Teaching the Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War is a crucial event in 20th-century world and U.S. history and key for understanding the origins of World War II and the Holocaust. It offers a unique opportunity to introduce major historical, political, and cultural issues for teachers in many subject areas—from History and Civics to Spanish and English Language Arts—at the middle-school, high-school, or college level. The topic also invites students to understand how political ideas and ideals shape people’s lives, moving them to make difficult and sometimes dangerous choices. Teaching the Spanish Civil War—in which 2,800 U.S. volunteers risked their lives to fight fascism—allows teachers to work with a wealth of compelling primary documents that get students thinking about essential questions:
- Why should we care about events that happen far away, or that happened a long time ago?
- How do we decide who is on the right side of an armed conflict?
- When do we stand up for what we believe in?
- What are our obligations in the face of injustice?
- How do we resolve competing loyalties?
- How do images and texts shape our view of the world—and how can we use them to shape others’ views?
- How can we understand people and events of the past in their context?
- When—and how—is it appropriate to judge people and events in the past?
- When do historical analogies apply?
- What does fascism look like today?
Subject Area Guides
Primary Materials by Media Type
Legacy Lesson Plans
These are mostly from the 1990s; scroll further down for more recent lesson plans in Social Studies, Spanish, and English Language Arts.
- Introduction to the Spanish Civil War
- The Spanish Civil War: U.S. Foreign Policy Between the World Wars
- Jewish Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
- African Americans in the Spanish Civil War
- Spanish Civil War Posters
- Children’s Drawings of the Spanish Civil War (“They Still Draw Pictures”)
- World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade