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Churchill and Spain

The Survival of the Franco Regime, 1940–1945

Richard Wigg was a foreign correspondent for The Times for 27 years, and spent time in Europe, Latin America and Asia, including several years reporting from Madrid.

Churchill and Spain examines why Franco’s regime was alone among Europe’s “Big Three” Fascist dictatorships in being able to survive beyond the end of the Second World War, and to what extent Churchill’s wartime policies enabled Franco to remain in control of Spain.

Richard Wigg draws upon Foreign Office documents and reports – many of which remained secret until the 1990s or only became available in 2005 under the UK Freedom of Information Act – and the wartime papers of Churchill and Samuel Hoare, Britain’s special envoy to Madrid, to investigate this important aspect of Spanish and British history. Churchill and Spain explores the political, economic and diplomatic relations between Spain and Britain during the Second World War and explains how Churchill’s lenient policies towards Franco helped significantly in the survival of Franco’s regime after the war. In particular, this work demonstrates how the tolerance shown towards Spain’s wartime trading in wolfram allowed the rebuilding of the country’s gold reserves, which proved crucial in enabling Franco’s Spain to endure post-war international isolation.

This book, originally published to great acclaim in 2005, and published now for the first time as a paperback, is essential reading for scholars and students of European twentieth-century history, as well as all those interested in Churchill’s international role in the Second World War.

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

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-283-9
Paperback Price: £19.50 / $37.50
Release Date: July 2008
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


The Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies
Series Editor’s Preface


1 In the Hour of Britain’s Need, 1940

2 Spain, a Balancing Country, 1941

3 Ambiguous Assurances, 1942

4 Franco Toughs It Out, January–October, 1943

5 The Wolfram War, November–December, 1943

6 Churchill Intervenes I, January–September, 1944

7 Churchill Intervenes II, October–December, 1944

8 A Wringing of Hands, January–July, 1945

Epilogue: Hoare versus Churchill over Spain


A fascinating study of Churchill and of the dire impact of personal relationships on high politics.

An important addition to Churchill studies.
Sir Martin Gilbert

There is much more to say about this book – especially the flaccid failure of the Infante Don Juan and the complete inability of the Monarchists to challenge the Falange – but it stands as the defining text on the subject of cynicism in geopolitics and, while Churchill’s admirers will see his part in this blood-soaked history as an example of realism and the ruthless pursuit of national interests, others will see it as a cold-hearted betrayal of a great people whose misfortune was to be a small piece on the great European chessboard.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill had a greater game to play and the Spaniards suffered and died while we looked away. That is the tragic story Richard Wigg tells so very well and it deserves to be widely read for its historical accuracy as well as for its contemporary relevance.

Wigg’s general synopsis describes how Franco cleverly bided his time and hedged his bets in that five-year war period before settling on the United States as his country’s saviour and thus remaining in dictatorial power for the next thirty years.
... Moreover, the book also deals with Churchill’s relationship with Spain during WW2 and is itself an engrossing chapter and fascinating study of tolerance shown to General Franco’s brutal regime after the overthrow of the Republic in 1939, and with that, the relationship the regime developed and kept with both Hitler and Mussolini representing the ‘Axis’ against that which Churchill and the Allies were fighting. Although Spain’s role in that Axis was one of ‘neutrality’.
... Into the mix come sub plots; notably of one individual who was sent to Spain by Churchill; a man named Samuel Hoare a senior Foreign Office whaller. Hoare would eventually fall foul of Churchill after witnessing first hand as a special envoy to Madrid, the Fascist policies directed towards the majority of the Spanish population and complained that this was a Government that Britain should not provide support. Hoare’s role was to keep an eye on Franco’s Ministers and monitor their dialogue with the Nazi regime. Churchill was never certain Franco could be trusted to remain neutral during the conflict.
Review by Paul O’Connell, Books4Spain, B4S Reviews, June 2012

The decisive phase for the Allied governments to bring their influence to bear upon Spain, argues former foreign correspondent Wigg, was October 1944 to May 1945, as the war in Europe was ending victoriously for them, though he acknowledges that the fascist regime might have survived for another three decades anyway. He focuses primarily on the British prime minister’s responsibility for making policy towards Franco’s Spain and an eventual return of the Spanish monarchy, but also looks at the role of his foreign secretary A. Eden.
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