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Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne
(2008)

Esenwein. George Richard
The Cold War and the Spanish Civil War: the impact of politics on historiography,   pp. 175-189 ff.


Page 177

The Cold War and the Spanish Civil War 
British author George Orwell (Eric Blair) and the independent scholar, Burnett
Bolloten. 
According to the revisionists, it is because both of these men had become
widely recognized 
as authorities on the Spanish Civil War that it was now necessary to expose
the fundamental 
shortcomings of their works. Above all, this was to be achieved by treating
their writings on 
Spain more as ideological expressions of the Cold War era than as important
contributions 
to the historiography of the Spanish Civil War. 
The main aim of this essay is two-fold. On one level, I would like to challenge
the 
aforementioned suppositions of the revisionist school of scholars. To this
end, I shall argue 
that, in their campaign to divest Civil War studies of its Cold War ideological
overtones, the 
revisionists have unfairly and inaccurately characterized both Orwell and
Bolloten as Cold 
War warriors. Secondly, the essay will point out the ways in which the revisionists'
discourse 
on the Civil War is no less politicized than those of previous generations.
As such their efforts 
to achieve a consensus view of the war which is constructed around their
own readings of 
that conflict often impedes rather than encourages scholarly efforts to achieve
a more bal- 
anced picture of this highly controversial and complex subject. 
Personalities 
Anyone who is familiar with the literature on the Spanish Civil War will
recognize the names 
of Burnett Bolloten (1909-1987) and George Orwell (1903-1950). However, most
people 
are unaware of the extent to which both men were connected by their respective
personal 
and professional involvement in the Spanish conflict. George Orwell came
to Spain in late 
1936, not only as a writer and journalist, but also in order to fight for
a cause in which 
he deeply believed: the defense of a democratically-elected government against
a rebelling 
group of military officers and their supporters on the right. Though he was
a person of 
strong left-wing convictions, Orwell was no ideologue. Thus, when he was
unable to enlist 
in the Communist-directed International Brigades, he readily seized the opportunity
to join 
a militia attached to the anti-Stalinist POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificaciiin
Marxista), the 
sister party of the British left-wing organization with which Orwell had
personal ties, the 
Independent Labour Party. As a member of the POUM militia stationed on the
relatively 
quiet Aragon front, Orwell became a participant in the fighting. During and
following the 
episode of the war that has come to be known as the May Events of 1937, his
role in the 
war underwent a significant transformation. Caught up in the bitter and destructive
political 
wrangling that characterized Republican Spain at the time, he was able to
observe first-hand 
the war within a war that raged in Barcelona from May 3-7, 1937. Later, while
he was 
convalescing from a near-fatal wound he received on the Huesca front, Orwcll
returned to 
Barcelona, where, thanks to his affiliation with the now vilified POUM, he
became a politi- 
cal outcast. Along with his first wife, Eileen, he was forced to flee Spain
in June 1937. It was 
also at this point in his sojourn in Spain that we see Orwell, the writer,
coming to the fore. 
177 


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