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How to research individual volunteers

Andrew Smith, from Clydebank, and his Communist Party of Spain membership card, from the RGASPI archive.

Anyone researching individual volunteers who went to Spain should consult the IBMT's database. This provides basic information about most of the 2,500 International Brigaders from Britain and Ireland.

But for more details, it's necessary to delve into the archives. The 'Moscow Archive' of International Brigade records held for many years by the former Comintern (Communist International) is now in the RGASPI (Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History), International Brigade Collection, Moscow. These records are available to browse online, and their website has recently been updated.

Getting past the initial pages in cyrillic Russian script can be tricky, but is made a lot easier when using a browser (such as Google Chrome) with translation facilities.

Historian Richard Baxell has produced a useful guide to how to navigate the extensive RGASPI archive, which can be found here.

Serious researchers should also visit archives in the UK which hold information on the International Brigaders. The biggest is in the Marx Memorial Library in London (whose catalogue can be searched online), which in addition has a digital version of the 'British' section of the Moscow Archive.

There are also other important archives around the country, such as those in the Working Class Movement Library in Salford and the South Wales Miners' Library in Swansea.



Posted on 11 May 2020.