Labour History Review

Ideology, Idealism, and Adventure: Narratives of the British Volunteers in the International Brigades

Labour History Review (2016), 81, (2), 123–140.

Abstract

A great deal is now known about the age, social class, occupation, and political affiliation of the roughly 2,500 British volunteers in the International Brigades. Far less, however, is known about their personal motivations. This article explores the narratives that have framed our understanding of the British Battalion, and asks how these narratives match up to the complexity of individual volunteers’ lives, before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War. The article focuses on a number of particular volunteers such as Ralph Fox, George Nathan, and Wilfred Macartney, and shows how the study of their supposedly well-known lives can still yield surprising new insights. Above all, these stories warn against any temptation to romanticize the war in Spain and the role of the volunteers: a temptation that has often proved all too irresistible.

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Author details

Buchanan, Tom