Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War by Michael Petrou

Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War

byMichael Petrou

Paperback | April 12, 2008

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Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, by veteranjournalist Michael Petrou, tells the story of the 1,681 Canadians who,between 1936 and 1939, defied Canadian law to fight fascism in theSpanish Civil war. The war pitted a left leaning, democraticallyelected Spanish government against a military uprising led by FranciscoFranco and supported, with weapons and tens of thousands of troops, byFascist Italy and Nazi Germany. By the time it was over, fascism hadtriumphed in Spain, and more than 400 Canadians were dead.

Until now, little was known about these men and women, and aboutthose who survived. Petrou has changed this. He has drawn on recentlydeclassified material, interviewed veterans, and visited thebattlefields of Spain to write the definitive history of Canadians inthe war. Jack Granatstein, one of Canada's leading militaryhistorians, concludes: "Based on massive research, this is thebest and most complete account of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War weare ever likely to get."

Renegades reveals that Spanish Civil War veterans werepressured to become police informers, with the cooperation of thefederal government; that a 1970 application by a veterans' groupfor non-profit status was opposed by the federal government out of fearthat approving the application might offend Spain's fascistdictator, Francisco Franco; and that the RCMP spied on Canadianveterans at least until 1980, when one police report noted that theveterans' "political motivations are more in keeping with theNDP philosophies."

Other highlights include:

  • Detailed and vivid descriptions of the battles the Canadiansfought, and their lives in Spain between action. The stories ofCanadian prisoners of war are also told – as are accounts ofCanadians who were imprisoned and otherwise punished, sometimesseverely, by their own commanders.
  • New and sensational information about Dr. Norman Bethune, whomSpanish authorities accused of espionage and of having a secretlyfascist lover.
  • The story of a young University Toronto student who was jailed as asuspected spy and was lucky to leave Spain alive. After readingrecently declassified documents from Soviet archives about this man,Petrou tracked him down and interviewed him at the age of 90.

About The Author

Michael Petrou, a senior writer at Maclean's magazine, has covered wars and conflicts across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. He holds a doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford. He lives in Ottawa with his family.
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Details & Specs

Title:Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil WarFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 8.98 × 5.95 × 0.81 inPublished:April 12, 2008Publisher:Ubc PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0774814187

ISBN - 13:9780774814188

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface: Spanish Tinderbox


Part 1: Origins of the Volunteers

1 Who Were the Canadian Volunteers? 

2 Why Did They Fight?


Part 2: International Brigades

3 Going to War

4 Protecting Madrid 

5 Aragón Battles

6 Retreats 

7 Back to the Ebro 

8 Leaving Spain


Part 3: Discipline in the InternationalBrigades 

9 Crimes 

10 Punishments


Part 4: Renegades 

11 The Photographer: Bill Williamson 

12 The Idealist: William Krehm 

13 The Doctor: Norman Bethune


Part 5: Aftermath 

14 Undesirables

15 Conclusion





Editorial Reviews

Between 1936 and 1939, almost 1,700 Canadians defied their governmentand volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. They left behindpunishing lives in Canadian relief camps, mines, and urban flophousesto confront fascism in a country few knew much about. Michael Petrouhas drawn on recently declassified archival material, interviewedsurviving Canadian veterans, and visited the battlefields of Spain towrite the definitive account of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War.Renegades is an intimate and unflinching story of idealism andcourage, duplicity and defeat.