[Spanish Rehearsal by Arnold Lunn was published in 1937. A Nationalist supporter he gives us his eyewitness account and analysis of the conflict up until that point. The general impression left by his chapter, “The Charges Against the Red Troops,” is very different from the impression left by the section on atrocities in the Wikipedia article. Probably the single most important charge that Lunn makes, which some—but not all—of the reviewers of Paul Preston’s book (see below) flatly contradict, is that “Red atrocities were the cause, rather than the consequence, of the Franco rising; the outrages were not isolated and unplanned but general and continuous.” Possible reasons for this discrepancy in interpretation are:
1. Lunn’s account was based on information from the first half of the conflict.
2. Lunn was biased in favour of the Nationalists.
3. The Wikipedia article is biased in favour of the Republicans.
4. Bias (or partiality) is unavoidable, given the philosophical aspects of the conflict.
Lunn’s book was republished in 1973, and William F. Buckley, who wrote the foreword, began as follows: ‘The research into the Spanish Civil War goes on. Year after year they write about it. There is apparently no end to the fascination with it, and it is not hard to see why. It was a truly modern war. It was a war that entirely engaged an entire people. It was humanly and philosophically exhausting. It was the centre of world attention. . . .’ Lunn, in his introduction to the new edition, notes, ‘As most of these books support the Republicans who lost the war, I am all the more grateful to Mr. Devin Garrity of the Devin-Adair Company for republishing Spanish Rehearsal, first published in 1937, when the war was still being waged.’ Although the figures that Lunn presented for Nationalist victims of Republican terror have not stood the test of time, he saw no reason to revise his original judgment as to the greater justice of the Nationalist cause. During 1944 Lunn and George Orwell often lunched together, and Lunn claimed that despite Orwell’s view that a victory for the Republicans would have been the lesser of two great evils, he conceded the main points in the Nationalist case. Elsewhere Lunn gives his rationale for being at odds with Jacques Maritain, an eminent Catholic convert from a notable French republican family: ‘Maritain is a philosopher and was much exercised as to how the Nationalist cause could be described as a crusade. I did not care a button how we were described, provided that we won, but my crude approach is very different from that of a subtle philosopher. If I am convinced that one side is 70 % in the right, I am 100 % behind that side and prefer to postpone all discussion of rights and wrongs until the issue has been decided in our favour. All that interested me was that Catholics were free to worship in Nationalist Spain whereas in Red Spain the churches were burnt or defiled and only the priests who were in hiding escaped being shot.’
Nor has the attitude of the academy and the predominantly liberal intellectual classes changed. They overwhelmingly supported the left-wing Republic during the conflict, and more than seventy years after it ended their loyalty and approval remains substantially undiminished. A very recent example of this is Paul Preston’s 2012 book, Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. It is clear from the title which side Preston is on. Nevertheless, as an eminent British historian and Hispanophile, Preston’s thesis deserves careful consideration. Using reviews of Preston’s book as a jumping off point, a meticulous and exhaustive comparison of Lunn’s minority position with that of the liberal establishment might be of great educational value in examining the subtle and complex nature of bias. To this end a selection of reviews from various sources, followed by an interview with Preston himself, are provided below. There are also links to a 1983 BBC documentary on the Spanish Civil War.]
The New York Times (friendly)
The Wall Street Journal (hostile)
The Guardian (friendly)
The Telegraph (friendly)
The New Republic (friendly)
Times Higher Education (friendly)
The Independent (friendly)
The Volunteer (friendly)
Price Writes (friendly with reservations)
War and Security (friendly)
The Economist (neutral)
The Irish Times (hostile)
Hope Not Hate (friendly)
The Literary Review (friendly)
The Camposol District Journal (friendly)
Harper Collins (friendly)
BBC Radio 3 (Preston Interview)
[In 1983 the BBC produced a six part documentary (312 minutes running time) on the Spanish Civil War. In my opinion it leans too far to the left. Nevertheless, it is very well made and contains a lot of great archival footage. It can be found on youtube via the link below.]
Prelude to Tragedy (1/6)
Revolution, Counter Revolution and Terror (2/6)
Battleground for Idealists (3/6)
Franco and the Nationalists (4/6)
Inside the Revolution (5/6)
Victory and Defeat (6/6)
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