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“Freedom, Faction, Fame and Blood”

British Soldiers of Conscience in Greece, Spain and Finland

Elizabeth Roberts holds a PhD in history from the University of Sydney. Her current research is on the history of desertion.

In the Series
Studies in Spanish History

Under the rubric from Lord Byron, this book offers a unique comparison of three sets of British volunteers who left their homes to fight in the Greek War of Independence, the Spanish Civil War and the Russo-Finnish War. From Lord Byron’s journey to Greece, to the legendary International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War, to the strange sojourn of a contingent of British misfits during a bitter Finnish winter, Elizabeth Roberts examines the passions, ideals and ideologies that motivated these individuals to take up arms, as well as their experiences of warfare, the rhetorical and discursive cultures they encountered in the volunteer contingents, and the problems they faced when – and if – they returned home.

The author traces the political consequences of the volunteers’ participation in these foreign wars in the context of the evolving concept of ‘neutrality’ in foreign relations and challenges to the state’s control over the use of violence. Of the three wars, it was the Spanish Civil War that most caught the public imagination and generated the most controversy. The volunteers’ defiance of the British state, the ideological, social and cultural imperatives that sent them to Spain, and the nature of the war in which they fought, give rise to a number of issues explored in this work, including the imposition of Communist Party discipline on the British Battalion in the International Brigades; the fate of the British volunteers who sided with the Spanish revolutionaries and the dissident Left; and the ways in which volunteers sought to ‘perform’ war and revolution in an ideological environment. In considering these themes, Freedom, Faction, Fame, and Blood establishes the ‘soldier of conscience’ as a discrete category of historical actor, in Spain and elsewhere.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-318-8
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $75.00
Release Date: May 2010
Page Extent / Format: 302 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Includes maps



Introduction: Soldiers of Conscience

Chapter One
Shelley’s Ghost: British Philhellenes and the Greek War of Independence

Chapter Two
Ways of Feeling: Lord Byron and Edward Trelawny in Greece

Chapter Three
Perseverance: Captain Hastings Goes to War

Chapter Four
Two Loyalties: The British Battalion and the Communist Party in the Spanish Civil War

Chapter Five
Object Lessons: Unorthodoxy, Dissent and Revolution in Spain

Chapter Six
The Surfaces of Things: The Politics of Appearance in the Spanish Civil War

Chapter Seven
The Spanish Precedent: British Intervention in the Russo-Finnish War

Chapter Eight
Our Hush-Hush Committee: The Finnish Aid Bureau and the Volunteers

Chapter Nine
A Fine Body of Blackguards: The Contingent, Stranded



Elizabeth Roberts’ wide-ranging and methodologically-challenging study forcibly argues that voluntary participation in war cannot be accounted for in political and military terms alone but that it also needs to be understood in its cultural, social and discursive dimensions. “Freedom, Faction, Fame and Blood” thereby presents not only a complex, many-sided portrait of ‘soldiers of conscience’, but also takes the illuminating and highly unusual step of placing the Spanish Civil War within a trans-national setting.
Nigel Townson, General Series Editor of Sussex Studies in Spanish History, Complutense University, Madrid

Reviewed by Richard Baxell in the Journal of Contemporary History, October 2012.

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