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France Divided

The French and the Civil War in Spain

David Wingeate Pike received doctorates from Toulouse and Stanford, where he taught Latin American political culture. He is Sociétaire des Gens de Lettres and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of The American University of Paris.

This book sets out to analyze the schism in French public opinion during the Spanish Civil War that was to end in the tragic collapse of French national unity. It makes no claim to being a new history of the conflict, or even of the international events surrounding it. It touches only cursorily upon the events in Spain proper. It considers only tangentially French public opinion in regard to the two Spains. Instead, it examines how the French people viewed their position in the international imbroglio swirling around the Spanish question, and how news was manipulated as never before. And since opinion polls were inexistent and radio commentary had little influence, almost the only means of gauging public opinion is the press.

Mainstream historical fact is presented merely as the skeleton on which French press reportage is grafted. Included in the historical material is the author’s research in the archives of all five of the French départements bordering on Spain. Within the press, four areas predominate: editorial opinion; propaganda; French correspondents in Spain; and collateral events in France (frontier incidents, arms supplies, foreign volunteers, and espionage activities).

The work is divided into two parts, the chronological hiatus coming in December 1936. This division is explained by the policy formulated by the democracies that went through no appreciable change; a policy sufficiently strong, perhaps, to deter the Axis powers from all-out intervention in Spain, but weak enough to allow them to pursue with impunity a victory by attrition. The periodic opening and closing of the French frontier played no decisive part in the outcome, since French aid to the Spanish Republic never came close to what the Axis provided the Nationalists. The book ends with the agony of the Republican exodus.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies


Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-490-1
Hardback Price: £35.00 / $39.95
Release Date: November 2011
Paperback released in the UK only
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-531-1
Paperback Price: £35.00
Release Date: March 2012
Page Extent / Format:
Illustrated: Yes


Foreword by the Series Editor: Paul Preston
Table of Acronyms: Groups, organisations and political parties
Author’s Remarks


Frente Popular and Front Populaire
The Second Spanish Republic between 1931 and 1936
Events in France between 1920 and 1936, and the confrontation between the extremes
The Soviet position
Spain's place in Europe
French foreign policy
Relations between Germany and Spain and between Italy and Spain
The triumph in France of the Front Populaire and its repercussions
The triumph in Spain of the Frente Popular and its aftermath
The Spanish military uprising and its semi-failure.

The Limits of Intervention

1 The Call to Arms
The message from Giral to Blum
Blum's first reaction
The modification in Blum’s position, following his visit to London and the reaction of the Senate
First dispatch on 2 August of French arms
The French proposal of non-intervention in Spain
The other Powers reply
Blum suspends French aid on August 8
The fall of the Giral government

2 The Revolt of the Generals
The slogans of the adversaries: ‘Order and patriotism' against 'Liberty and justice’
The first reactions of the French press on left and right
The question of legitimacy
The conflict expands

3 The Appeal of Giral
Blum's initial promise of support
Opposition from the Right, the Radicals, and the British Government
The Cot formula suspended
Suspicions, accusations, denials
The legality polemic
The arguments of the Right: the Spanish Government of tomorrow, and a new defence line
Refutations from the Left
The fear of escalation
German-Italian preparations and financial aid

4 Italo-German Intervention and the Cot Formula
Italian intervention: denial and proof
French interests in Morocco
The reply of the Right
The hesitations of the Radicals
The attitude of reserve of the Spanish Republicans
Pressure from the Left and French intervention

5 The Delbos-Daladier Formula

British reaction as cause of the French volte-face
Support for the new policy
Opposition from the Left
Opposition from the Right
Frontier incidents

6 Mediation Appeals and Fascist Consolidation
Appeals for international mediation: the South American initiative
Fascist aid to Franco: the German-Italian objectives
France in Europe: an analysis of its position

7 The London Committee

Twenty-four nations participate
The Portuguese position
Accusations and counter-accusations
The Delbos Plan: new support and opposition
Contradictions between Soviet policy and the activities of the French Communists
The reply of L'Humanité
Division within the SFIO
The decision of the British Labour Party
Reaction of the Right and French aid to Franco

8 The Soviet Ultimatum and Intervention
Soviet policy
The French ‘Trotskyists’
The ultimatum of 7 October
The London Committee steps back
The effect on French policy

9 The Foreign Volunteers
Blum agrees to the departure of the volunteers
The first arrivals
Franco's response
Travel restrictions
The International Brigades move into formation
Opposition to their formation and to their recruitment in France
Foreign volunteers for the insurgency

10 Axis Recognition of Franco

The 'preventive counter-revolution' against the mere idea of a Catalan republic
Franco's failure before Madrid: its repercussions on Axis policy
Relations between Hitler and Mussolini: the common front
Blockade and recognition: repercussions on the democracies
Reflections on the granting of belligerent status to Franco
The Pan-American Conference
A socialist delegation visits London

11 The Three Anglo-French Peace Initiatives
The 'Soviet' proposal for an international control (23 October)
The Committee approves it on 12 November
Further violations
the Delbos Plan for a 'Gentlemen's Agreement' (27 November)
Reaction from the Right and Left
Hostility to the Delbos Plan from both sides in Spain
The 'German' Plan (4 December)
The question of the volunteers
Accusations of bad faith
The attitudes of Hitler and Mussolini

12 The Democracies Outmanoeuvred
The initiatives of the Committee
The possibilities of general disengagement
The role of France
The antifascists dejected by fascist falsifications
Hitler's policy
Mussolini's policy
The democracies mark time

The Comedy of Non-intervention

13 The Committee Implements Control
Malaga: its effect on morale
New calls for the granting of belligerent rights
The foreign volunteers
Frontier control and violations
Control of the coast

14 Guadalajara and Fascist Reaction
The Italian defeat and Italian morale
Mussolini sends reinforcements
The effect on German policy
Mediation plans proposed

15 Gernikato Arbola and the Catholic Agony
The destruction of Guernica
Outrage on the Left and in the Centre, indifference on the Right
Denials by Franco and the right-wing press
Irrefutable proof of German responsibility
The attitude of the Church
The Christian crusade: the Catholics divided
The Vatican grants recognition to Franco
Its influence on the religious dispute
The Vatican's apprehensions

16 Intellectuals, Propaganda, and the Pamphlet War
Palmiro Togliatti
Jean-Richard Bloch
Daniel Guérin
Thomas Mann
Camillo Berneri
'Max Rieger'
Jacques Bardoux
Robert Brasillach
Georges Rotvand
André Malraux
Jean-Paul Sartre
Simone Téry
Drieu La Rochelle
Romain Rolland
André Gide
Literary and artistic congresses and exhibitions

17 Incidents in France

France and the Republicans violate non-intervention
The Nationalists violate French sovereignty
Right-wing activities
False information and conflict within the press

18 British Mediation and the Deutschland Incident
The 'May Days' in Barcelona
Largo Caballero and Blum replaced by Negrin and Chautemps
The democracies respond to the blockade
Public opinion in Britain
The mediation proposal is submitted
Reaction in the French press
The attack on the Deutschland and the shelling of Almeria
The fall of Bilbao
Its effect on British policy
The Committee at an impasse

19 The Nyon Arrangement

First anniversary of the war: its goals newly assessed
Fascist aid to Franco
Comparing the foreign forces of intervention
Axis policy after Bilbao
The 'mysterious sinkings'
The Nyon Conference and the Nyon Arrangement
French and British policy after Nyon

20 The London-Burgos Exchange of Agents

The Republic before and after Gijon
Analyses and prognoses of the war
Britain and France open representation
Differences between French and British policy

21 The Threat to French Security

Teruel taken and retaken
New Year 1938 and new prognoses
The Anschluss and the second Blum Cabinet
French security in the Western Mediterranean and in North Africa
The danger from the Pyrenees
The Axis consolidates its position in Spain

22 The Daladier-Bonnet Formula
Italian propaganda against France
Bombing of Spanish cities and Republican threats of reprisal
Air attacks on French territory
The Daladier-Bonnet formula: the closing of the frontier

23 The Republic in Isolation

The second anniversary
German policy vis-à-vis the Anglo-Italian Agreement
The Spanish gold
Seasonal exegeses

24 The Shadow of Munich

The Berchtesgaden talks and their effect on morale
Auriol visits Barcelona
The campaign to recognize Franco
The London Plan and belligerent rights
The International Brigades disbanded
The Nationalist offensive resumes
Perspectives for peace

25 The War at the Gates of France

Italian irredentism, Spanish Nationalist hostility toward France, and French reaction
Renewed talk of aid to the Republic
New attempts at mediation

26 Anglo-French Recognition of Franco

The Bérard mission
American isolationism
The Republican government arrives in France
Pétain and de Lequerica nominated as representatives of France

27 The End of Hostilities
Casado's coup d'état
Republican troops and matériel enter France
Marty explains to the Senate
Spain in Europe


Epilogue: The Fate of the Journals and the Journalists

Appendix I: Principal Characters
Appendix II: The Five French Cabinets of 1936–1939
Appendix III: The Four Cabinets of the Frente Popular
Appendix IV: The French Consulates in Spain
Appendix V: Trans-Pyrenean Rail and Road Links between France and Spain
Appendix VI: The French Press, 1936–1939


A review by Enrique Moradiellos (U Extremadura) is available in Historia del Presente, no. 19 (2012), pp. 163–165.

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