Book Review: Hell And Good Company

Hell And Good Company:  The Spanish Civil War And The War It Made, by Richard Rhodes

Why was this book made?  It seems as if the author looked at the large number of books that are written about the Spanish Civil War, almost all of which are grossly unjust in bias towards the reds and against the whites, and the author decided that the historiography was not biased enough and so he needed to make an even more lopsidedly balanced book.  How biased is this book?  The author simultaneously mocks the bullying that Francisco Franco suffered from the hands of his abusive father and cruel schoolmates without showing any sympathy for him and then spends a significant amount of time in this book showing the behavior of nurses on the side of the reds so that they can look extra human while completely making the whites out to be inhumanely cruel.  This is a book that seems to exist mainly for the author to get credit and clout with an increasingly more extreme leftist world of Academia, which, it bears repeating as a man who has read a lot of biased books on the Spanish Civil War, is already an extremely biased field as well.

This book is between 200 and 250 pages and is divided into three parts and thirteen chapters.  The preface begins the work with a justification of the book’s existence.  After that the first part of the book discusses the overthrown past that the author is nostalgic for (I), with chapters on the death of people in nationalist zones (1), the light of the burning city of Madrid (2), the heroic reds (3), and the bombs falling thanks to the superiority of nationalist artillery and planes (4).  After that the author whines about the dream and supposed lie of Franco (II), discussing the propaganda of Guernica (5), the fight for Jarama (6), the battle over homesteads and property (7), daily life (8), the sea of suffering and death in the battles (9), idealists who were disabused of their naivete (10), and the foolish hope of the Republic in the face of defeats and losses (11).  Finally, the author very briefly covers the defeat of the Republicans (III), with chapters on the victory of Franco (12), the history written by the defeated (13), and an epilogue that tries to point to triumphalism in the period after Franco’s death (14), after which the book ends with acknowledgements, notes, a bibliography, index, and credits.

Overall, this is a terrible book largely in what it omits.  What it presents is a view of the Spanish Civil War that looks at those like George Orwell who were hostile to Stalinism with a condescending view, has no milk of human kindness for those who were right of center, viewing them as fascists and not having any interest in talking about something that would view them in a complex or nuanced or human fashion.  What is included in this book, aside from the usual leftist bias taken to an even larger extreme, is a discussion of the sort of people who fought on the side of the reds, and what they suffered, and the way that their suffering motivated them to make their sacrifices worthwhile.  Of course, the cause that the author supports is a terrible cause, but there is a lot of tension here between the author’s desire to praise the leftists for being more successful or more resilient than given credit for while also portraying the whites as being cruel and barbaric monsters, and the end result is that some aspects of the author’s bias undercut other aspects of it and reveal much of the leftist reportage of the Spanish Civil War, including this book, as mere propaganda.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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