18 Jun 2013

Classic account of Spanish civil war republished

7:23 am on 18 June 2013

A new edition has been published of a classic account of the years leading up to the Civil War in Spain.

All but a few copies of The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic by English journalist Henry Buckley were lost after a German bomb hit the warehouse where it was stored in London early in World War II.

It remained a collector's item until now.

''There are thousands of books on the Spanish Civil War and I would put it in the top five. It's a wonderful book," said London School of Economics historian Paul Preston.

"This is the culmination of a long struggle to get it out."

Buckley was a great friend of Ernest Hemingway and photographer Robert Capa. Hemingway sought him out whenever he arrived in Spain to get a good briefing on the situation.

More important, said Professor Preston, is that Buckley knew all the major Spanish politicians and many military men of the era.

Buckley arrived in Spain in 1929 and wrote mostly for the Daily Telegraph.

"All my sympathies were with the mass of the people. I had been shocked and horrified by the poverty of the peasants. The brutality of the police and the civil guards. I could not reconcile this with religion," he writes.

He reported the political events leading up to General Franco's military strike, then covered most of the battles, shuttling to the front in cars, buses and trains.

"I would not care if this just was the tale of Spain I were to tell, but in this Spanish tragedy is wrapped the whole collapse of our Western democracy and, I'm afraid, it marks the opening scene of a major tragedy in which our British Empire will be involved," he wrote.

After Franco's victory, Buckley moved to Berlin, then Lisbon. He joined Reuters and covered World War II, landing with allied forces at the Battle of Anzio.

He went back to Spain as Reuters bureau chief for many years before retiring there in 1966. He died in 1972, three years before the death of Franco and the restoration of democracy in Spain.