Book Review: Medicine and Warfare: Spain, 1936-1939


by Nicholas Coni

London / New York: 2014. Pp. xxvi, 266. Illus., maps, tables, diagr., append., notes, biblio., index. $48.95 paper. ISBN: 0415860180

Spain and the Development of Modern Military Medicine

Coni , author of a number of works on medicine and medical problems, examines the “largely overlooked medical, surgical, and nursing implications” of the Spanish Civil War.  Opening with a survey of prewar medicine in Spain, he observes that while medical services were quite up to date with those of other Western countries , the Spanish medical profession was not prepared for the demands of a full scale war. 

Shifting easily between the two sides, Coni follows with chapters addressing the response of the medical profession to the war and the problem of recruiting and training nurses , a particularly complicated issue for the Republic since the prewar nursing profession was largely confined to nuns.  There are chapters on caring for wounds, including the introduction of debridement, the first widespread use of blood transfusions, coping with famine and disease, the medical organization of both sides, and the medical service of the International Brigades and foreign medical support to the Nationalists.  One chapter uses case studies of some campaigns to illustrate the increasing sophistication of the medical services, and is followed by one with profiles of various important individuals.  The book ends with a look at the postwar impact of the wartime experience on Spain.  Coni argues that despite obstacles, including political interference, each side evolved effective medical services. 

While Coni fails to discuss the broader influence of the Spanish experience on military medical in other countries, it was in fact not "overlooked" but had considerable influence on medical services  during the Second World War.  Medicine and Warfare, Spain, 1936-1939, a volume in the “Routledge/Canada Blanch Studies on Contemporary Spain”, is an important read for anyone interested in the history of military medicine, and will also prove of value for students of the Spanish Civil War.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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