Find out more about the background to A WORLD BETWEEN US


March 1, 2015 by Lydia Syson

There have been about 15,000 books written in English about the Spanish Civil War – twice that many in Spanish, and more are published every month in Spain.

Here I’ve listed some of the books that influenced me most when I was writing A World Between Us, as well as more recent publications, many of which I wish I’d been able to read earlier. I’ll keep adding to both, and including more publication details too. I’ve divided the books and articles into categories, but of course there’s a certain amount of overlap: classics, new works, general histories, memoirs, journalism, medicine, women, poetry, 1930s Britain and so on.  You’ll find details of museums, websites, organisations, walking tours and archives under Links.

These are some of the books that first got me interested in the Spanish Civil War, from teenage years onwards, in order of reading…

Nancy Mitford The Pursuit of Love (1945)

Jessica Mitford Hons and Rebels (1960)

George Orwell Homage to Catalonia (1938)

Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

Gerald Brennan South from Granada (1957) The Spanish Labyrinth (1943)

Gamel Woolsey Death’s Other Kingdom (1939)

Laurie Lee A Moment of War (1991)

Giles Tremlett Ghosts of Spain: Travels through a Country’s Hidden Past (2006)


I found these memoirs by International Brigade Volunteers and others particularly useful:

Walter Gregory The Shallow Grave 

Tom Wintringham English Captain

James Neugass War is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War (ed. Peter N. Carroll & Peter Glazer) (Read reviews in The Nation and the LRB.  Use this website if you’re going to Spain and want to see where Neugass wrote about.)

Jason Gurney Crusade in Spain

David Crook Hampstead Heath to Tian An Men 

Hank Rubin Spain’s Cause Was Mine (1997)

Penny Fyvel English Penny (1992)

George Wheeler To Make the People Smile Again (2003)

Bernard Knox Premature Anti-Fascist 

Charlotte Haldane Truth Will Out (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1949)

Alvah Bessie’s Spanish Civil War Notebooks (University Press of Kentucky, 2001)

Marcel Acier, ed. From Spanish Trenches: recent letters from Spain (1937)

John Langdon-Davies Behind the Spanish Barricades (1936)

Ed. Cary Nelson & Jefferson Hendricks Madrid 1937: Letters of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade From the Spanish Civil War

Francesca Wilson In the Margins of Chaos (1944)



Women’s perspectives:

Jim Fyrth and Sally Alexander, eds. Women’s Voices from the Spanish Civil War (1991)

Angela Jackson British Women and the Spanish Civil War (2002)

Paul Preston Doves of War: Four Women of the Spanish Civil War (2004)


General histories:

Anthony Beevor The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

Helen Graham The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction (2005)

Gerald Howson Arms for Spain: The Untold Story of the Spanish Civil War (1998)

Jim Jump, ed. Looking Back at the Spanish Civil War (Lawrence & Wishart, 2010)

Paul Preston The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge (Harper Perennial, 2006) 

Richard Baxell British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War: The British Battalion in the International Brigades, 1936-1939 (Warren & Pell, 2007)

Judith Keene Fighting For Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain During the Spanish Civil War (Continuum, 2007)

Bill Alexander British volunteers for liberty (1982)

James Hopkins Into the heart of fire (1982)



Jim Jump, ed. Poems from Spain: British and Irish International Brigaders on the Spanish Civil War (Lawrence & Wishart, 2006)

Valentine Cunningham The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse (2008)

Langston Hughes Spanish Civil War Broadside 

(Read more about Hughes here and here.)

W.H.Auden Spain, (Faber & Faber, 1937)

Ed. Pat Sloan John Cornford: a memoir (1938)

Jane Dowson, ed. Women’s Poetry of the 1930s: A Critical Anthology (Routledge, 1995)

Jane Duran Silences from the Spanish Civil War (Enitharmon Press, 2002)



Medical History:

Nicholas Coni Medicine and Warfare: Spain, 1936-1939 (Routledge, 2008)

Angela Jackson Beyond the Battlefield: Testimony, Memory and Remembrance of a Cave Hospital in the Spanish Civil War (Warren & Pell, 2005)

Robert A Kilduffe and Michael DeBakey The Blood Bank and the Technique and Therapeutics of Transfusions (1942)

Reginald Saxton ‘The Madrid Blood Transfusion Institute’, The Lancet 1937 pp606-7

Ted Allan and Sydney Gordon, The Scalpel, the Sword (1952)

Sinclair-Loutit K, ‘An ambulance in Spain’, The Lancet 1936, pp1295-6.

Alex Tudor Hart, ‘War Surgery in Spain’, The British Medical Journal , May 27 1939, p1099



Paul Preston We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War (Constable, 2009)

Herbert Southworth Guernica! Guernica! A Study of Journalism, Propaganda and History

Arturo Barea The Forging of a Rebel: the Clash (Granta, 2001)

Ian Patterson Guernica and Total War (Profile, 2007)

Virginia Cowles Looking for Trouble (1941)

Edward Knoblaugh Correspondent in Spain (2004)

Martha Gellhorn The Face of War (1959)


Britain in the 1930s & East End

Jim Fyrth The Signal was Spain (Lawrence & Wishart, 1986)

Emanuel Litvinoff Journey Through a Small Planet (1972)

Simon Blumenfeld, Jew Boy (1935) (Look at the original cover.)

Arnold Wesker Chicken Soup with Barley (1958)

Leila Berg Flickerbook: An Autobiography (1998)

Tom Buchanan The Impact of the Spanish Civil War on Britain (Sussex Academic Press, 2006)

Paul Laity, ed. Left Book Club Anthology (Victor Gollancz, London, 2001)

Juliet Gardiner The Thirties: an intimate history (HarperPress, 2010)

Tony Kushner & Nadia Valman, Remembering Cable Street: Fascism and Anti-fascism in British Society (Valentine Mitchell, 1999)

Joe Jacobs Out of the Ghetto (1991)



Other fiction

Javier Cercas Soldiers of Salamis (2004) (You can hear a fascinating Q & A on the book with Cercas himself, including readings, chaired by Harriett Gilbert on the BBC’s World Book Club.  Highly recommended.)

Alberto Méndez Blind Sunflowers (2008) (Hear the book discussed on Radio 4’s A Good Read)

Almundena Grandes The Frozen Heart (2011)

Andre Malraux Days of Hope (Penguin, 1989)

Ernest Hemingway The Fifth Column (1939)


Books for children and YA

Joan Lingard Tell the Moon to Come Out  (Puffin, 2003)

Michael Morpurgo Toro! Toro! (HarperCollins, 2007)

James Watson The Freedom Tree (first published in 1986, this is now available again as an ebook)

Alan Gibbons Street of Tall People (Five Leaves, 2011)


Newly available:

The Guardian Book: selected Guardian reports of the SCW, 1936-39 (available online as a pdf)


Some documentaries available online:

Voices from a Mountain (David Leach, 2001): ‘A documentary film about British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, focusing on the re-discovery in the Pandols mountains near Gandesa, Catalonia, of a memorial to English-speaking soldiers killed at the Battle of the Ebro in the summer of 1938.’

part one, part two, part three, part four

*NEW* This original film shows the return of the British volunteers in December 1938, and was screened at the Philosophy Football commemorative event in December 2013:


These were published after I’d written A World Between Us and represent the very latest research:

Richard Baxell Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle Against Fascism (Aurum, 2012)

Paul Preston The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain (HarperPress, 2012)

Helen Graham The War and its Shadow: Spain’s Civil War in Europe’s Long Twentieth Century (Sussex Academic Press, 2012)

Linda Palfreeman Salud!: British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Service during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (Sussex Academic Press, 2012)

Angela Jackson For Us It Was Heaven: The Passion, Grief and Fortitude of Patience Darton – from the Spanish Civil War to Mao’s China (Sussex Academic Press, 2012)

David Lethbridge ‘The Blood Fights on in Other Veins”: Norman Bethune and the Transfusion of Cadaver Blood in the Spanish Civil War’, CBMH/BCHM, Vol 29:1 2012 p. 69-81.

David Rosenberg Battle for the East End: Jewish responses to fascism in the 1930s (Five Leaves publications, 2011)

The Cable Street Group, The Battle of Cable Street (2011)

Richard Rhodes, Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made (Simon and Schuster, 2015) Watch his excellent introduction to the SCW here.

Peter N Carroll, From Guernica to Human Rights: Essays on the Spanish Civil War, (Kent State University Press, 2015)


Films worth watching (for all sorts of reasons…)

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Butterfly’s Tongue

Land and Freedom

Mourir á Madrid

The Spirit of the Beehive

(Find out more about the Spanish Civil War on screen here and here.)


Radio programmes online:

BBC Radio 3 Night Waves discussion with Paul Preston and Maria Dalgado

Radio New Zealand:  ‘I Remember Jarama’ & ‘A Nurse’s Story’

CBC Radio‘s The Spanish Crucible offers a chance to hear rare recordings of Canadian volunteers


Full English text of Dolores Ibárruri’s farewell address to the International Brigades




  1. […] buy it see See Lydia’s blog for links to SCW It is also published as a Multi-touch iBook2 from Apple iBook store with lots more info on the SCW. […]

  2. Jeff Beddow says: is a link to Norman Bethune’s article about the civilian exodus from Malaga to Almeria Feb. 1937. Not sure if you intend this level of detail on this page but it is a startling account.

  3. María del Carmen Repecho says:

    Dear Mrs Syson, thank you very much for the amount of interesting resources about the SCW! I would like to know in which aspects was the diary of James Neugass useful for writting your novel. Thank you very much in advance!

    • Lydia Syson says:

      Hello Maria

      I’m so glad you’ve found this site informative. I think James Neugass’ book was so useful because it has an unusual immediacy and raw honesty about it, with little sense of writing to convince a particular audience. He describes his experiences with a poet’s eye for detail, and his role as ambulance driver set him slightly apart from either medical teams or combatants, making him a particularly good observer of things. The sections in Teruel are extraordinarily vivid. Have you read ‘War is Beautiful’? If so, what did you think? All the best, Lydia

  4. Stuart Horn says:

    There is a great performance of Maxine peak reading la passionaras farewell speech to the international brigades on you tube

  5. […] I’d approached A World Between Us with all the rigour I’d bring to any adult book, plotting the novel against the narrative of the war itself – Cable Street, the siege of Madrid, Jarama, Guernica, Brunete, Ebro, and back to London’s East End  – so that my readers would have a good sense of the broader sweep of events.  Given their age, it was vital my research didn’t shout about itself.  Story was everything. On discovering we had a few pages to play with, my editor suggested a brief chronology of the war could follow the Historical Afterword. I’d planned to use my website to list and link to sources. […]

  6. Stuart Walsh says:

    Hi Lydia, pinned this to International Brigades Remembered facebook group, hope that’s okay, we get a lot of enquiries about what to read, and yours seems very useful, especially as we are getting awful lot of new members of late, and is usually new members who make request for what books to read.

    • Lydia Syson says:

      Hi Stuart, Apologies for my horribly slow reply. Of course that’s ok — very kind to keep recommending ‘A World Between Us’, and I hope it continues to prove useful for new members! All the very best, Lydia

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