James Matthews was recently charged with terrorism offences for his participation in the Syrian Civil War. It itself this would seem unremarkable, except for the fact that he had not fought for the ‘Islamic State’ but for the Kurds, nominally one of the UK’s allies in the region. The controversial decision to charge Matthews for … Continue reading Balancing Ideology with Pragmatism: Spain, Syria and returned ‘Foreign Fighters’
A recent occupational hazard of being an historian of modern Spain has been the expectation that you can explain what is going on in Catalonia right now. Friends and colleagues, stunned by the images of violence seen around the world last weekend, want to know where this has all come from. There have been no … Continue reading Lessons from Catalonia?
I recently came to the realisation that The Castle is my favourite film of all time. I mean, sure, 10-year-old me enjoyed it when it came out twenty years ago, but its place at the top of my personal cinematic pecking order was cemented much later. This is partly due to just how deep the … Continue reading A Love Letter to ‘The Castle’
With the past week seeing the shock resignations of two Greens senators on the grounds of their holding dual citizenship, constitutional issues surrounding parliamentary eligibility have never been more prominent. Whether or not you hold Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters’ actions to be either an honourable response to innocent mistakes, or a fundamental betrayal of … Continue reading Citizen, Subject, Parliamentarian?
No matter our methods, approaches and interpretations, all historians of the International Brigades spend a lot of time doing the same thing: counting. Trying to establish just how many foreigners fought for the Spanish Republic – not to mention who they were and where they came from – is always a tortuous but necessary process. … Continue reading Counting the International Brigades
A recent article in The Guardian by the highly-regarded historian Professor Paul Preston made the case that George Orwell’s classic Spanish Civil War tract, Homage to Caledonia, was ‘bad history’. Attacks on Orwell’s text are not new – his book represents a potent challenge to the legitimacy of the Spanish Republic from one of the left’s … Continue reading In Defence of Orwell’s ‘Bad History’
This was originally published on 7 February 2017 for the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities Blog | I sometimes envy those who study safely dead topics: however important swamp drainage in the sixteenth century might have been to those who valued dry feet, it is unlikely to ever lead to a shouting match … Continue reading The Spanish Civil War, Living History and Pan’s Labyrinth
This was originally published on 11 May 2016 for the Language of Authoritarian Regimes | There is an old and not necessarily edifying debate that has surrounded the International Brigades almost since their inception. Were the 35,000 men and women who travelled to Spain to defend the Spanish Republic during the bitter civil war of 1936-9 dupes of Stalin? … Continue reading Language and the Logic of Stalinism in the International Brigades
This was originally published on 1 April 2016 for the Edinburgh University Global and Transnational History Research Group Blog | The Antipodean media establishment erupted recently with the ‘discovery’ of a University of New South Wales document on how students can avoid being offensive when discussing historical issues. In a glorious display of irony, many … Continue reading Cooking the Books? Universities, Indigenous History and Australia’s Invasion Scare
This was originally published on 7 March 2016 for Pubs and Publications | The catalyst for this post was an article I saw shared on social media during Holocaust Remembrance Day, talking about the ‘forgotten’ victims of the Holocaust, namely ‘Gays, Gypsies and Priests’. It reminded me somewhat of an ill-advised argument I got into … Continue reading ‘Forgotten’