The war itself has largely slipped out of public memory -- there was nothing at all about it in the high school history books I was taught from back in the 70s, and precious little in college.** My own knowledge of it is piecemeal, from its effects on various twentieth century figures: from reading Orwell's HOMAGE TO CATALONIA (the classic account of what it was like to fight in defense of the Spanish Republic), Quentin Bell's biography of his aunt Virginia Woolf (whose nephew, Quentin's own brother, died there), Auden (who was briefly there as an observer), Norman Bethune (who invented the battlefield blood transfusion there), Evelyn Waugh (who sympathized with Franco but advocated a hands off approach), and most notably the despicable Roy Campbell, who enthusiastically supported Franco's coup and the fascist state Franco succeeded in installing in power. The war fits in memorably in the final scene of Sir Peter Jackson's FORGOTTEN SILVER: the subject of his documentary ends his life on a Spanish battlefield while filming the war.
Here's the link:
current reading: just finished HOMER'S ODYSSEY by Gwen Cooper (the story of a blind cat); just begun TESSA VERNEY WHEELER biography by L. C. Carr (2012)
current audiobook: DODGER by Sir Terry Pratchett.
*Oddly enough, I found out years ago while doing some reading up on South Africa that something similar had happened several decades earlier. It's forgotten today that volunteers from America and elsewhere (including czarist Russia!) came and fought for the Boers, so unpopular was the British land-grab officially known as the Second Boer War. A truly forgotten piece of history, like our invasion of Russia in 1919 or our having lost the War of 1812.
**for example, how many people hearing Billy Joel's "Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway" (from his collection of early pieces, SONGS IN THE ATTIC) understood what he was talking about when he sang
Like in the Spanish civil war"