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SPAIN: The Civil War and historians

Rosa de Pena mentioed Pio Moa, Myths of the Spanish Civil War, which has surprisingly been a best seller in Spain. Here is an excerpt from a review in The Guardian (4/22/02): "Moa, who in 1976, the year after Franco died, helped found an armed communist revolutionary group, now blames modern rightwing politicians for not defending the dictator's reputation. "The right will swallow anything just so that it does not seem itself to be Francoist," he complains. His book had been largely ignored by academics until state television devoted a programme to him, bringing accusations that the rightwing government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's People's party backed his thesis. "Moa gave up terrorism and claims to have become a liberal but, in reality, has been washed up on the shores of 1950s Francoism," retorted Javier Tussell, one of Spain's foremost historians. "He is by no means a professional historian ... The Myths of the Civil War is systematically against the left and in favour of the extreme right. It drips with extravagance."

RH: Two well-known historians of modern Spain. both WAISers, are directly involved. Moa takes issue with Paul Preston; I would like to know if Paul has replied. Stanley Payne has reviewed the book, pointing out the failure of the republican politicians whose alleged misgovernment facilitated the Franco revolt. Carmen Negrin is the granddaughter the last republican leader, Juan Negrín. Another WAISer, also w well-known historian of modern Spain, David Wingeate Pike, who is at present attending a conference in Naples, should also have an opinion on Pio Moa's book. We would like to hear from all of them,as well as from Spanish WAISers.

This takes us back to our history project: how do people learn about the past of their country? Even professional historians, who carefully weigh the evidence, disagree sharply. Enter tbe revisionist historian. who may be serious and important, like Darwin, who was in fact a revisionist historian of mankind. However, most revisionist historians are like Moa, untrained and emotionally unbalanced attention-seekers. Typical are those who deny the Holocaust. These sensation mongers get attention and force conventional historians to revisit the evidence. However, if they get control of textbooks in countries like Germany, the consequences could be incalculable. Presumably revisionist historians are at work in Russia. Can Cameron Sawyer tell us anything about that?

Ronald Hilton - 7/8/03