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The International Brigades


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The first major history of the International Brigades: a tale of blood, ideals and tragedy in the fight against fascism

About the Author

Giles Tremlett is a contributing editor to the Guardian and Fellow of the Canada Blanch Centre, London School of Economics. He has lived in and written about Spain for over twenty years, and is the author of Catherine of Aragon, Ghosts of Spain and Isabella of Castile, winner of the 2018 Elizabeth Longford Prize. He lives in Madrid with his family.


A narrative of astonishing scope ... This latest study is a remarkable act of scholarship, as well as being captivatingly readable. The first overarching history of the brigades in English, it is alive with the testimonies of those who fought, and so much richer for stretching far beyond the obvious and famous Anglophone accounts of men of letters ... Tremlett is a worthy custodian of their stories. He has created a dazzling mosaic of vignettes and sources, of lives lived and lost, of acts of heroism, solidarity, betrayal and futility, that builds to a grand picture of a conflict that drew idealists from across the world. The war left many of them in despair, injured or dead - but also hardened many more in their determination to defeat fascism. This book is as close to a definitive history as we are likely to get -- Dan Hancox * Guardian *
Tremlett's book marks a heroic episode in the history of the left. At a time when real fascists with real guns are patrolling the streets of American cities, and when far-right violence is on the rise in Spain, the sacrifice of the International Brigaders deserves to be remembered. In doing so, Tremlett reminds us that even just wars are dirty and chaotic, breeding grounds of sadism and injustice, and that the selfless often die first -- Paul Mason * Observer *
This evocative study is the first comprehensive history in English of all the 35,000 international volunteers who fought the combined forces of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco in Spain ... Far more than a civil war, it was Europe's war against Fascism. Giles Tremlett encapsulates its huge stakes perfectly ... There's no feeling of a heavy read here, such is Tremlett's deft handling of the material and page-turning prose. The story races along, replete with memorable stories and poignant vignettes ... [A] gripping book ... Through it, the 1930s come hurtling into our twenty-first century present -- Helen Graham * Literary Review *
A deeply impressive work of scholarship that captures the universal drama of the Spanish Civil War ... Tremlett brings literary verve to what is the definitive global account of the Brigaders and a moving epic of fraternity in combat * New Statesman *
Meticulously researched and engagingly written. Tremlett resurrects an extraordinary cast of characters ... The Brigaders remain heroes of the left for their internationalism and self-sacrifice. Tremlett has done them proud * Economist *
This is a fine, massively detailed monument to a lost cause ... Tremlett has accomplished a tremendous feat -- Jonathan Meades * Telegraph *
The bravery and sacrifices of the volunteers from all over the world who fought fascism in Spain keep alive interest in the civil war. Many of the tens of thousands of books about the conflict are about the International Brigades but there has never been one like Giles Tremlett's deeply moving and endlessly informative account. Bursting with memorable quotes and anecdotes, it provides, in lucid and compelling prose, the overall history of the Brigades that has been lacking -- Paul Preston
Magnificent. Narrative history at its vivid and compelling best -- Fergal Keane
More than eighty years after the civil war ended on April 1, 1939, the story of what inspired left-wing sympathisers from all over the world to fight, and what became of them, still fascinates and impassions ... It is an epic tale and Giles Tremlett's The International Brigades nails it with the decisiveness of a political commissar's bullet to the back of a deserter's head. Using widely trawled research, he has created an electrifying narrative that brings to life the idealism, suffering, chaos and paranoia of what a journalist at the time called the "most truly international army the world has seen since the Crusades" ... A powerful portrayal of an episode underpinned by what Nehru, after visiting a British unit, called "so much human courage, so much of what was worthwhile in life" -- Isambard Wilkinson * The Times *
Tremlett deftly interweaves this rich archival material with colourful first-hand accounts from numerous participants ... A highly engaging read, helped considerably by the author's fluid prose style and journalist's eye for a good story ... A well-researched and comprehensive work of scholarship -- Richard Baxell * Spectator *
Impeccably researched ... It's from within the ranks of those often poorly armed and untrained individuals from every conceivable walk of life and corner of the world that the compelling narrative of this book draws its most vivid accounts ... The accounts are searing ... Perhaps one of the most valuable qualities Tremlett brings to this historical tour de force is a determination not to avoid the darker side of goings on within the ranks of the Brigades ... In our own troubled political times, with the far right and fascism again on the rise, there is much that resonates and that we can learn from this magnificent book * Herald *

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