Fighting For Franco by Judith Keene

Fighting For Franco by Judith Keene – International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39 – is the second 1 star book I read this month, which is so unusual for me. I was interested in this book because there is little about the ones who went to fight on the Nationalist side in the Spanish civil war. The book has a lot of issues, mainly due to poor research and her biases.

The blurb starts with the first issue: “One of the enduring myths of the Franco state was that the Nationalist forces that won the Civil War consisted of patriotic Spaniards while the Republic was defended by a rag tag army of foreign ‘reds'”. I never read this, so not sure how this is a myth. It’s not in the academia. A bit journalistic in presentation, I decided to read the book. Unfortunately I should have started with the last 2 chapters, it would have saved me a lot of time. After talking about the Irish Catholics, the French, and White Russians, she goes on to talk about Romanians and women in those ending chapters. At that point I realised how poorly she did her research.

Fighting For Franco by Judith Keene

Firstly, Romanians. She mentioned in the notes that she thanks a Romanian professor for his help and that she knows he will not agree with her interpretation, then goes on to blab about Romanian history and culture. The fact that she didn’t even take the polite approach to use the diacritics, spelling “Orastie” instead of Orăștie, even though she used diacritics for the Spanish names, seemed a bit odd. I wish that was the only issue, but no, she misinterprets Romanian history. She is dismissive and quite colonial in her views of Romanian culture. For example, she talks about a wedding of someone from the Iron Guard. She presents their wedding as backwards looking because they were dressed in traditional outfits. Really?! How is a traditional Romanian outfit different from a Scottish one? I mean besides being in Eastern Europe. Also, why a white wedding dress is “modern” when it was a tradition started with Queen Victoria in the 19th century. There were many issues with the Iron Guard, but what they wore at their wedding was not one of them.

I’ve decided to file that chapter into the westplaining category and read the last chapter of the book, on women. It showed the lack of proper research in this chapter too. She made the assumption that women on the Republican side (left) had a better position and more possibilities than the Nationalist women (right). It was a natural assumption to make, I made that too before researching the subject for an assignment. The reality though is very different and the Nationalist women were empowered during the war, more than the Republican ones. I remember chatting with my tutor about the peculiarity of it. Keene either could not let go of her biases or just did not do enough research.

So, overall, I was not happy with the book. I cannot be sure if the points she made in the previous chapters were just as wrong as the ones in the last two.

Fighting For Franco by Judith Keene

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 1/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: NO!
Published by: Bloomsbury Academic
Year it was published: 2007 (first time in 2001)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – European – Spanish Civil War
Pages: 320

About the author: Judith Keene is an Associate Professor at University of Sydney.
Website & Social Media Links: –



4 thoughts on “Fighting For Franco by Judith Keene”

  • What a pity. When I saw the title I was interested, since as you point out there seems to be a dearth of books from the Nationalist viewpoint. But this sounds really terrible. Thanks for the warning! I shall avoid…

    • I am researching the Nationalist side and it’s a real lack of material. It makes it more interesting for me though. Hopefully the next books on the subject will be better.

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