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Stanley G. Payne's Civil War in Europe, 1905-1949 is a very useful book

Without a doubt, Stanley G. Payne is an invaluable source of information on the Spanish Civil War.  This book (titled, like all the other ones on the topic, The Spanish Civil War) is a badly-needed corrective to the prevailing leftist narrative on that conflict.

Payne's expertise extends beyond Spain, and in his book, he dropped tantalizing hints of his research in other civil conflicts.  His Civil War in Europe, 1905-1949, fleshes out his references and gives the reader a quick and accessible study of war and revolution during the period in question.

With a title like that, one might expect a massive Hugh Thomas-sized doorstop, but in fact it is a slender volume with less than 250 pages.  It is densely-packed with information, however, and Payne peppers his book with footnotes pointing the reader to more detailed accounts of the various topics he touches on.

In a sense, this book serves a similar purpose to Long Live Death, which is to say it serves an accessible bridge to other, more comprehensive sources.  Of course, it's more than just a bibliography or reader's guide to the topic - Payne traces common themes that connect the various revolutions (or attempted rebellions) and does so in a fair-minded way, free of bias.  As with his biography of Franco and The Spanish Civil War, this sometimes makes him appear an apologist for fascism or the right.  He is not.

His is honest.  He doesn't flinch from noting that leftist atrocities are almost always worse than those on the right and he also notes that a great many historians are willing to downplay Communist crimes while highlighting (and often exaggerating) those done by their enemies.

His examination may be brief, but he's thorough, and touches on subject often ignored, such as the religious aspect of the conflicts.  He is one of the only sources to note the feebleness of the Eastern Orthodox Church in resisting Communism, which contrasts sharply with the Catholic response to it, particularly in Spain.

For those who were wondering, Spain does get a detailed treatment in the book, largely because the conflict was a culmination of the other civil wars.  Even if you know quite a bit about that topic, it's useful to see it brought into direct comparison with the other wars.

I have but one minor quibble with Payne's analysis.  In his introduction he notes that the American Civil War wasn't really a 'civil war' at all, but an attempted war of liberation by the South.  Such wars almost always succeed, which makes the conflict unique.

I believe Payne is only partially correct.  Yes, the war was about preventing secession, but this issue of slavery (particularly emancipation) added a moral aspect to the conflict, and that was ultimately what sustained the Union war effort.  I would therefore characterize the US Civil War as a hybrid of the two, mixing religion and liberation and this was why the South was defeated.

Other than that, it's a great book, and worth reading. 

I've noted before that the current situation reminds me of Spain in 1936, but Spain itself hearkened back to earlier crises.  It's good to have them all brought together in a single place.

 

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