Essays

Dreaming Wide Awake in the Archives

August 5, 2019
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Dreaming Wide Awake in the Archives

The ALBA collection at NYU’s Tamiment Library is an extraordinary trove of documents, images, and artifacts chronicling the lives of the almost 3,000 American men and women who joined the Spanish Civil War. It collection represents about ten percent of these volunteers—a respectable sampling. But is it representative?
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The Spanish Civil War (1936-1952): A Reinterpretation

August 5, 2019
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The Spanish Civil War (1936-1952): A Reinterpretation

The notion that the Spanish Civil War ended on April 1, 1939 is a convention that is as taken for granted—in textbooks, scholarship and the media—as, say, the date of Franco’s death, November 20, 1975. Yet the death of Franco is a fact, while the establishment of the end of the war in 1939...
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Teaching History through Photography: Retracing Centelles’ Steps in Barcelona

August 19, 2017
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Teaching History through Photography: Retracing Centelles’ Steps in Barcelona

Photography is a powerful teaching tool. Last April, a group of American students and I met Ricard Martínez in front of a pharmacy on Barcelona’s Carrer de Diputació to follow the steps that Agustí Centelles, one of the most important photographers of the Spanish Civil War, had taken on July 19, 1936, the first...
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Franco’s Last Breath: On Catalan Independence

August 25, 2016
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Franco’s Last Breath: On Catalan Independence

Catalonia’s desire for independence has resurged in recent years, thanks in large part to the intransigence of the central Spanish government in Madrid. Historian Eric Smith reviews the history and background of the Catalan independence movement.
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Americans in Spain’s Civil War: A Convoluted Legacy

July 25, 2016
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Americans in Spain’s Civil War: A Convoluted Legacy

James D. Fernandez, New York University Eighty years ago this week, in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, a group of right-wing generals staged a military coup, aimed at overthrowing Spain’s democratically elected government. The July 1936 uprising unleashed what would come to be known – somewhat inaccurately – as the Spanish Civil...
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Rejecting the Cold War Alliance with Franco

June 10, 2016
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Rejecting the Cold War Alliance with Franco

In 1949 Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior under Franklin Roosevelt, described General Francisco Franco as a “mimic of Hitler” whose regime “chokes the breath out of liberty in a police state.” Four years later, The Christian Century, a liberal Protestant magazine, called Spain “that pathetic remnant of medievalism.” The Spanish Civil War...
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“The Earth Endureth Forever”: Hemingway in Spain

June 10, 2016
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“The Earth Endureth Forever”: Hemingway in Spain

Diverse opinion abounds with regards to Hemingway’s actions during and after Spain’s Civil War. The Spanish journalist and diplomat Álvarez del Vayo recalled that “I talked with him in Madrid and I realized the Spanish war was fundamentally alien to him. Hemingway’s was the Spain of the running of the bulls at...
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Spain and Syria: Beyond Superficial Comparisons

June 10, 2016
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Spain and Syria: Beyond Superficial Comparisons

There are numerous comparisons that can be made between the conflict in Syria and the Spanish Civil War. Both conflicts feature a ruthless dictator, appalling loss of life, war crimes and the massive displacement of tens of thousands of refugees. However, such superficial comparisons apply to many other conflicts. Merely in terms of...
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Remembering Margaret Powell

March 22, 2014
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Remembering Margaret Powell

Lily Margaret Powell was born in March 1913, one of nine children, at Cwm Farm, Llangenny, where her father farmed a small Welsh hill farm. She attended the village school, leaving home aged 16 to train as a nurse, first in Essex, later in London at St Giles’, Camberwell, and St Olave’s, Rotherhithe –...
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“And when I get another ship…”

March 21, 2014
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“And when I get another ship…”

The unsung story of the British ships and seafarers who defied fascist bombs and u-boats – along with British government indifference – to trade with Republican Spain.
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