The Spanish Collection held by the MML comprises the archives of the International Brigade Association (IBA), donated to the Library in 1975. The IBA was established in 1938 by the veterans of the British Battalion of the International Brigade following their return from Spain. It was instrumental in campaigning for the Spanish Republic, supporting and spreading awareness about the International Brigades, setting up memorials, maintaining contact with sister organisations across the globe and campaigning against the Spanish dictatorship in the 1940s-1970s. The archive includes correspondence, newsletters, photographs, press cuttings, printed ephemera and reports and spans the period 1936-1975.
The Spanish Collection also contains archival documentation of mixed provenance that has been accumulated since 1975 and spans the period 1936-2000 including printed ephemera added to the aforementioned series and the Personal Papers of a number of International Brigaders. These papers include photographs, correspondence, sketches, poetry, diaries and personal accounts of the Spanish Civil War.
In 1936 a military coup led by General Franco and backed by the far right and Catholic Church, attempted to overthrow Spain’s elected Popular Front government. There ensued a bloody civil war which, against the backdrop of the rise of fascism in Europe, is widely considered a precursor to the Second World War. The Western powers adopted a policy of non-intervention, and, while the Soviet Union sold arms to the Spanish Republic, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy openly assisted the Francoist forces providing troops and armaments. In response, over 35,000 from 50 countries, the majority socialists and communists, volunteered to fight on behalf of the Republic in Spain. Over 2,500 went from the Britain Isles. The International Brigades were part of a broader Aid Spain Movement in Britain, a grass roots campaign in support of the Spanish Republic. Across the country funds were raised for medical aid, for food ships, and in support of refugees from Spain.