LIBERTY’S FIRE at Hot Key Books





The Paris Commune, 1871

Find out more about the history behind Liberty’s Fire


The Battle of Britain and the Home Front

Find out more about the history behind That Burning Summer


Spanish Civil War 

Follow this link for many more ideas for further reading, listening and viewing

Interview in Camden New Journal

The International Brigade Memorial Trust was formed in 2002 to educate the public in the history of the men and women who fought in the International Brigades and worked in medical and other support services in the Spanish Civil War. The IBMT website is extremely comprehensive, and includes a ‘roll of honour‘ listing volunteers from the British Isles known to have died in Spain.  This is regularly updated as new information becomes available.

The British Battalion’s archives are housed at the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell.

Trabajadores: The Spanish Civil War through the eyes of organised labour: over 13,000 pages of SCW archives, with useful background information about the conflict.

London’s Imperial War Museum offers a particularly wide range of resources on the Spanish Civil War, from posters to interviews, many accessible online.

The Working Class Movement Library in Salford is rich in SCW material, including archival material from a number of organisations established in Britain to help the Spanish Republic (British Youth Peace Assembly/Spanish Youth Foodship Committee, Friends Of Spain, Manchester and Salford Foodships For Spain, National Joint Committee For Spanish Relief, Spanish Medical Aid Committee, Wounded and Dependents’ Aid Committee)

If you are going to Madrid, you won’t find a better guide than Almudena Cros of Across Madrid Tours. Highly recommended, whether you want a general introduction for children or have specific research questions. Almudena offers unique insights into Spanish Civil War history, politics and art.

Spartacus Educational includes a comprehensive and accessible SCW online ‘encyclopaedia’.

Richard Baxell, author of Unlikely Warriors, is the leading historian of the British volunteers in Spain.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives is an invaluable resource: a non-profit educational organisation dedicated to promoting public awareness, research, and discussion about the Spanish Civil War, with an emphasis on American volunteers.

Americans in the Spanish Civil War is a fascinating ongoing project to build a comprehensive biographical dictionary of American individuals involved in the war.

In Spain there is a now a campaign for a Truth Commission on the Crimes of Francoism (Plataforma por las Comisión de la Verdad sobre los crímines del franquismo), a coalition of over 100 agencies and organisations around the world trying to create a UN Truth Commission in pursuit of justice for the families of the victims of the enforced disappearances that took place during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship that followed. Read more about the initiative here (on the ALBA site).

The AABI – Associacion de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales – is a voluntary organisation dedicated to preserving the memory of the International Brigades in Spain, and celebrating their spirit.  You can read the AABI’s wonderful website in many languages and also buy their guide to places/routes in Madrid connected with the International Brigades in both English and Spanish.

International Brigader Bosco Jones talks about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War.

Philosophy Football is the place to go for Spanish Civil War T-shirts, books, events, etc.

Porta de la Historia offers SCW related tours in Catalonia and beyond, and lots of information on their website too.

The Spanish Civil war at Archives Hub: here you can search across archives held at 220 institutions across the UK.

Watch Pathé newsreels of the Spanish Civil War, such as this 1937 report on the bombing of Madrid.

HOPE– Heritage of People’s Europe – networks the digital collections of European institutions in social history and the history of the labour movement & unites more than 880,000 digitised objects from the end of the 18th century down to the present, making them available through web based platforms like Europeana and the Labour History portal.

Finding John Cornford is a new project devoted to raising the profile of one of the first British volunteers to fight and die in Spain in order to increase awareness of the war and its wider consequences.


The East End, London & Britain in the 1930s

Historian David Rosenberg offers guided walks of the East End and further afield – the perfect introduction to London’s radical past. Anti-Fascist Footprints is a two-hour tour from Gardiners Corner to Cable Street, telling the stirring tale of the East End’s resistance to Mosley’s Fascists.  Or contact David for details of a specially devised A World Between Us walk, ideal for book groups: visit the main East End locations in the novel and find out more about the fascinating historical background to the story. A World Between Us walks last 90 minutes and cost just £6/£4, with a minimum group size of 8.

Webhome of the Cable Street Group

The Bishopsgate Institute is the home of world-renowned collections on London history, labour and socialist hoister, free thought and humanism, co-operation, and protest and campaigning (including the archive of my grandfather, Jack Gaster)

The Jewish Museum in London has a strong social history collection, including material on the SCW.

Inspired by activists: Freddy Shaw writes about his IB father, Jack Shaw

London Books are ‘flying the flag for free-thinking literature’

London Fictions is a site celebrating the novels which capture the essence of an intriguing city


The Archive of the Communist Party of Great Britain is an immensely rich online resource, which makes available material housed at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (LHASC), Manchester.

For younger children, Becky Jones & Clare Lewis’ London Adventure Walks for Families offers a great choice of self-guided explorations of the city, including a Spitalfields walk (pp106-112)


Music, art & photography

Find out lots more about the songs in A World Between Us here and listen to a radio documentary about the Republican music of the Spanish Civil War made for the 75th anniversary of its outbreak.

The Visual Front is an exceptionally well-documented online gallery of Spanish Civil War posters from the Herbert R. Southworth Collection

The BNE (Biblioteca Nacional de España) also has a huge number of posters.

You can see photographs from the PCE Archive (mostly of Madrid 1936/37 – some are very distressing) on the SBHAC website (Sociedad Benéfica de Historiadores Aficionados y Creadores) which is dedicated to preserving Republican memory. (PCE: Spanish Communist Party)

The story of The Mexican Suitcasethe discovery of missing negatives of photographs taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and ‘Chim’, is told at the International Centre of Photography website, where you can see extraordinary galleries of SCW images by all three photographers.

David Hoffman has specialised in social issues photography for over 30 years, and I’m very grateful to him for permission to use an image of the annual International Brigade commemoration in London on this site.


History and Fiction

The History Girls is a daily blog by a group of writers of historical fiction, many of whom write for children and young adults. You’ll find posts on a vast range of subjects and periods here, links to great blogs, competitions, news of new books and plenty of surprises. Thoroughly recommended. * UPDATE: I blog on the 6th of each month *

Novel Approaches is an online resource that came out of a conference on academic history and historical fiction held by the Institute for Historical Research.  It’s well worth a visit.

At An Awfully Big Blog Adventure you’ll find the Ramblings of a few Scattered Authors. Not specifically historical, it’s a brilliantly eclectic group blog with links to contributing authors‘ websites. (They’re all members of the SAS, as am I – that’s the Scattered Authors Society, a welcoming group of published authors for children and teenagers.)



You can order Lydia’s thesisAfrica’s El Dorado: Timbuctoo in the early nineteenth-century cultural imagination, at the British Library, hear her speak on the subject on the programme The World, or read her article in frieze magazine.



Hear Lydia discuss the book on Woman’s Hour

Richard C Sha reviews ‘Doctor of Love’ in Medical History 

Joanna Bailey reviews ‘Doctor of Love’ in Journal of Historical Biography

Ken Arnold reviews ‘Doctor of Love’ in The Lancet

Making Sex Electric: Dr James Graham and his ‘Celestial Bed’: lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons, recorded 20 May 2009

(and many more reviews here)


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“A mesmerising portrait of a family unravelling” THE TIMES (Best historical fiction in 2018)

“Powerful, intense and beautiful” HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW

“This tense, evocative, richly-imagined novel conjures the voices of a strange time and place, and makes them universal” EMMA DARWIN

“Syson brings history alive” THE OBSERVER

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