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The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War

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For over half a century, the history of the Abraham Lincoln brigade - the 2,800 young Americans who volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic against General Francisco Franco's rebellion in 1936 - has been shrouded in myth, legend, and controversy. Now, for the first time, we have a comprehensive, objective, and deeply researched account of the brigade's experience in Spain and what happened to the survivors when they returned to the United States. About one-third of the volunteers died in Spain. The book is ...
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Overview

For over half a century, the history of the Abraham Lincoln brigade - the 2,800 young Americans who volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic against General Francisco Franco's rebellion in 1936 - has been shrouded in myth, legend, and controversy. Now, for the first time, we have a comprehensive, objective, and deeply researched account of the brigade's experience in Spain and what happened to the survivors when they returned to the United States. About one-third of the volunteers died in Spain. The book is largely based on previously unused sources, including the newly opened Russian archives, and more than 100 oral histories. The author charts the volunteers' motivations for enlisting in the fight against Spanish fascism and places their actions in the context of the Depression era. The battleground experiences of the brigade have never before been depicted in such vivid detail, and such battles as Jarama, Belchite, and the Ebro come alive in the participants' words. The author uses the military aspects of the war to illuminate such related issues as the influence of political ideology on military events and the psychology of a volunteer army. He also closely examines the role of the Communist party in the conduct of the war, including the "Orwell question" - allegations of a Communist reign of terror in Spain - and investigates the alleged racial problems within the brigade, the first fully integrated military unit in American history. The book continues the saga of the brigade by relating the problems of the surviving volunteers with the U.S. army during World War II; their opposition to the Cold War, the Vietnam war, and U.S. intervention in Central America; their persecution during the Red Scare of the 1950's; and their involvement with the civil rights movement.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Carroll Keeping Time: Memory, Nostalgia, and the Art of History skillfully melds the simple brutality of the Spanish Civil War with the human complexity of the 2800 American volunteers who fought in it from 1937 to 1939. Known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, most of these Americans were Communists who saw themselves as liberators and antifascists. After portraying their diverse, Depression-era backgrounds, Carroll follows them into battle in Spain where one-third died and nearly all were wounded. Almost half had no previous military experience, and the oral accounts of 200 contemporary survivors tell heartbreaking stories of slaughter. Meanwhile, as the U.S. government stressed nonintervention, observers assessed the fight as a ``laboratory for the weapons of the next war.'' Surviving Lincolns returned as outcasts, facing indictments by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and, only through persistent idealism, did the Lincolns sustain their fight and maintain the right to protest publicly. Not until 1965 was the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade removed from the list of subversive organizations, ending 25 years of harassment. The breadth, depth and humanity Carroll depicts set this engrossing work apart from other juiceless war reports. July
Mary Carroll
Drawing on more than 100 oral histories, newly available Spanish civil war archives in Moscow, the major archival collections at Brandeis and Berkeley, and dozens of veterans' private collections, Carroll provides an overview of the experiences of some 2,800 U.S. volunteers during and after the 1930s struggle between Loyalists and Republicans in Spain. "Odyssey" combines political, military, and intellectual history: It traces the process through which U.S. volunteers were recruited to the cause; offers a vivid narrative of the bloody battles in which fully a third of the U.S. volunteers died; and then pursues the personal and political journeys of the survivors through World War II, McCarthyism, the civil rights and antiwar movements, and up to the present. Carroll analyzes the role of the U.S. Communist Party in organizing and leading the volunteers in Spain, as well as later divisions when some veterans rejected the party's positions. Dozens of portraits of individual veterans demonstrate clearly that the political consciousness and commitment that brought them to Spain in the thirties remained, for most of these men and women, an enduring source of strength and identity.
From the Publisher

"Peter Carroll has written with great skill and understanding the fifty-year story of the Americans who fought in the Spanish civil war. Never has the complicated and intriguing tale been told so fully, drawing as it does not only from survivors who can recount their experiences, but also from a wealth of original material, including the just-opened archives in Moscow. What is particularly fascinating is the account of the tribulations and triumphs of the veterans in the years after they were 'premature anti-fascists.' This is the moment for this book to appear, and one is grateful that it has been done so well."—Peter Stansky, Stanford University

"This rare, this astonishing book—rich, authoritative, and moving as it is on its central subject—through Peter Carroll's way of chronicling becomes something even greater: an urgently contemporary touchstone that helps us discern in our time similar contending forces in moral, not political terms—good against evil, might against right, means against ends. In a vivid, pulsing narrative, Carroll encompasses the historical context, the drama of men in battle, and most of all the haunting human beings themselves. But what can be found nowhere else is his account of the succeeding fifty years of those who survived, as they stubbornly clung to their beliefs in the necessity of action and the possibility of transformative social change."—Tillie Olsen

"Compelling . . . swift-moving collective biography of the Lincoln Brigade. . . . A richly detailed story of men and women who threw themselves into the great events of their times, holding nothing back."—New York Times Book Review

"Tapping new sources for the first time, this must surely be considered the definitive work on Americans who fought and died for the Spanish Republic."—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804722766
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Series: Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 460
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter N. Carroll is an independent scholar who teaches at Stanford University and the University of San Francisco.
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