My research interests lie at the intersection between the social, cultural, transnational, political, emotional and military history of the 1930s. Much of my work to date has aimed to explore the ways in which people were mobilised across borders in response to the rise of fascism in Europe – most famously during the Spanish Civil War, which saw tens of thousands of foreigners travel to Spain to take part in what was seen as the key flashpoint in the wider struggle against reaction, militarism and fascism. I have an enduring fascination with their experiences, motives and trajectories, and what they can tell us about the cultures of international communism, ‘foreign fighter’ mobilisations and the wider history of European fascism and anti-fascism.
My PhD project looked at Scottish involvement in the Spanish Civil War, primarily those who went to Spain to fight in the International Brigades. The Spanish Civil War – and the Scots who participated in it – has been a longstanding interest of mine, and I wrote both my B.A. (University of Sydney) and M.Sc. (University of Edinburgh) dissertations on related subjects. My first book, based on this cumulative research into a wide variety of Scottish responses to the Spanish Civil War, has recently been published by Edinburgh University Press.
This project, aside from telling the story of a relatively neglected subgroup in Spain, also aimed to advance research into the International Brigades more broadly. It looks at how the social and political context of Scotland in the 1930s led to such a relatively large number of Scots volunteering, and explores the insight that the Scots can provide into the experience of fighting in Spain, the nature of the international volunteers’ encounters with Spaniards and the role of Stalinist cultures in shaping the International Brigades. I am continuing to publish new articles on these findings, so stay tuned!
My PhD was generously supported by a Wolfson Foundation Scholarship (2014-17), for which I am immensely grateful.
Scots and the Spanish Civil War: Solidarity, Activism and Humanitarianism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020) – buy now!
‘”Fae nae hair te grey hair they answered the call”: International Brigade Volunteers from the West Central Belt of Scotland in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-9’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 35:1 (2015), pp. 92-114.
Selected Seminar and Conference Papers
‘Foreign Fighter Recruitment and the Spanish Civil War’, New Voices in the History of War, University of Oxford, 12 July 2019.
‘Networks, locality and decisions among the International Brigade volunteers’, Transnational War Volunteering: From Garibaldi to the Cold War, University of Leeds, 10-11 July 2018.
‘An ‘Army of Strangers’? Recruitment for the International Brigades Reassessed’, Modern International History Group Seminar, University of Sheffield, 19 April 2018.
‘“No es Ingles – Escoces”: Relations between Scots and Spaniards in the International Brigades’, Cañada Blanch Centre Discussion Group, LSE, 16 November 2017.
‘An enemy within? The boundaries of International Brigade veterans’ participation in the British war effort’, Workshop: From the Spanish Civil War to World War II. Trajectories of transnational antifascist volunteers, University of Leeds, 29 June 2017.
‘An army of strangers? Scottish International Brigade volunteers and the importance of locality’, Scottish History Seminar Series, University of Edinburgh, 9 March 2017.
‘Crowdsourcing a war effort: British support for the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War’, War Through Other Stuff Conference, University of Edinburgh, 22-4 February 2017.
‘Heroes or Victims? International Brigade volunteers and the British state during the Second World War’, Crossing Borders Conference, University of Birkbeck, 30 June-1 July 2016.
‘Re-examining the Mobilisation of British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War (1936-9)’, Global Networks of Violence Symposium, University of Cambridge, 25 September 2015.
‘Soldiers without Borders? Parallels between British volunteers in the Spanish and Syrian Civil Wars’, (Un)making the Nation Conference, University of Cambridge 10-11 September 2015.
‘Regional Variation and the Nature of the Aid Spain Movement in Britain, 1936-1939: The Case of Scotland’, Modern British History Network: Conference on Modern British History, University of Strathclyde, 16-17 June 2015.
Jeremiah Dalziel Prize in British History – Winner (2017).
Economic and Social History Society of Scotland Postgraduate Research Essay Prize – First Place (2012/13).