Book Review: Kiwi Companeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War


by Mark Derby

Christchurch: Canterbury University Press/Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2009. Pp. 304. Illus., append., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-87725-771-1

Redolent of Spanish Republican “Lost Cause” historiography, Kiwi Campaneros nevertheless takes an interesting look not only at New Zealanders who served, but also at the overall relationship of the Commonwealth to the defining ideological struggle of the mid-1930s. 

Derby, a journalist and director of New Zealand’s Labour History Project, divides the work into four parts.  The first is devoted to those who took up arms and the second to those who served in other ways, including people who migrated to New Zealand after the war, and, unusual in works on the subject, does include some who served the Nationalists.  The third, and perhaps least satisfactory part, covers various aspects of the political, social, and culture response to the war, such as the roles of New Zealand’s Communist Party and Catholic Church during the war, Commonwealth foreign policy, and the literary legacy of the war.  The final part is a short essay on historical memory.  Despite the overall Republican slant, the work does touch upon some of the less savory aspects of Republican Spain, such as the bloody purging of non-Stalinist leftists and the routine execution of “Fascists.” 

A good read for those interested in the Spanish Civil War.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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