‘Emphatically not cricket’: British eyewitness testimonies of revolutionary Catalonia, 1936 | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 35, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1364-971X
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9150

Abstract

In spite of significant interest in British responses to the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), the raft of eyewitness accounts which hitherto anonymous Britons relayed to the regional press during the opening months of the conflict are yet to receive systematic attention. By using Britons who were present in Catalonia between July and September 1936 as a case study, this article seeks to reconstruct the multifaceted process by which numerous eyewitness testimonies came into existence, as well as their subsequent relationship to broader debates about the Civil War in Britain. It argues that the lived encounters which were sustained between both tourists and long-term residents with the revolutionary events which took place in Catalonia following the military rising in July were fundamentally circumscribed by their status as foreigners, as well as their tendency to rationalize their experiences with the aid of pre-existing, culturally rooted stereotypes and assumptions. British reactions generated ‘on the ground’ in Spain were subsequently converted into supposedly authoritative first-hand testimonies in close cooperation with local journalists eager for sensational ‘human interest’ content, before going on to form an early input into the widespread attitude that the Spanish Civil War amounted to little more than incomprehensible anarchy.

Resumen

A pesar del interés que existe respecto las reacciones británicas a la Guerra Civil Española (1936–39), los testimonios que docenas de personas de origen británico transmitieron a la prensa regional durante los primeros meses de la contienda, nunca han sido un objeto de investigación sistemática. A través de un estudio de caso sobre aquellos británicos que se encontraron en Cataluña entre julio y septiembre de 1936, este artículo pretende reconstruir el multifacético proceso a partir del que surgieron dichos testimonios. Asimismo, también se pretende indagar en la relación que estos tuvieron con los debates más amplios que se estaban desarrollando sobre la guerra en Reino Unido. Se sostiene que los encuentros que tuvieron lugar entre los británicos en Cataluña con los acontecimientos revolucionarios que sucedían a su alrededor fueron circunscritos por su estatus como extranjeros y una tendencia a racionalizar sus experiencias a través de varias suposiciones preconcebidas. Sus experiencias se convertían, después de volver a Gran Bretaña, en testimonios escritos como consecuencia de una íntima colaboración con periodistas en busca de contenido sensacionalista. Aquellos testimonios formaron una primera contribución a la actitud predominante de que la Guerra Civil no representaba más que una especie de anarquía incomprensible.

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