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Publication Date

Spring 2015

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




George Vásquez


Gerald Brenan, historiography, Spanish Civil War, Spanish history

Subject Areas



Unpredictably and without benefit of a university education or the professional training of a scholar, the English writer Gerald Brenan (1894-1987) became the first serious historian of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). His most important work, The Spanish Labyrinth (1943), was fundamental to the development of British and American historiography of that conflict. While British writers and intellectuals expressed passionate views about the Civil War, Gerald Brenan was unique in objectively depicting the deeper causes of the war. His attempt to unravel the forces that had led Spain into this disastrous conflict resulted in The Spanish Labyrinth and other studies of Spanish culture.

This thesis explores Brenan’s formative contribution to Spanish historiography, placing his work against the background of the polarized and ideologically driven writing about Spain that dominated the late 1930s. It examines Brenan’s analysis of the background of a civil war deeply rooted in the complexity of the nation’s social structures and institutions. It considers his ongoing absorption in Spanish culture in the years after and his analysis of the impact of the war on life in Franco’s Spain. Finally, it attempts to measure Brenan’s influence on several generations of historians, particularly those who wrote major studies of the Spanish Civil War in English at a time when critical historical work in Spain was limited by restrictions on scholarly research and the expression of critical opinions.