Book Review: A Balancing Act: British Intelligence in Spain during the Second World War


by Emilio Grandio Seoane

Brighton, Eng.: Sussex Academic Press / Portland, Or: ISBS, 2017. Pp. xiv, 184. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $74.95. ISBN: 9781845

Keeping an Eye on Franco

A specialist in the history of Spain during the Franco and post-Franco eras, Prof. Grandío Seoane (Santiago de Compostela) offers a look at Britain’s successful development of an elaborate intelligence network in Spain, in an effort to ascertain and influence the actions of the Franco regime.

This intelligence network was built on existing ties that many individual Britons had influential Spaniards, including entrepreneurs such as the right-wing, but anti-Nazi industrialist Juan March, government officials such as the Britanophile Duke of Alba, a descendant of James II who served as Franco’s ambassador to Britain, military officers, and others. These contacts enabled the British to gather information on Spanish policies and ties with Italy and Germany powers, countered Axis intelligence operations, and fed misinformation to the Axis.

More importantly, the British exerted pressure on the regime, manipulating trade, hinting at support for a monarchist restoration, bribing high officials, and even opening ties with the remaining Republican guerrilla forces. Such measures helped influence the already cautious Franco from openly throwing in with the Axis, and then encouraged him to gradually move closer to the Allies.

A Balancing Act, a volume in the excellent series “Sussex Studies in Spanish History”, is an important read for those with an interest in Spain and the Second World War, as well intelligence operations.


Note: A Balancing Act is also available in paperback.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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