Book Review: Linda Palfreeman, Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances.

Alan Sennett

Image © Bas de Jong

Linda Palfreeman’s new book, Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances. British Medical Units in the Spanish Civil War, makes an important contribution to the historiography of Spain’s bitter civil war. Building upon her earlier ¡Salud! British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Services During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (2012), the author offers a well-documented account of two hitherto neglected British humanitarian initiatives. While British relief efforts for Republican Spain have been well documented and analysed, there remain notable silences in the historical record. Read more of this post

Book Review: A Life of Dissent by Christopher J. Walker

Tom McGuire

Copyright The National Archives UK`s photostream

A biography of Oliver Baldwin, 2nd Earl Baldwin and the elder son of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; a socialist Labour MP, and Governer General of the Leeward Islands. His was a complicated and full life of contradictions and colour, told in full for the first time by Christopher Walker.

Born into the traditional British establishment Oliver Baldwin went to Eton before the First World War broke out when he joined up and fought with great distinction at the age of eighteen. Following the war he was sent to Armenia as a military advisor, captured and imprisoned by the Soviets and then the Turks: by the age of twenty-one he had seen more from life than many Brits back then saw in a lifetime. At this point Baldwin takes a very different path to that of his upper class peers. He left Britain to travel the world, supplementing his jaunts with work as a travel writer; he returned to Britain the gay (at a time when homosexuality remained illegal in Britain) and Marxist son of the Prime Minister. In the years that followed Baldwin continued his journalism and became a Labour MP (sitting opposite his father in the Commons), a playwright, novelist, and eventually returned to military duty when the Second World War came calling.

After the war the Labour government (that he had been part of until the death of his father meant he had to move to the Lords) sent him to the Caribbean as Governor General of the Leeward Islands where he caused trouble by supporting the natives in calls for greater economic freedom from the British businessmen who owned the sugar plantations and was eventually recalled. Read more of this post

The British Gunner and the Irish Civil War

Nora Connolly

Michael Collins

Copyright drick

The BBC Radio 4`s investigative history series (Document) has unearthed evidence concerning a sensitive period in Anglo-Irish relations, the programme focuses on a primary source written by a British soldier, Percy Creek which undermines the nationalist foundations underpinning the establishment of the Irish state and potentially damages the heroic status of Michael Collins.

On the 6 December 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed and ratified in Dail Eireann January 1922. This granted dominion status or partial sovereignty to the twenty-six counties, amongst other things the British held various sea-ports in the South and significantly the island was partitioned with the North remaining within the United Kingdom.

As the broadcast explains the Anglo-Irish Agreement led to a split in the Irish Republican movement, into pro and anti-Treaty camps. In April 1922 anti-Treaty forces took control of Dublin`s Four-Courts, while a general election was underway in the South, resulting in the pro-Treaty forces gaining power. Those supporting the agreement included Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy and Arthur Griffiths and on the anti-Treaty side De Valera and Rory O`Connor. A political split eventually led to armed insurrection and Civil War, a bitter struggle the first shot fired on the 28 June 1922, when the Provisional Government led by Collins attacked the Four-Courts – then under the control of Rory O`Connor – attempting a re-run of the 1916 Easter Uprising – he was executed in December 1922. Read more of this post

Howard Zinn and the Myth of the Good War.

Howard Zinn

Copyright Howard Zinn/Voices

Nora Connolly

As Remembrance Sunday approaches our thoughts will soon turn to the horrendous casualties of war, indeed the armistice date for me conjures up many ambivalent feelings. I consider the First World War a pointless loss of life, lion`s led by donkey`s a clear example of a bad war without a rationale or justification. But I honour the falling on both sides, the majority of whom were working-class people duped or compelled by a cruel system to do it`s bidding.

The Second World War is different a “people’s war” fought to end fascism a noble endeavour to defeat the tyranny of the fascist jackboot. But have I by accepting this view of the Second World War as a worthy conflict, fallen victim to what Howard Zinn called the `Myth of the Good War`?  Are not all wars by their very nature bad and could other ways of combating fascism have been found. Read more of this post

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