El Cid and Francisco Franco


Something for the weekend.  The theme song from the movie El Cid (1961).   The theme and the etchings at the beginning of the film I find very evocative of Spain and Spanish history.

I have always loved this film for many reasons:  the acting is of a high level (in spite of, or perhaps because, Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston cordially detested each other);   I find medieval Spain and the Reconquista inherently fascinating;  the film has scenes of compelling beauty, as if painted sequences from a medieval manuscript have been brought to life;  and, of course, it is simply a rattling good retelling of the legend of El Cid.   However, the background story of the film is just as fascinating as the film itself.

Filmed on location in Spain, the film had the enthusiastic support of dictator Francisco Franco, including the use of thousands of Spanish troops in the battle scenes.  Franco fancied himself as a modern El Cid, and the film fit right in with his belief that Spain was a great nation that had saved Christendom from the threat of expansionist Islam in the days of El Cid and Communism and Arnarchism in the time of Franco.

Even the scenes of El Cid fighting with muslims as allies in the film would have been congenial to Franco as he had used North African Morrocan Regulares during the Spanish Civil War.  (Republican propaganda blasted Franco for bringing the Moors back to Spain.)  The film portrayed El Cid as the hero who saved Spain from a foreign menace and unified Spaniards.  That is precisely how Franco viewed himself.

The reality was somewhat different for both men.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, born into a noble family in Castile, made his way in the violent world of Eleventh Century Spain by his wits and his sword.  Born in 1043, he fought in his first battle in 1057, and by 1079 was an experienced general, winning for Castile the battle of Cabra against the Moorish Granadan army.  Running afoul of King Alfonso VI of Castile, he took service for several years in the Moorish kingdom of Saragossa.  (Politics in medieval Spain made strange bedfellows, and it was not unusual for alliances to cut across the religious divide of Christian and Moor.)  Under the Cid’s brilliant leadership Saragossa was held against assaults from enemy Moorish and Christian armies.

The Islamic fundamentalist movement, known to history as the Almoravids, began an invasion of the Iberian peninsula in 1086, sending wave after wave of black garbed Berber armies into Spain.  At the great battle of Sagrajas, a combined Christian army under Alfonso VI was decisively defeated by Almoravid and local Moorish forces.  El Cid was probably at this battle leading a contingent on the Moorish side.  The battle and its aftermath effectively stalled the Reconquista for several generations.

In the aftermath of Sagrajas, Alfonso recalled El Cid from exile, realizing that he now needed the services of the best general in Spain.  Leading combined Christian and Moorish forces, El Cid took the Moorish city of Valencia in May of 1094.  Although technically a vassal of Castile, El Cid was now a king in all but name.  After three years of peace, Valencia was besieged by the Almoravids, with El Cid dying from an arrow to the heart while fighting in the siege.  Valencia fell to the Moors in 1102, with the Cid”s wife  Jimena  fleeing to Burgos with his body.  Valencia would not come under Christian rule again for 125 years.

From the bare facts of his life it is somewhat difficult for me to see why Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar became a national hero, but become a national hero he did.  His title of Cid was awarded to him by admiring muslims, the term meaning lord/master in Arabic (sayyid).  He was often called El Cid Campeador, campeador being campi doctus, doctor of the camp, a reference to his mastery of the military art.   His contemporaries regarded him as the greatest knight who ever lived, and since his time every generation of Spaniards have thrilled to his, mostly, fictional exploits, as legends became clustered about him even before his death, and minstrels and poets began to make him a myth before his corpse was cold.  My favorite El Cid legend is well represented in the film:

Between the time of El Cid and Francisco Franco, the Moors were expelled from Spain, Spain became a unified monarchy, and, in the Sixteenth Century, Spain bestrode the world as the greatest power on the globe.  Then Spain’s long and painful decline set in.  When Franco was born in bleak Ferrol, Galicia, Spain had become a joke on the world stage.  The mighty Spanish empire had largely vanished and would soon completely vanish as a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898.  Spain spent the nineteenth century riven by civil wars, military uprisings and periods of stagnant peace under an utterly corrupt parliamentary regime with rigged elections.  The glory that had been Spain seemed utterly gone, leaving Spain a backward backwater of history.  Franco’s family had produced naval officers for six generations for Spain, and they had been eye witnesses to the decline of Spanish power.

Franco’s mother Maria was a pious Catholic and a very good woman.  Franco’s father Nicolas would eventually rise to be an Admiral in the paymaster service of the Spanish navy.  He was also a freemason and a “free thinker”, as well as being a drunk and a skirt chaser.  He deserted his wife in 1907 and moved in with his mistress in Madrid, with whom he would cohabit for the rest of his life.  Franco, justifiably, took his mother’s side and all her life was her defender and support.  His father made disparaging remarks about Franco throughout his life.  When he died in 1942, Franco made certain he was buried with full military honors, but Franco did not attend his funeral.  I think the emotional distance that was a constant feature of Franco’s life may have partially stemmed from this traumatic breakdown in his family.

A naval career was denied to Franco due to the Spanish naval academy being closed from 1906-1913, a testament to the diminished size and importance of that branch of the service.  In 1907 Franco enlisted as a cadet in the infantry school in Toledo.  Commissioned in 1910, Franco spent the next 16 years mainly fighting in the savage Rif wars in North Africa.  He became the second commander of the Spanish Foreign Legion.  He earned a reputation for absolute fearlessness in battle, military professionalism and  ruthless discipline.  One story told about Franco during this period gives us considerable insight into the man.  Franco was inspecting a platoon of the Spanish Foreign Legion when one of the legionnaires threw a bowl of soup in his face in protest of the poor quality of the rations.  Franco said nothing, took out a handkerchief and wiped the soup away, and continued on with the inspection.  After the inspection he said the man was quite right:  the rations were poor and he ordered that they be improved immediately.  He then ordered the immediate execution of the legionnaire who threw the bowl of soup at him for assaulting a superior officer.

Spain emerged victorious in the Rif wars, due in no small part to the efforts of Franco, who in 1926 found himself the youngest general in Europe.  In 1923 he married his wife Carmen, like his mother a pious Catholic.  He would lavish upon her, their daughter, and his eventual grandchildren, the love he displayed to few others in his life.   His wife’s piety rubbed off on Franco, and from a fairly indifferent Catholic he became a fairly fervent one.

In 1934 Franco put down a socialist and anarchist rebellion in Asturias, his first major role in the ongoing tragedy soon to turn Spain into a charnel house.  The rebels committed atrocities and Franco and his troops matched them in the shedding of blood to instill terror and break the back of the resistance.

The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 is one of the most controversial periods in modern history.  It is also one of the most dishonestly covered.  During Franco’s reign in Spain, the war was depicted inside Spain almost entirely as a glorious crusade for God and Spain  in which Spain was saved from Communism and Anarchism.  Leftist historians outside of Spain during Franco’s reign from 1939-1975 depicted him as a fascist who crushed valiant, albeit flawed, Republicans defending a revolution which promised social justice and freedom .  Since the fall of Franco the Left version of the war has become a virtual catechism both inside and outside of Spain in most of the histories written about the war.  This is sheer nonsense and cartoonish historical rubbish.  A blog post can’t correct the historical record, but here are  some basic facts.

1.  Spanish politics in Spain prior to the Civil War went to extremes.  The Left, Socialist, Communist and Anarchist, used blood curdling rhetoric threatening extermination to the social classes and groups that opposed them.  The Church was a favorite target of the Left.

2.  The Right, Monarchists, Catholics, and many Radicals and Centrists,  increasingly lost what little faith they possessed in democracy and became  authoritarian, with the home grown Spanish fascist party the Falange being only one manifestation.

3.  Political violence, including ever increasing Church burnings, was a staple feature of Spanish life in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War and created an atmosphere of violence and hate that contributed materially to the onset of actual civil war.

4.  When the Leftists were in power they routinely did their best to destroy the influence of the Church.  Pius XI complained vehemently about this in Dilectissima Nobis in 1933.  In addition to a political war, a culture war also raged between Right and Left.

5.  Spaniards of all political stripes were convinced that conventional politics could not save Spain, but perhaps some violent convulsion could.  A better world through a violent struggle was a commonplace theme for politicians of both the Right and the Left prior to the war.

6.   When a portion of the military rose in rebellion in July 1936 against the new Leftist government,  a wave of murderous persecution against the Church was unleashed in Republican regions outside of the Basque areas unrivaled since the French Revolution.  Thousands of priests, brothers and nuns were put to death in bloodlettings that can  scarcely be believed when read as cold history.  This allowed the Nationalists to claim that they were engaged in a Cruzada (Crusade), and from the perspective of a Catholic who simply wanted his clergy not to be murdered and to be able to attend Mass freely, one can see how that claim seemed entirely valid.

7.  Both sides in the war committed sickening atrocities and mass executions.  Each side was determined that in the new Spain after the war their adversaries would be dead or impotent.  Outside of the Basque regions, freedom was equally non-existent in Republican and Nationalist Spain, with the key exception that Catholics could freely worship in Nationalist Spain, something they could not do without risking their lives in the non-Basque areas of the Republic.

8.  The Republicans concentrated on making a revolution, while the Nationalists concentrated on winning the war.  The Nationalists built a mass army which was professionally trained and led.  The Republicans were amateurish in comparison, with Leftist, Communist and Anarchist politics usually taking a front seat to military matters, and sometimes breaking out into open warfare between Republican factions.  Officers of the pre-civil war Spanish regular army who fought for the Republic tended to be viewed with great suspicion by their political masters, and they were often advised that their families would pay the ultimate penalty if they proved disloyal.

9.  Franco was no military genius but a solid commander.  He conquered the Basque regions and the other Republican regions in the north of Spain, and then split Republican Spain into two sections with an offensive that reached the Mediterranean south of Barcelona.  He never panicked during the war and always maintained adequate reserves to crush Republican offensives, which were always futile bloody failures.  Considering the fact that throughout most of the war the Republicans had the most productive and populous regions of Spain under their control, Franco’s victory was quite impressive.

10.  The intervention of the foreign powers of  Germany and Italy on the side of the Nationalists, and the Soviet Union on the side of the Republicans, was not the decisive factor in the outcome of the war.   The foreign units and the international brigades attracted a lot of press attention at the time, but militarily they were not significant, with the exception of the German air  transport units at the beginning  of the war that flew Franco’s Army of Africa into Spain.

During the War Franco and the Nationalists referred to the Republicans as Reds and Anti-Spain,  while the Republicans referred to the Nationalists as  Fascists and the lapdogs of Hitler, Mussolini and the Vatican.  The truth of course was that both the Nationalists and the Republicans were representatives of a divided Spain, a Spain that collectively decided to go to war against itself.  In the aftermath of the civil war, Franco got the opportunity to recreate Spain.

Massive executions followed the Nationalist victory, as no doubt they would have followed a Republican victory.  It was a rare family in Spain that had not had a member murdered during the conflict.  Most of the Republicans executed probably had engaged in crimes that warranted execution.  The essential injustice of course was that the hands of the victors were just as blood stained and they would receive no justice before an Earthly tribunal.  Many Republicans received long prison sentences.  Most of the prison sentences were eventually reduced and the prisoners amnestied before serving their full sentences, and by the end of the Forties Spain had relatively few political prisoners.

During World War II Franco played a skillful cat and mouse game with Hitler, indicating in 1940-1941 that he was just itching to come into the war on the side of Hitler, but always making such intervention contingent upon impossible demands for German economic assistance to Spain.  I think Franco clearly never had any intention of entering the war and simply strung Hitler along.  Personally, Franco had no sympathy for the Nazis as he had no sympathy for any politicians no matter what they called themselves.  (He often said that Spanish politicians had done their very best to destroy Spain.)  No Jewish refugees were ever returned to Hitler and Franco ordered that they be treated as gentlemen.  Some 40,000 fleeing Jews made their way safely through Spain during the war.  Sephardic Jews in North Africa had helped fund the Nationalist cause in the civil war and Franco never forgot a favor or an offence.  Allied airmen who crashed in Spain were not interned, as was normal procedure for combatants entering a neutral country, but given a good meal by the Spanish Air Force and driven to British controlled Gibraltar to get back into the war.  When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Franco sent a division to fight against the Soviet Union, the Azul (Blue) division.  The division consisted largely of Falange volunteers officered by regular Army Spanish officers.  Franco thus was able to say that he was helping Germany without getting involved in a war with America and England who could actually attack Spain.  The Azul division was withdrawn by Franco’s order and returned to Spain in 1943.  Spanish Republican exiles pressed the Allies to invade Spain and topple Franco, but due to his skillful balancing act between the Axis and the Allies, Franco ended World War II still in charge of Spain.

Franco would remain Head of State, responsible, as he liked to say, only to God and to History, for the next three decades. Under his oppressive regime Spain enjoyed a growth in prosperity unknown since the glory days of the Spanish Empire.  Franco was pragmatic when it came to economics.  When his initial attempts at economic autarky in the Forties and Fifties proved a miserable failure, in the late Fifties he promoted technocrats, many of them Opus Dei members, who steered Spain in a free market direction which proved enormously successful.  Socially Spain under Franco was quite conservative, at least outwardly, with Franco letting the Church set the tone for public morals.

Franco found Spain divided and he left Spain divided.  The Socialists who currently rule Spain seem to spend half their time attempting to remind Spaniards of what a terrible dictator Franco was, and passing legislation to commemorate the victims of Francoism.  Of course they are silent as to the crimes of their ideological forebears.  Books praising Franco, and there are a few, often end up on the best seller lists in Spain, showing that the Caudillo still has his admirers.  Two Spains still exist side by side, and neither Franco nor his adversaries could solve the problem of a bitterly divided nation.

Like his hero El Cid, Franco is now part of Spanish history.  God has judged him and history has begun a never-ending process of judgment on him.  Like El Cid the Spanish will never forget Franco, whether they hate or love him, and I think he would have found that very pleasing.

More to explorer


  1. Franco’s rule (and Pinochet’s) demonstrate that you can have a Catholic, socially-conservative culture combined with mostly free markets. These examples totally crush those who argue that economic freedom necessarily means moral collapse.

  2. Stanley Payne is an excellent academic historian of Spain whose books are eminently readable and quite historically objective. He’s a conservative, but he doesn’t let his personal politics impinge on his historical work, other than insofar as he is fearless in knocking down politically-correct interpretations of Spanish history. One of his best general books on Spanish history is entitled “Spain: A Unique History”:


    Payne makes it abundantly clear that most modern Spanish historians are far too PC and unserious in their descriptions of Moorish Spain being “multicultural”, wherein three major religions co-existed peacefully and equally. That’s poppycock, of course. He also does an excellent job describing the Spanish Inquisition(s), both the secular and religious ones, and Spain’s role in the Crusades. Great stuff!

  3. One of the things that makes me dislike Franco the most is his centralizing tendencies after the war: I mean his repression of the historical regions, banning of languages other than Castilian, etc.
    The irony of it is that some of the members of the Nationalist side of the war (Carlists, traditionalists, etc) had a long history of supporting decentralism, subsidiarity, criticizing the tyranny of the central power, support in the Basque country and Catalonia, etc.

  4. The motto of Franco Josh was : Spain: one, great, free. By free he meant free from foreign influence. By great he meant modern Spain should live in accord with the traditions of the past. By one he meant that separatists could pound sand as far as he was concerned. The last was modified somewhat due to the fact that he did receive substantial support from Navarre, Catalonia, and almost every section of Spain, ideological divisions tending to trump regional differences for many individuals. Franco’s model for his regime was the centralized control of the French state, which tended to irk some of his erst while supporters after the war.

  5. @Don–thanks for the link! That was quite an informative article. I had read some of that before, of course, but lots of detail to fill in the missing history, so-to-speak.

    @Josh, as someone who lived in the Basque Country of Spain for two years, I tend to agree with those criticisms. Don, you have a point in Franco’s modelling his one-nation solution on the French state, and indeed many among the minority-language groups were of a separatist bent (and those were strongly backed by the Communists and Republicans, of course), but there’s undoubtedly a tremendous amount of excessive oppression of minority languages that occurred under Franco’s watch, and that even well into his reign and decades after the Civil War.

    I’m by no means well-versed in the differing factions who supported Franquismo during the Civil War and during his 36-year-long rule, but I know that by no means were the expected alliances always strong. Like Josh mentions, the Carlists and other traditionalists weren’t uniform in their political support during those tumultuous years, and certainly the Franquismo oppression of the minority languages and cultures of northern Spain bear some responsibility in the development of home-grown radical groups like ETA and some of the tiny bands of Catalán terrorists and their political backers. Always a trade-off between freedom and unity, I suppose. Spanish history is endlessly fascinating!

    History is full of imperfect people, and very infrequently are things as cut-and-dry as “good guys” vs. “bad guys”, eh? Must be that old fallen nature/concupiscence problem that Scripture, the Church, and the saints have always warned us about! ; – ) (And in case I come across to anyone as wishy-washy in this comment, know that in no way am I positing moral equivalences between the Nationalists and later Franco’s regime vs. the Republicans and true terrorist groups such as ETA.)

  6. That second “El Cid” clip was awesome! But it’s also scarey! There are guys like the leader in clip number two talking that way to the Muzzies today! And they want Spain again too! “El Cid” should be required viewing for all people of European descent, so they’ll know what’s coming at them.

  7. As a Basque person, whose family suffered “the sweet times that Franco gave us” (this is supposed to be an irony), I find this article very offensive. Obviously this journalist didnt live in Franco’s times and has no idea of how it was like living under his regime. gadafi at his side was an apprentice. i found also this article poorly documented. did the journalist meet Franco’s mother? if not, how can he know that she was a good woman? That’s just am example: the rest of the article is as rigorous as that. This article is truly a shame.

  8. “how can he know that she was a good woman?”

    It is called reading history and making an interpretation based upon the evidence.

    Your larger complaint is that I attempted to take an objective look at Franco rather than writing him off as simply an evil dictator. Considering the atrocities that Franco and the Nationalists committed in the conquest of the Basque regions your attitude is unsurprising. Of course, the Republicans outside of the Basque regions were guilty of atrocities that caused many Spaniards to view Franco as a hero. Your comment is a testament to how divided Spain remains over the civil war and Franco.

  9. My reading of this period has been “The Last Crusade” by Warren Carroll. He quotes a total of 6,832 priests and religious murdered by the Republicans. He also quotes that in the Republic there were 72,344 executions during the years 1936-1939 whereas the Nationalists executed 57,662 from1936 to 1950. So which side was the bloodier?!
    I enjoyed reading this article and I consider it fair and balanced.
    I have never lived in Spain but have visited it from time to time. My first visit was when Francisco Franco was in charge and my last visit was in 2000.
    When I first visited Spain it was a growing economy, now, under the socialists, it is a basket case.

  10. mallorca: I’d say my attitude would be heavily influenced by whether a family member had been murdered by the Nationalists or the Republicans. As it is, since no family members of mine were involved in the Spanish Civil War, I hope I can be somewhat objective and condemn all the murders no matter what name applied to the murderers.

  11. John, in regard to execution statistics, they are a historical minefield with conflicting mumbers thrown out all over the place. My best guess is that during the war the executions were probably roughly comparable with the Nationalists surpassing the Republicans due to post war executions.

  12. By the way, the best novels I have read on the war were written by Jose Maria Gironella: Cypresses Believe in God; One Million Dead and Peace After War. Although he fought for the Nationalists, I think Gironella did a fairly good job on being fair to all sides, especially considering that the novels were written in the Fifties in Spain under Franco.



    The novels are available in first rate English translations, and I recommend them to all interested in the Spanish Civil War, or simply looking for a superb trilogy of novels to read.

  13. You surely are not being objective! You are interpreting history at your convenience!! I’d suggest you more research work (from both sides, not from just one, basically his political heirs) to write an objective article. As i said, this article is a shame.

  14. I am interpreting history based upon the historical evidence. I am sorry that the evidence simply does not fit the fable of heroic Republicans, champions of good, being defeated by evil Nationalists, which I am sure you have been spoonfed since your cradle. The Spanish Civil War was a great Spanish tragedy and there was a great deal of blame for all factions for that immense bloodletting.

  15. Outstanding article–very nicely done and well-written. I do have two quibbles, namely your characterization of Franco as not a military genius, and your assertion that foreign troops were of little importance. Now, “genius” is a term that applies only to a few, and I do not know enough about military techniques and strategies to make a declaration on this matter. However, Franco was the youngest general in Europe before the SCW and he did command the first airlift of troops in history in the early days of the war when he moved his troops from Africa to the Spanish mainland. From there he made good progress toward the prize, Madrid. Had it not been for a detour to rescue the defenders of the Alcazar, Franco would have reached Madrid sooner, before the International Brigades arrived (that is another quibble I have–these forces were absolutely critical) and before an effective defensive strategy had been developed, and the SCW could have been over in mere weeks.

  16. Ratings of military commanders are always somewhat subjective. I rank Franco as competent rather than a genius based on his overall performance in the civil war. He did a workmanlike job of building up a mass army, trained professionally, and then used it to eliminate the Northern Republican areas, and smash through the Aragon front, splitting Barcelona off from the rest of the Republic. The strategy followed by the Nationalists was fairly straight forward, and Franco’s implementation of the strategy was good.

    In regard to the airlift, I would give Franco high marks for convincing the Germans to give him the transport planes. It was pretty obvious that he had to fly the troops to Spain since sea transport was dicy with Spanish Navy crews mutinying against their officers and staying loyal to the Republic. Franco’s decision to detour to save the Alcazar has always been controversial, but I think needlessly so. At that time Franco simply lacked the troops to do large scale house to house fighting sufficient to capture Madrid, something Franco studiously avoided during the war, and I think he understood that. If the Republic collapsed because of a morale failure, well and good, but I think Franco doubted he had the strength to do a coup de main in 36 against Madrid.

    In regard to the foreign intervention, the war was decided in World War I fashion by infantry and artillery. The technical aid in air and armor received a lot of press at the time, but the amounts received tended to be a wash and were not decisive. The Italian infantry were mostly of poor quality, with a few exceptions, and the same could be said of the International Brigades. The first introduction of the Brigaders at Madrid in 36, as you said, was an important shot in the arm for Republican morale. Overall, I’d say the foreign interventions cancelled each other out, and the Nationalists won simply because they fielded a better army.

  17. The history books I have read, mostly Warren Carroll, would support the numbers that Republicans executed far more than the Nationalists have done.

    As for the interlopers such as Mallorca, they’ve been fed the bile of Socialists propaganda all their lives.

    My opinion of the Spain today is that of a nation of cowards after electing the diabolical Zapatero to office. The nation of Spain succumbed to the Muslims after the Atocha bombings so they could appease the Islamists to leave them alone.

    Typical Socialist reaction to a clear and present danger.

    Once the Socialists are driven out of power will my opinion change.

    Luckily for the Cowards, the French reside next door so they don’t look too bad.

  18. Warren Carroll is a well meaning amateur in this area Tito. I highly recommend all the books written by Stanley Payne on the Spanish Civil War and Franco.

    Here is a book review written by Stanley Payne in which he discusses how Leftist myths about the war have hampered scholarly research on the topic:


    “The corpus of Moa’s work constitutes a challenge to the standard politically correct interpretations of this epoch. The “myths” he confronts include, inter alia, such topics as a) the notion that leftist politics under the Republic were inherently democratic and constitutionalist; b) the idea that the Civil War was the product of a long-standing conspiracy by wealthy reactionaries rather than a desperate response to a revolutionary process that had largely destroyed constitutional government; c) the belief that prior to 18 July 1936 Manuel Azaña had in fact been more respectful of the constitutional and legal process than Francisco Franco had been; d) the vision of Franco as a blindly lucky incompetent rather than an able leader who did a capable job militarily, politically and diplomatically of managing a civil war in which initially he held the weaker hand; e) the projection that the revolutionary third Republic of the civil war years was somehow a pure continuation of the democratic parliamentary Republic of 1931-36; and many lesser issues which cannot be recounted in detail.”

  19. I cannot recommend enough the scholarly works of Stanley Payne. He is hands-down the premier historian of the SCW. Paul Preston’s books get more attention since they conform to Leftist myths and lies about the war. I shudder to think of the direction that research on the SCW would have taken (it is bad enough as it is) had Payne decided to study Russian history instead of Spanish history–though I have to admit that the idea of Payne joining forces with Robert Conquest would have made quite the academic duo. Carroll’s book on the SCW is a cut-and-paste job, not a work of scholarship. I recommend it for anyone who wants a beginner’s guide to the SCW.

  20. you are in for a treat Tito.

    Scott, I found it truly hilarious back in 2002 when Gabrielle Hodges, Preston’s psychiatrist wife, decided to write a bio of Franco in which she attempted to psychoanlyze him, filling out her speculations with a “Franco for Dummies” cribbing of her husband’s bitter biography of Franco. The book justly got savage reviews. Here is my book review on Amazon:

    “The author is the wife of Paul Preston, a British leftist scholar of the Spanish Civil War who wrote his own biography of Franco a few years ago. From everything I can see from this book Ms. Hodges largely relies on her husband’s research. Her main contribution, I believe she is a psychiatrist, is to attempt to psychoanalyze Franco. Thus motivations for various actions of Franco are attributed to conflicts with his father, feelings of inadequacy and sexual insecurities. This technique of course gives an author freedom to say virtually anything about any historical figure since internal motivations are rarely known based upon external evidence and the whole process is often speculation dressed up in psychological jargon.

    The author makes no attempt to hide her biases: she despises Franco. Judging from several snide comments in the book I also assume that she doesn’t think much of the Catholic Church.
    Inconvenient facts are completely ignored. While highlighting Nationalist atrocities during the Spanish Civil War, she completely ignores Republican atrocities. The author notes the support of much of the Church for Franco while not mentioning the massacre of tens of thousands of priests, brothers, sisters and lay Catholics at the beginning of the War which propelled the Church into the arms of the Nationalists. This is polemic and not history.

    The only virtue of this book is that it is concise. It has nothing of value to say about Franco or his times. Avoid this book unless, like me, you just have to have every English language work on the Spanish Civil War.”


  21. Donald,

    Outstanding review–well done. I have not read that book, but your review actually rings a bell, so thanks for possibly saving me some time and money!


  22. Donald,

    A couple of things: I sent to you via email (your business one) two attachments that represent the main article and the sidebars that went along with the article for an article my dad and I wrote for The Angelus. We sure would appreciate any feedback you can give that will make the article a better one. We wrote it with the beginner in mind.

    Also, I enjoyed very much your comments on the debate over what constitutes a lie. I am mystified as to why so many Catholics disagree over this issue. It seems fairly cut-and-dried to me, or at least as cut-and-dried you can get when invoking the Principle of the Double Effect.

    Finally, are you aware of a book called the General Cause or Causa General? If so, I am curious if you think a “cleaned up” version (making the English more readable and improving the quality of the pictures) would be something that would interest people.

  23. Scott, I’ll be happy to take a look at the article and get back to you with feedback.

    In regard to the lie controversy, it has certainly struck a nerve in Saint Blog’s. Truth to tell, it has struck me as a lot of sturm und drang over little, but I do not wish to see this thread dragged into that debate.

    In regard to Causa General I assume that you are perhaps referring to the investigation of Republican war crimes undertaken by the Franco government in 1940? I’ve heard about it, but I have never read it. Personally, I would be more interested in English translations of some of the military histories of the civil war in Spain. I think they could find a market in this country.

  24. Born in 1143, he fought in his first battle in 1057, and by 1079 was an experienced general, winning for Castile the battle of Cabra against the Moorish Granadan army.

    Now that IS impressive. Accomplishing all that nearly one hundred years before being born :). (I think you meant 1043).

  25. “Personally, I would be more interested in English translations of some of the military histories of the civil war in Spain. I think they could find a market in this country.”

    If I recall correctly, the official Nationalist history of the war was called “Cruzada” and ran to several volumes. IIRC, while the furthest thing from unbiased, Hugh Thomas thought it was reliable enough to cite to frequently in his Spanish Civil War history.

  26. Mallorca and Basque – that is precisely why those affected often make the worst historians – they cannot put aside personal experience. My parents hail from Peronist Argentina, and to this day, despite my father’s great intellectual ability and deep interest in history, I can’t help but feel I can’t get the straight story on Peron from him (although he is a great place to start).

  27. The only thing Spaniards are united on is their national soccer (futbol) team. And even then, Catalan has been pushing for its own national team (playing exhibition games against other countries). Interesting how sports often are a microcosm of the country’s psyche.

  28. “If I recall correctly, the official Nationalist history of the war was called “Cruzada” and ran to several volumes. IIRC, while the furthest thing from unbiased, Hugh Thomas thought it was reliable enough to cite to frequently in his Spanish Civil War history.”

    Precisely what I was thinking of Dale, along with memoirs from Nationalist and Republican generals. I can read Spanish after a fashion, especially with the assistance of my wife who speaks, reads and writes Spanish and Catalan, but having English translations would be much better. Additionally, outside of very large University collections on the Spanish Civil War, a lot of this material simply isn’t available in the US.

  29. You might have read history books but my question is which ones have you read (the ones written by the victory winners) to base your theory about Franco? I am so, so sad to hear what you have written, here we are trying so hard for the future generations to read the truthful story about the civil war in Spain and how Franco shot every cultural person that thought for themselves and wanting to speak freely, scientist, authors, painters……

    Have you been “Valle de los Caidos” where he made his prisoners work to death for this mausoleum? Have you ever been here? Talked to the people for all the different provinces about him?

    There some subjects in lives that are very painful for whom have lived throw those terrible years and I really think you should have done a very intensive research in order to say what you have said. I’m so sad to find that there are still people which have no vocation to be serious journalists.

    So know is Hitler, Pinochet, Stalin, Mussolini, etc…. also are going to have a different history???

    I just really can’t believe what you have written… I feel sorry for you.

  30. In my personal library I have some 73 volumes on the Spanish Civil War. In addition I have read numerous books on the subject which I do not own. I have not kept count of the magazine articles and monographs I have read on the subject, but I assume they would total several hundred. The works were written from a wide array of viewpoints: far right, far left and centrist.

    “to read the truthful story about the civil war in Spain and how Franco shot every cultural person that thought for themselves and wanting to speak freely, scientist, authors, painters……”

    Of course that statement is so reflective of the type of ideological blindness that has hampered objective study of the Spanish Civil War. Both sides butchered those who disagreed with them. The Republican side massacred thousands of Catholic priests, nuns, brothers, sisters and monks, simply because of their allegiance to the Church. I realize this is bitter for you, but attempting to pretend that the evil was all on one side in that conflict is ahistoric rubbish.

  31. Anne,

    Well, now. While I am touched by your concern for those of us who have dug for the truth, I am afraid your larger point misses the mark. The SCW may be the only conflict in world history where the losers (the Left) actually crafted the narrative that survives in many camps to this day. Your assertion that “Franco shot every cultural person that [sic] thought for themselves [sic]” is absurd nonsense. I have indeed been to the Valley of the Fallen and was touched by its haunting beauty. I do, however, agree with you that this subject is still painful for many people, but that does not absolve anyone of the responsibility of telling the truth.

  32. Donald,

    Along with Tito I thank you all for your book recommendations. I admit I am ignorant on the subject and my wife is Spanish, from Galicia even! For shame. I look forward to the education. On a slightly related subject, one that is closer to home:

    What are good sources to learn the truth about the (Masonic) war in Mexico? Are you or anyone else versed enough to blog here about it.

  33. AK, if you want to read about what happened in Mexico, get “No God Next Door”. It should answer all yor questions.

  34. I think that is referred to as the Mexican War of Independence and Masons were involved; however, I was referring to the revolution of 1910 and I think Masons were involved then as well. It was rather anti-clerical too. I don’t know much either. Oh well, there is far more to know about human history than we can digest. I’ll keep looking.

  35. Thank you Stephen. I was skeptical at first, but I am sure glad I caved and subscribed to Amazon’s Prime membership. It is steep, $80+/-/ann, but I get all my books 2nd day at no additional cost.

  36. Anne,

    I lived in Spain for two years. I remember talking to Spanish friends about my travels through the country. They say about one town I visited “Oh, that’s where the Nationalists killed a lot of people.” About another town they’d say “Oh, that’s where the Republicans killed a lot of people.”

    Time to open your horizons.

  37. I find Spanish and Latin American history both interesting and fascinating, especially so as how it relates to and in some periods of time is intertwined with American history.

    It is clear that Franco was no saint or someone in the mold of Raoul Wallenberg, but he did what he believed to be right. I have no sympathy for those in power who murder Catholic clergy, be it King Henry, his bastard daughter, the Reign of Terror, the Republicans, the Masons who ran the Mexican Revolution, etc.

    One of may favorite books is Warren Carrol’s biography of Queen Isabel. Granted, as stated, Carroll is a cut and paste type of writer, but Queen Isabel was truly a great leader who united Spain in an earlier time. Queen Isabel had to fight off and defeat an invasion from neighboring Portugal, who was incited by nobles in Spain who opposed Isabel. Under Queen Isabel, Spain completed the Reconquest and conquered Granada. Isabel appointed reformers to the Catholic Church throughout Spain. Needless to say Isabel approved Columbus’ voyage, which led to the spread of the catholic faith through two thirds of the Western Hemisphere.

    Move forward three centuries, and Spain assisted the fledgling rebellion that established the United States of America. History books usually mention France’s participation and nothing else. The high society of Havana provided financial assistance to George Washington’s troops and the Spanish Navy kicked Britain’s butts out of the Mississippi Valley and through the Caribbean.

    There are some towns and cities in the USA that were founded before there was any English speaking person on these shores – St. Augustine, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Fe, New Mexico, to name a few.

    Catholics were here before there were any Protestant English here. Florida, Texas, New Mexico, the Southwest that was evangelized by Padre Kino, the California missions established by Fray Serra – these are a few examples of Spanish Catholic presence in our nation, but most American Catholics know nothing about it.

  38. Penguins Fan,

    Very good point about the early arrival of Spain on our shores. In fact, Fr. Juan de Padilla wound up in Lyons, KS around 1540. Lyons is just under four hours from Kansas City. Oh! how life could have been so much better had the Spanish settled and, at the very least, blocked the English from spreading west. It’s a fun game to play sometime with your friends to ask which was the first colony in what is now the USA? St. Augustine, of course, though i will bet you a beer they will not get the correct answer.

  39. Penquin fan, two good books on Spanish royalty are: Isabella, The Last Crusader, and Phillip II, both by William Thomas Walsh. I highly recomend them both.

  40. Arrg! Dalton!

    UPS just dropped off Spain by Payne and Gironella’s The Cypresses Believe in God. Spain so far is awesome! I usually don’t read novels and Gironella’s is a serious tome!!! (are you sure he’s not Russian). Then you drop two more. I cannot resist. At least I just received an Amazon GC for my birthday.

    I am confident that God allowed the USA to form from WASP origins for a good reason. First, as a Catholic country we would not have developed some of the ‘secular’ freedoms that we did. Of course, these are being abused, much like Franco was on the right side of the war, but committed many atrocities. Second, I think that we would have fallen with Spain’s decline and Britain’s assent. As it is we may be falling now; however, I think we have a unique character and are very resilient. I also think we are given an opportunity to truly examine and examen our country. If we do this right, we will uncover the insidious spirit that has been corrupting Western Civilization (Christendom) since the Protestant Reformation, Henry VIII, Jacobin Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, National Socialist Revolution. Being outside of Europe and essentially secular/Protestant in origin with a huge catholic and a fair Catholic population, we may be uniquely positioned to influence a reunification of Christendom under the Catholic Banner. Sure, we may fail. But, I think we are at a pivotal time, much like Isabel’s Spain. Will we be Babylon or Jerusalem?

    As far as that fun game goes. It is always fun to ask about the first Thanksgiving meal too. On the main, it was in St. Augustine. I understand it was sublimely Eucharistic. 😉

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