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Spain’s Martyred Cities

From the Battle of Madrid to Picasso’s Guernica

Martin Minchom is a Madrid-based historian. His previous publications include a social history of Colonial Quito, and Spanish editions of the work of foreign correspondents on the Spanish Civil War.

“Not only a riveting examination of the life and work of the French newspaper correspondent Louis Delaprée during the early months of the Spanish Civil War, this splendid book also casts much light on many aspects of the conflict itself and particularly on the fate of the Republican capital. Martin Minchom’s account of the battle for Madrid during October and November 1936 illuminates both the role of the International Brigades and, more importantly, the aerial bombardments of Madrid chronicled by Delaprée and the scale of the consequent casualties. This provides the context in which Louis Delaprée’s enduring and profoundly influential reports on the bombings were written. From the Preface by Series Editor Paul Preston, LSE

Spain’s Martyred Cities
studies international reactions to the Spanish Civil War between the Battle of Madrid in November 1936 and the bombing of Guernica in April 1937. Many of the iconic events of the war belong to this key period, when international perceptions of the conflict were decisively shaped. The subject is approached through French and British newspapers and pamphlets, and events are linked to both their immediate press coverage and subsequent literary and artistic representations.

For contemporaries, the aerial bombardments of Madrid, Guernica and other cities formed part of a single unbroken narrative. It was only later that Guernica acquired its perceived symbolic primacy. The language of ‘martyrdom’ was sometimes evoked in pro-Republican writing as a means of challenging Francoist claims to the religious and moral high ground. But the ur-text was The Martyrdom of Madrid (1937), a compilation of the posthumous, censored reports of the French correspondent Louis Delaprée on the bombing of Madrid. Delaprée’s earliest reporting (July–October 1936) was from both the Nationalist and Republican zones, and is used to provide an introductory overview of the early stages of the war; he was an eyewitness of the aerial bombardments of Madrid in November 1936; subsequently, the posthumous publication of his writings created a major stir in Paris. Delaprée’s powerful and emotive writing provides a platform from which to discuss issues of press censorship and journalistic practice. It is notable for its initial impact, when publication in no less than five languages enabled it to reach writers as different as Virginia Woolf and André Malraux. This book shows that Delaprée’s reports were also an important catalyst in Picasso’s artistic involvement in the war, culminating in his Guernica.

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


Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-660-8
Hardback Price: £75.00 / $94.95
Release Date: 2015
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-783-4
Paperback Price: £27.50 / $39.95
Release Date: May/June 2016
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


Preface and acknowledgements
Author’s note

1 Reporting a war
• Louis Delaprée and Paris-Soir
• ‘The road to Madrid’
• Press coverage of the Spanish Civil War

2 Delaprée in insurgent and Republican territory
• In rebel Castile (July 1936)
• Through Republican Spain (August–September 1936)
• Excursus: A women’s war

3 The Battle of Madrid
• Waiting for the Nationalists (October 1936)
• Madrid battlefield (7–23 November 1936)
• Excursus on the ‘frontline of Babel’: Reporting the International Brigades

4 Bombs over Madrid
• Bombs over Spain
• Madrid and Getafe: counting the dead (30 October–23 November 1936)
• Dispatches from a ‘martyred city’
• Death of a journalist

5 Aftermath in “the industry of lies”
• The downing of the embassy plane
• The Delaprée affair: “The voice of a dead man accuses the lying press”
• Picasso’s Dream and Lie of Franco
• “Dead bodies and ruined houses”: Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas
• Delaprée’s shade in Malraux’s Man’s Hope

6 Madrid, Durango, Gernika: Three ‘martyred’ cities and Picasso’s Guernica
• Images of ‘martyred’ Durango
• The renewed artillery bombardments of Madrid (April 1937)
• Towards the Guernica: Picasso and “the lying press, the murderous press”

• Edition of Louis Delaprée’s reconstructed reports from Madrid
• A note on the text of The Martyrdom of Madrid


This study details the journalism, impact, and mysterious disappearance of Louis Delaprée, a French newspaper reporter in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, who, after several years reporting in Spain, came to side with the Spanish cause. His reports exposing the massive civilian deaths in Spain’s bombing of Madrid were censored by the French newspaper Paris-Soir and Delaprée died under mysterious circumstances in Spain. The ‘Delaprée Affair’ became a scandal in Paris in the mid-1930s, due in large part to the 1937 publication of The Martyrdom of Madrid, a collection of Delaprée’s previously censored news reports on the bombing of Madrid. The book was published in five languages and also inspired Pablo Picasso’s art related to the war. The study draws on archival sources, including Delaprée’s private papers, newspapers, and political pamphlets. The book contains the entire text of Delaprée’s The Martyrdom of Madrid. B&w historical photos, photos of newspapers, and Picasso’s sketches are included.

Martin Minchom’s addition to this genre is an original and interesting contribution to the field. It provides substantial new insight into the figure of French foreign correspondent Louis Delaprée, and his role in shaping perceptions of the Battle of Madrid and the aerial bombardment of Spanish cities more generally, which became central to pro-Republican narratives both of heroic resistance and the martyrdom of the Spanish people at the hands of fascism. […] Minchom’s monograph is a worthy addition to an ever-more crowded field, and will be of interest to many historians dealing with the international context of the Spanish Civil War.
Reviewed by Fraser Raeburn, War in History

Reviewed by Katherine O. Stafford in The Volunteer:

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