The Marx Memorial Library is home to over 2,500 photographs documenting the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, the Aid Spain Movement, and campaigns against the Franco dictatorship into the 1960s and 1970s. Bound and carefully annotated by volunteers – many of whom had direct family connections to the Civil War – this collection of photographs, which forms part of the MML’s Spanish Collection, is a treasure trove.
The prints have been accumulated over decades since the International Brigade Association first donated a tranche of their papers to the MML in 1975. Many were taken by International brigaders themselves – the volunteers who went to defend democratically elected Republican government in Spain following the far-right military coup in 1936. There are also plenty of press photographs. They record the devastation of aerial bombardment on Spanish cities wrought by the Luftwaffe and the enormous human cost. Casualties – mainly women and children – are pictured.
The photographs, too, record the shockwaves this conflict sent across the globe. Prints showing demonstrations calling for ‘arms for Spain’, in response to Britain’s policy of non-intervention in the civil war - and collections for milk, food and medical supplies. Later, in the 1960s, Franco’s brutal dictatorship, victorious in 1939, continued. Photographs show displays of solidarity with political prisoners outside the Spanish Embassy in London. Flowers were laid when Julian Grimau, politician and member of the Communist Party of Spain was executed in 1963. The inexperienced firing squad fired 27 bullets before he was killed.
Into the 1980s and 1990s, the images track how the Spanish Civil War and the brave men and women who went to fight fascism over 80 years ago have been remembered. Hundreds of photographs of memorials, funerals and reunions show how this inspiring yet tragic story has been re-told over the decades.
These unique images are now – thanks to funds from the National Archives Cataloguing Grants Scheme – being catalogued online, digitised and re-packaged. The catalogue will be launched this Spring. Keep your eyes peeled for this exciting new online resource.