The Spanish Civil War is a crucial event in twentieth-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. It also allows 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?
- When is it right, or necessary, for a powerful country like the US to intervene in a conflict going on elsewhere?
- How do images and texts shape our view of the world—and how can we use them to shape others’ views?