From the Pulitzer Prize–winning and bestselling author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, “The most extraordinary book about the Spanish Civil War ever encountered” (The Washington Post).
The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) inspired and haunted an extraordinary number of exceptional artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, and John Dos Passos. The idealism of the cause—defending democracy from fascism at a time when Europe was darkening toward another world war—and the brutality of the conflict inspired some of their best work: Guernica, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Homage to Catalonia, The Spanish Earth.
The war spurred breakthroughs in military and medical technology as well. New aircraft, new weapons, new tactics and strategy all emerged during this time. Progress arose from the horror: the doctors and nurses who volunteered to serve with the Spanish defenders devised major advances in battlefield surgery and frontline blood transfusion. In those ways, and in many others, the Spanish Civil War served as a test bed for World War II, and for the entire twentieth century.
From the life of John James Audubon to the invention of the atomic bomb, readers have long relied on Richard Rhodes to explain, distill, and dramatize crucial moments in history. Now, he takes us into battlefields and bomb shelters, into the studios of artists, into the crowded wards of war hospitals, and into the hearts and minds of a rich cast of characters to show how the ideological, aesthetic, and technological developments that emerged in Spain and changed the world forever. “Hell and Good Company is vivid and emotive…thrilling reading” (The Wall Street Journal).
Historian Rhodes (who won a Pulitzer Prize for 1986's The Making of the Atomic Bomb) combines numerous memoirs to provide a ground-level view of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The struggle between Republicans and Franco-led Nationalists was brutal: "fully half a million died directly, or from hunger and disease, or immediately afterward in Franco's hundred thousand vindictive executions." Rhodes follows the fighting, showing that the Republicans were doomed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy's intervention on Franco's side, which led to the carpet bombing of Guernica (inspiring Picasso's painting) and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Britain and France kept their distance, and the U.S.S.R. withdrew its support for the Republicans toward the war's end. Rhodes profiles medical volunteers and writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Andr Malraux, Antoine de Saint-Exup ry, and New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews. Aside from some medical innovations, such as new concepts of battlefield triage, Rhodes never specifies how the war changed the world, but he does offer a vivid look at how the desperate struggle appeared to participants.