'A Spanish Civil War Scrapbook'

Post date: 02/02/2015


The IBMT is pleased to announce publication of:


‘A Spanish Civil War Scrapbook: Elizabeth Pearl Bickerstaffe’s newspaper cuttings of the wars in Spain and China from August 1937 to May 1939’

Jim Jump (Editor)
Introduction by Paul Preston

Foreword by Rodney Bickerstaffe


Normal retail price is £25. Available to IBMT members and supporters for £15 (including p&p). Send cheques made out to ‘IBMT’ to: IBMT, 6 Stonells Road, London SW11 6HQ (for queries email:


This scrapbook, kept by a 17-year-old children’s nurse in Yorkshire, offers an insight into the political and emotional impact that the Spanish Civil War had on a generation who lived through the agonising defeat of the Spanish Republic.


Elizabeth Pearl Bickerstaffe’s cuttings reveal the extent of human suffering in the war in Spain – and likewise in China – in which civilians were the main casualties. They also tell of the efforts in Britain and by the International Brigade volunteers in Spain itself to prevent this latest triumph for the fascist powers in Europe. And we sense the fierce commitment to the cause of the Spanish Republic felt by the newspaper correspondents and photographers who witnessed this unfolding tragedy.


The role of the foreign correspondents in Spain is discussed in an introduction by Paul Preston, the foremost historian of the Spanish Civil War.


In his foreword, Rodney Bickerstaffe underlines the important part played both by the events in Spain and by his mother’s scrapbook in shaping his political values.


This point is amplified in Jim Jump’s preface explaining more about the creation, context and consequences of Pearl Bickerstaffe’s compelling scrapbook of one of the major episodes in twentieth-century history.


Published by International Brigade Memorial Trust and Lawrence & Wishart

Publication date: January 2015



ISBN 9781909831988  



The following review by Tom Sibley of ‘A Spanish Civil War Scrapbook’ appeared in slightly edited form in the Morning Star on 2 February 2015:

This splendid book reproduces a teenager’s extensive scrapbook of press cuttings related to two wars in the late 1930s – the Spanish Civil War and the Japanese invasion of China. The teenage compiler was Pearl Bickerstaffe, mother of Rodney, the former general secretary of Unison – who contributes a foreword to the book.

She grew up in a Doncaster working-class family who were readers of the Daily Worker and that’s fully reflected in the scrapbook where ‘on the spot’ reports from Spain feature despatches by Sam Russell, Frank Pitcairn – the pen name of Claude Cockburn – and Peter Kerrigan. 

The book’s editor is Jim Jump, secretary of the International Brigade Memorial Trust and a leading authority on the Spanish Civil War. Jim tells us much about Pearl’s life of struggle and achievement as a single mum and a nurse. And most helpfully he gives us an insight into the importance of the anti-fascist struggle in the 1930s and the way in which the labour movement organised solidarity with the Spanish Republic. 

He rightly highlights the crucial role of the communists in the solidarity effort for Spain. The International Brigade was the creation of the Communist International and the Aid to Spain movement’s informal alliance with political, trade union, church and other voluntary groups exemplified the Party’s desire for a wider Popular Front against fascism.

Paul Preston’s introduction, focusing on the foreign correspondents reporting on the civil war, rightly castigates George Orwell’s crassness in likening the Soviet Union’s role in Spain to that of Britain and France. The former was a staunch supporter of the Spanish Republic while the imperialist powers did much to aid Franco under the cloak of the spurious non-intervention pact. 

But he might have also drawn attention to Orwell’s assessment of press coverage and his conclusion that the left-wing and pro-Republican papers, the Daily Worker and the News Chronicle, did more to mislead the public than the pro-fascist Daily Mail

That shows how Orwell’s obsessive anti-communism prevented him from making any worthwhile judgements about the politics and conduct of the civil war.

The scrapbook itself, and all that flows from the politics from within it, is yet another proof of the inestimable value of a socialist daily newspaper like the Daily Worker in providing an accurate historical record.

And it’s essential reading because, as Bickerstaffe stresses in his foreword, it’s vital that future generations learn the lessons of what happened in Spain and know about the sacrifice of so many of the finest young people of their generation in the cause of freedom, social justice and democracy – a struggle that continues to this day.



IBMT logo

Support our work

You can support the IBMT by joining us or affiliating your union branch – see details and membership forms here:
menuchevron-up linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram