A People Betrayed: A History of Corruption, Political Incompetence and Social Division in Modern Spain, 1876–2018

Paul Preston. Norton, $35 (768p) ISBN 978-0-87140-868-6
Fascist dictators, left-wing terrorists, and feckless democratic politicians all come off badly in this nuanced and evenhanded history of modern Spain. London School of Economics historian Preston (The Last Days of the Spanish Republic) roots Spain’s violent 20th century in deep sociopolitical dysfunctions, including exploitation of impoverished peasants and workers by a reactionary elite of landowners, industrialists, the Catholic Church, and the military, who cemented their power through electoral fraud; outrageous political corruption; and a left-wing opposition given to bomb throwing. These issues persisted through the 1936–1939 civil war—Preston blames the Loyalist government’s defeat in part on left-wing factionalism and Prime Minister Largo Caballero’s lethargy—and Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. Things looked up, in Preston’s telling, during the mid–1970s, when political moderates and King Juan Carlos (who bravely faced down a 1981 coup attempt) engineered the transition to democracy. But Basque separatist terrorism and a perpetual whirlwind of corruption scandals, according to Preston, have tarnished even Juan Carlos. Preston brings this complex story alive with brisk, lucid prose and colorful character sketches, and treats Spain’s rancorous political antagonisms judiciously. This vigorous narrative history delivers sharp insight into Spain’s chaotic past. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/07/2020
Release date: 06/16/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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