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Republic of Egos

A Social History of the Spanish Civil War

Michael Seidman

Publication Year: 2002

Most histories of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) have examined major leaders or well-established political and social groups to explore class, gender, and ideological struggles. The war in Spain was marked by momentous conflicts between democracy and dictatorship, Communism and fascism, anarchism and authoritarianism, and Catholicism and anticlericalism that still provoke our fascination.
    In Republic of Egos, Michael Seidman focuses instead on the personal and individual experiences of the common men and women who were actors in a struggle that defined a generation and helped to shape our world. By examining the roles of anonymous individuals, families, and small groups who fought for their own interests and survival—and not necessarily for an abstract or revolutionary cause—Seidman reveals a powerful but rarely considered pressure on the outcome of history. He shows how price controls and inflation in the Republican zone encouraged peasant hoarding, black marketing, and unrest among urban workers. Soldiers of the Republican Army responded to material shortages by looting, deserting, and fraternizing with the enemy. Seidman’s focus on average, seemingly nonpolitical individuals provides a new vision of both the experience and outcome of the war.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

List of Maps

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pp. ix

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pp. xi

I gratefully acknowledge the support of a number of friends, colleagues, and institutions. An American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship and a University of North Carolina–Wilmington Research Reassignment provided resources that allowed me to spend a year in Spain conducting archival research. ...

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Introduction: Bringing Back the Individual

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pp. 3-13

It remains surprising that a civil war in a minor power on the periphery of Europe has generated and continues to provoke enormous interest. There are, it is said, twenty thousand books on the Spanish civil war—which may be as many as on the French Revolution or the Second World War, undoubtedly more significant events ...

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1. Militancy

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pp. 14-73

In order to understand the long-term causes of the civil war and revolution, it is helpful to return briefly to Spain’s distant past. Spain did not follow the same pattern of development as northwestern Europe. The long Reconquest from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries helped to ensure the domination of a numerically large aristocracy ...

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2. Opportunism

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pp. 74-154

As the war endured, increasing opportunism diluted militancy. By early 1937, what one author has called popular “passionate interest” in the civil war had transformed itself into rank self-interest (Borkenau 1963:212). Around Madrid, desertions became a growing problem for the militias that had played such an important role ...

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3. Cynicism

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pp. 155-216

At the end of 1937, the Republic came to resemble the Confederacy in its final stage. Rojo observed a “defeatism” behind the lines, largely caused by high prices or shortages of food, clothing, and transportation (cited in Salas Larrazábal 1973:1540; see also Cervera 1999:130). The scarcity of fertilizers and means to ship them ...

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4. Survival

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pp. 217-234

At the beginning of 1939, Republicans wanted to divert Nationalists from an imminent conquest of Catalonia with audacious offensives in Andalusia, Estremadura, and Madrid (cf. Rojo 1974:80–84). Republican leaders were on the verge of enacting a plan to land a brigade at Motril (Granada) that would rupture the passivity of this front, ...

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pp. 235-242

The Republic proved incapable of fighting an industrial war, particularly a trench war, which required massive supplies of food, clothing, materials, and weapons. Although Loyalists inherited initial advantages in resources and industry, their enemies proved logistically superior. ...


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pp. 243-278


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pp. 279-290


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pp. 291-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780299178635
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299178642

Publication Year: 2002