Book Review: The People's Army in the Spanish Civil War: A Military History of the Republic and International Brigades 1936–1939


by Alexander Clifford

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen and Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. xvi, 315+. Illus., maps, appends, noted, biblio., index. $35.91. ISBN: 1526760924

An Operational History of the Spanish Republican Army

By the author of Fighting For Spain, this work is an operational history of the Republican Army and the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Clifford opens with an even-handed look at the origins and outbreak of the civil war, and gives us a brief look at its opening months.  After that perhaps too brief a look at the opening months, which largely shaped the rest of the war, Clifford then gives us a look at how the forces defending the Republic, including anarchist, communist, and socialist workers’ militias), local and international volunteers, and loyal police and army formations, into the “People’s Republican Army”, the subject of the bulk of the book.

Clifford’s treatment of the operations of the “People’s Republican Army” is good, showing us how this largely improvised institution turned into a very effective combat force. He does, however, give rather too much attention to the International Brigades. But Clifford also tends to downplay the importance of the political ties that many units in the army retained from their earlier history as militia or volunteer forces. He also understates the sometimes deleterious impact of Soviet meddling on the Republic’s strategic planning and selection of senior commanders.

The two major flaws in the book are the surprising lack of references to the works of José Manuel Martínez Bande and Ramón Salas Larrazábal, which, although Nationalist in slant, throw some interesting light on the Republican Army. The book also lacks an accurate map of the political geography of Spain on the eve of the war. Nevertheless, The People’s Army in the Spanish Civil War is a very good read for anyone with an interest in the Spanish Civil War, and a valuable supplement to Michael Alpert’s primarily organizational history, The Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War.




Note: The People’s Army in the Spanish Civil War is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium (

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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