Franco: A Biography

Franco: A Biography

by Paul Preston

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The critically acclaimed, definitive biography of the complex, elusive man credited with saving Spain from both the communists and Hitler as well as orchestrating the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s.


The critically acclaimed, definitive biography of the complex, elusive man credited with saving Spain from both the communists and Hitler as well as orchestrating the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Preston's definitive, gripping biography of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, ``the least known of the great dictators of the twentieth century,'' penetrates the wall of secrecy, propaganda and myths surrounding the fascist demagogue. A brutal tyrant who silenced his opponents with imprisonment, torture and executions and thereby paralyzed the masses with fear, Franco (1892-1975) hid behind a series of masks-desert hero commanding the Spanish Legion in Morocco; modern El Cid during the Civil War, defending the Catholic faith and restoring Spain's national greatness; benevolent patriarch. Moreover, Franco, a cunning politician of startlingly mediocre intellect, deeply believed in these personas, often denied he was a dictator, and ascribed domestic working-class and left-liberal opposition to the machinations of foreign Communist or Masonic elements. Professor of international history at the London School of Economics, Preston demolishes claims by admirers and apologists that the generalissimo skillfully held off Hitler to preserve Spain's neutrality; instead, he shows that Hitler's unwillingness to promise France's colonies to Spain led to a stalemate between the two dictators. By the late 1950s, Preston maintains, Franco was increasingly a figurehead who reluctantly acquiesced in Spain's technocratic turn to capitalism. Photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Generalissimo Franco (1892-1975) ruled Spain with an iron hand for nearly 40 years. Now, almost two decades after his death, Preston (international history, London Sch. of Economics) has assembled a vast amount of material in this marvelously researched, abundantly detailed-and very readable-story of the dictator's life. Preston refrains from fanciful speculation, documenting his assertions with 131 pages of notes. Franco early on developed his vision of the army's central role in determining Spain's future and of his own unquestioned right of command. He was convinced of his messianic mission in saving Spain from "the reds"; his successes were largely a result of his cunning and a series of lucky breaks at critical moments throughout his career. Only with Franco's death did the merciless Nationalist victory of 1939 become, at long last, a true Spanish peace. Highly recommended for all readers.-Charles E. Perry, East Central Univ., Ada, Okla.
Generalissimo Francisco Franco was the most tenacious and successful of 20th century Europe's major dictators. To many, Franco was Spain incarnate--a heroic figure on a par with El Cid, Charles V, and Philip II. This idealized portrait, still widely accepted today, is pierced by Preston's (international history, London School of Economics) penetrating scrutiny in this monumental biography that vividly portrays this complex, elusive figure and resolves pivotal questions about Franco's life and achievements. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Gilbert Taylor
The self-styled El Cid of the twentieth century, slayer of communists rather than Moors, still excites visceral reactions 60 years after he prevailed in the Spanish civil war. Even among detached historians, Franco earns few plaudits, perhaps for presiding over economic growth or ensuring an orderly succession after his death, but for little else. A historian like Preston, veteran writer of 10 previous books on Spain's convulsion of the 1930s, is the fitting biographer for Franco--even as he plainly dislikes the subject. Dutifully, he turns in a comprehensive, masterly portrait of the Caudillo's career and character. To Preston, beneath Franco's humorless, aloof persona he harbored abundant ambition and an atavistic pride in Spain's faded glory and lost empire, which he tentatively tried to rebuild during his dalliance with Hitler. Though it was Franco's Axis sympathies (which Preston fully documents, showing how late Franco realized the jig was up on his fascistic confreres) that kept him ostracized after the war, his record in the civil war is what will always draw interest. Preston therein exhumes all the issues and shears off the extravagant ideological positions taken by the Left and the Right to consider calmly Franco's rise and contribution to the war's appalling ruthlessness. Not a likable man but not purely evil either, Franco in all of his cunning complexity comes as close as is scholastically possible to being deciphered by this authoritative work.

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