after having participated in the French Resistance. This paper addresses the two primary autobiographical texts by women survivors: Neus Català’s  De la resistencia y la deportación: 50 testimonios de mujeres españolas (1984) and Mercedes Núñez Targa’s Destinada al crematorio: de Argelès a Ravensbrück (1980). Both books describe what we might call the transnational communist solidarity networks forged between women inmates. I examine how French and Spanish women cooperated during the Resistance; how they describe deportation; and how their narratives pay special attention to support networks—particularly in acts of sabotage in the manufacture of Nazi munitions in satellite slave labor factories– that helped women survive. The case of Ravensbrück allows us to drill down into still largely understudied problems associated with the complicated ways Spaniards thought, felt, and conducted themselves during the Second World War. The consolidation of a uniquely Spanish and Catalan history of antifascism both celebrates and tries to wrest itself from–but will always remain beholden to– the French Resistance narrative. This French plot meanwhile drowned out the Holocaust in order to solidify a postwar French identity grounded in the Resistance. An abiding irony resides therefore in the discursive move by which Catalans and Spaniards layer Holocaust imagery and subject positions on to their own Nazi victimhood at the same time that the resistor blueprints with which they tell their stories almost by definition exclude the protagonism of European Jewry. How Ravensbrück exemplifies this paradox is but one piece of an increasingly interesting, very current, and still shifting public conversation about Spain’s role in WWII.


Gina Herrmann is Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Oregon where she also teaches in Cinema Studies and Judaic Studies. She is the author of Written in Red: The Communist Memoir in Spain (2010) and A Critical Companion to Jorge Semprún: Buchenwald, Before and After (2014). With Sara Brenneis, she is the co-editor of the first comprehensive volume on the topic of Spain, WWII, and the Holocaust: History and Representation.


Lisa Pelizzon (Ca’ Foscari University), The Gaze and the Border in Kati Horna’s photographs

During the Spanish Civil War, many volunteers crossed the Spanish border in order to give their support to the Spanish democratic front. Support came not only from humanitarian or military sources, but also from intellectuals, journalists, writers and – above all – photographers. In 1937, Hungarian-born photo-reporter Kati Horna was put in charge of assembling a collection of photographs from the Republican side.

Among the photographers that made their way to Spain, Horna stood out for displaying the Spanish civil conflict in an unprecedented way. The trope of crossing borders thus became the leitmotiv of her life as well as of her work. To Horna, this meant adopting a two‑directional gaze: an inward one, that she acquired when she met with the Spanish reality, and an outward one, when she disclosed it to the world.

‘Borders’ also appear in Horna’s photos as symptoms (a term I am borrowing from Georges Didi-Huberman) when she captures the people fleeing their bombed-down villages. Those people cross the borders that separate the domestic space from the open-air, suspended leeway of the road. The road itself is turned into a threshold, an emblem in Horna’s imagery and an ever-present living memory.


Lisa Pelizzon is a Doctor in Languages, Cultures and Societies from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. In 2012, she was awarded her doctorate degree on the Hungarian photographer Kati Horna. In 2014, she published Kati Horna, Constelaciones de sentido. Currently, Lisa Pelizzon is a translator, a teacher and a proofreader.


Anna Hajkova (University of Warwick), Oranges, Donkeys, Communism: The Transnational Legacies of the Czechoslovak Interbrigadistas

My paper explores the 2,300 Czech and Slovak volunteers who fought in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, focusing on issues of Communist ideology, masculinity, and international networks. The Czechoslovak interbrigadists embodied the essence of antifascist ared struggle: After 1939, many emigrated to Britain, while others joined the French résistance, returned home and resisted here, and many were deported to Nazi concentration camps. In 1945, after the war, the remaining Spanish veterans personified the core of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, a position cut short by the trials of early 1950s which marked the interbrigadists as outcasts. The interbrigadist veterans, though, continued to believe in Communist case.

By contextualizing the Czechoslovak interbrigadists into the research on Spanish Civil War and post-revisionist Soviet studies, notably Gina Herrmann, Lisa Kirschenbaum, and Igal Halfin, I explore how Communist ideology was lived and narrated. The majority of the Czechoslovak volunteers were working class men who, if it were not for Spain, would have never travelled, and never left a testimony. To them, fighting in Spain represented best time of their lives. A close reading of their testimonies reveals narration as a unique moment of agency and historical self-awareness. It also contributes to our knowledge of Central European masculinities which is mostly a lacuna.

Working with early post-1945 autobiographies as well as memoirs written between 1950 and 1995, my paper explores the early Communist everyman and history of Central European Communism as a history of emotions.


Anna Hájková is Assistant Professor of Modern European Continental history at the University of Warwick. Her manuscript, The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of the Theresienstadt Ghetto, 1941-1945, was awarded the Irma Rosenberg as well as the Herbert Steiner prize. This year she is a Humboldt Fellow at the University of Erfurt with her project, Dreamers of a New Day: Building Socialism in Central Europe, 1930-1970.