During the Spanish Civil War, approximately 2,800 American men and women answered the call from the Communist party to defend the Spanish republic from fascist aggression. These men and women served in the Fifteenth International Brigade and formed the Abraham Lincoln, Washington and MacKenzie-Papineau Battalions. These soldiers’ stories have been controversial, because 80 percent of these volunteers were Communists. Until recently, historians have not been able to fully tell the story of these men and women, but access to new archives of the American soldiers and Soviet archives have provided a much fuller picture of the story of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Peter N. Carroll, in his book The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, stated that there had already been three generations of history written about the Lincoln Brigade by 1994. The first generation consisted of a number of first person accounts by the Brigade members. A second generation of books was written by scholars based on somewhat limited information. Carroll believes that he is part of the third generation of historians who were providing a more accurate depiction of the volunteers because he had access to a treasure trove of material from both the veterans and Soviet archives. As part of the third generation of scholars, Carroll not only tried to tell the story of veterans in Spain, he examined their broader roles in America over the past 50 years. Not surprisingly, this third generation of books has benefited greatly from the creation of archives by the Brigade veterans at Brandeis University and University of California, Berkley.