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 Featured Title
Canadians in the Spanish Civil War
Michael Petrou  

$87.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 3/21/2008
ISBN: 9780774814171    

$29.95 Paperback
Release Date: 4/12/2008
ISBN: 9780774814188    

304 Pages

European and UK paperback rights sold to Warren & Pell Publishing (Wales)

Studies in Canadian Military History series


About the Book

Between 1936 and 1939, almost 1,700 Canadians defied their government and volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. They chose to leave behind punishing lives in Canadian relief camps, mines, and urban flophouses to confront fascism in a country few knew much about. Four hundred died there.

Michael Petrou has drawn on recently declassified archival material, interviewed surviving Canadian veterans, and visited the battlefields of Spain to write the definitive account of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War. It reveals who these men and women were, why they volunteered, how they lived and died in Spain, and how the Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reacted to their decision to illegally join another country’s war.

Renegades is an intimate and unflinching story of idealism and courage, duplicity and defeat. It will appeal to anyone interested in the history of Canada, the Spanish Civil War, and the struggle between democracy and totalitarianism in the 1930s.

-- For more information about this title, visit our special Renegades feature page. --

About the Author(s)

Michael Petrou is a foreign correspondent at Maclean’s magazine and holds a doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford.

Table of Contents

Preface: Spanish Tinderbox

Part 1. Origins of the Volunteers
1. Who Were the Canadian Volunteers?
2. Why Did They Fight?

Part 2. International Brigades
3. Going to War
4. Protecting Madrid
5. Aragón Battles
6. Retreats
7. Back to the Ebro
8. Leaving Spain

Part 3. Discipline in the International Brigades
9. Crimes
10. Punishments

Part 4. Renegades
11. The Photographer: Bill Williamson
12. The Idealist: William Krehm
13. The Doctor: Norman Bethune

Part 5. Aftermath
14. Undesirables






Renegades is the fullest and most authoritative account yet written of Canadian volunteers in the Spanish Civil War and a valuable contribution to the history of the International Brigades. Michael Petrou draws on many new archival sources to present a vivid, rounded, and illuminating account of the almost 1,700 Canadians who served in Spain. While essentially a group biography, there are also some fascinating vignettes of individual volunteers – notably Dr Norman Bethune.
– Tom Buchanan, Kellogg College, University of Oxford, author of Britain and the Spanish Civil War

Based on massive research, this is the best and most complete account of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War we are ever likely to get.
– J.L. Granatstein, author of Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace

More than 1,600 Canadian men and women fought to save Spain’s republic from its fascist opponents; over 400 died in the struggle. Not until the Cold War was over could Michael Petrou get us the fascinating details of who and what and why so many Canadians struggled and died in a war the democracies made it easy for General Francisco Franco to win.
– Desmond Morton, author of A Military History of Canada

All the good components of a war history are present here: statistical analysis of who the soldiers were, why they fought, and how their ideals were tested; incompetent officers sacrificing their men for the sake of appearances; and much demonstration of the absurdity of war, both in situ and in retrospect. Petrou does a fantastic job of continuously relating everything back to the why of the war, and how common wartime situations became a fight in the struggle of communism versus fascism.
- Megan Moore Burns, Quill & Quire, Vol. 74, No. 4, May 2008

VETERAN author and journalist Michael Petrou has tackled a subject that many Canadians aren’t even aware of - Canadian involvement in the Spanish Civil War. …These veterans are the colour and life and brilliance in the book Michael Petrou has worked so hard to bring to completion.
- Linda Turk, Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay, 4 May 2008

His book is less about the geopolitics of the conflict and more a detailed view of the extraordinary challenges individual Canadians faced. …Petrou reminds us that it was the loggers and millworkers, the unemployed survivors of relief camps and breadlines and, to a large extent, the immigrants to Canada from all over war-torn Europe who were the real foot soldiers in the International Brigade….

…you will find a painstaking account of the courageous band who chose to fight fascism before it was politically fashionable and the tough battles they fought with little training, lousy equipment and military leadership that was haphazard at best. … Adventurers, idealists, people looking for work and a cause, they deserve our respect. Petrou’s often dry, detailed account allows us to understand that they may have been renegades but they were also soldiers, not of fortune but of commitment and dreams.
- Bob Rae, Literary Review of Canada, Vol. 16, No. 5, June 2008

…a fascinating account of a little understood conflict, packed with information never before published…. For anyone interested in the history of Canada and the struggle between democracy and totalitarianism, Petrou’s masterful account is required reading.
- Paula Adamick, Canada Post – UK, Vol.12, No.5, July 2008

…a beautiful and well documented book.
- Enrique Fanjul, El Pais, 27 July 2008

In Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War author Michael Petrou offers an expansive look at the Canadians who left this country in the midst of the Depression and headed abroad to fight in a war few could understand. […] Renegades certainly is a fascinating read. I would highly recommend it for any student of history looking to better understand the Canadian involvement in this bitter conflict or any backpackers returning home from a sojourn in Catalonia.
- Darcy Knoll, Esprit De Corps, Vol.15, Issue 8, September 2008

Until Petrou, no one delved too deeply into what William Beeching, the author of the gushing Canadian Volunteers: Spain 1936-1939, once privately described as “Pandora’s box” of the story. But Petrou opens that box […]. […] It is a story of acute contemporary relevance. […] Honouring the volunteers with the greater duty of the unvarnished truth, Petrou’s Renegades is an affectionate tribute, paying the Canadian volunteers the respect they are due. […] But the greatest contribution Renegades makes is the light it sheds on who the Canadian volunteers were, and why, exactly, they went.
- Terry Glavin, Vancouver Review, No.19, Fall 2008

Michael Petrou's Renegades isn't the first account of the Canadians who fought in Spain's uncivil war, but it does feel like we now have the whole story in hand - as much of it, anyway, as we're ever going to see emerge from the fog of that war. Painstaking and clear-eyed, what lends it heft is the volume and rigour of the research that Petrou, a senior writer at Maclean's, has marshalled. There's a good deal that's new, too, thanks to Petrou's access to the archives of Moscow's Communist International, as well as the mining he's done of Canadian archives, including newly declassified RCMP files.
- Stephen Smith, Globe and Mail, 2 August 2008

The title of Michael Petrou’s ground-breaking book on the Canadian volunteers in the
Spanish Civil War is telling. […] In Renegads, Petrou weaves human interest anecdotes gleaned from interviews with volunteers with excellent historical research. […] Petrou brings to life the desperation that characterized Canada in the 1930s and how many of the volunteers saw the war in Spain as a way to retaliate against those who had oppressed them in Canada and in their countries of origin. […] Petrou’s intention here, to describe the motivations of the volunteers and their ironic fate, is carried out masterfully, in spite of the fact that much of the history of those who perished — over 400 out of the 1,700 who fought — is still a mystery.
- Shirley Mangini, The Volunteer, Vol. XXV, No.4, December 2008

Historian Michael Petrou’s first question--“Why?”--is probably the most relevant to the entire course of this book. The “why” refers to the decision of nearly 1,700 Canadians to fight during the Spanish Civil War. […] Petrou’s examination of this question lies at the core of this very interesting, very human book.
- Ken Reynolds, H-Canada, October 2008

Petrou’s book, based on superb research (including the surprisingly detailed Soviet archives that contain information on how the Party judged the volunteers’ political reliability), tells the story of the 1,383 Canadians who served in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion and other units. […] Renegates is as full an account as we are likely ever to get, and it is first-rate.
- Legion Magazine, September-October 2008

Sample Chapter

Front Matter and Chapter One

Related Topics

History > Military
History > Canada
History > Other

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Renegades from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

Ordering information for customers outside Canada

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