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

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

by Paul Preston


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Nowhere does the ceaseless struggle to maintain democracy in the face of political corruption come more alive than in Paul Preston’s magisterial history of modern Spain.

The culmination of a half-century of historical investigation, A People Betrayed is not only a definitive history of modern Spain but also a compelling narrative that becomes a lens for understanding the challenges that virtually all democracies have faced in the modern world.

Whereas so many twentieth-century Spanish histories begin with Franco and the devastating Civil War, Paul Preston’s magisterial work begins in the late nineteenth century with Spain’s collapse as a global power, especially reflected in its humiliating defeat in 1898 at the hands of the United States and its loss of colonial territory.

This loss hung over Spain in the early years of the twentieth century, its agrarian economic base standing in stark contrast to the emergence of England, Germany, and France as industrial powers. Looking back to the years prior to 1923, Preston demonstrates how electoral corruption infiltrated almost every sector of Spanish life, thus excluding the masses from organized politics and giving them a bitter choice between apathetic acceptance of a decrepit government or violent revolution. So ineffective was the Republic—which had been launched in 1873—that it paved the way for a military coup and dictatorship, led by Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1923, exacerbating widespread profiteering and fraud. When Rivera was forced to resign in 1930, his fall brought forth a succession of feeble governments, stoking rancorous tensions that culminated in the tragic Spanish Civil War.

With astonishing detail, Preston describes the ravages that rent Spain in half between 1936 and 1939. Tracing the frightening rise of Francisco Franco, Preston recounts how Franco grew into Spain’s most powerful military leader during the Civil War and how, after the war, he became a fascistic dictator who not only terrorized the Spanish population through systematic oppression and murder but also enriched corrupt officials who profited from severe economic plunder of Spain’s working class.

The dictatorship lasted through World War II—during which Spain sided with Mussolini and Hitler—and only ended decades later, in 1975, when Franco’s death was followed by a painful yet bloodless transition to republican democracy. Yet, as Preston reveals, corruption and political incompetence continued to have a corrosive effect on social cohesion into the twenty-first century, as economic crises, Catalan independence struggles, and financial scandals persist in dividing the country.

Filled with vivid portraits of politicians and army officers, revolutionaries and reformers, and written in the “absorbing” (Economist) style for which Preston is so revered, A People Betrayed is the first historical work to examine the continuities of political unrest and national anxiety in Spain up until the present, providing a chilling reminder of just how fragile democracy remains in the twenty-first century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871408686
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 06/16/2020
Pages: 768
Sales rank: 166,235
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Paul Preston, author of The Spanish Civil War, Franco, Juan Carlos, and The Spanish Holocaust, is the world’s foremost historian on twentieth-century Spain. A professor at the London School of Economics, he lives in London.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Spanish Stereotypes? Passion, Violence and Corruption 1

2 Violence, Corruption and the Slide to Disaster 27

3 Revolution and War: From the Disaster of 1898 to the Tragic Week of 1909 53

4 Revolution and War: From the Tragic Week of 1909 to the Crisis of 1917-1918 79

5 A System in Disarray: Disorder and Repression, 1918-1921 103

6 From Colonial Disaster to Dictatorship, 1921-1923 129

7 The Primo de Rivera Dictatorship: The Years of Success, 1923-1926 157

8 The Primo de Rivera Dictatorship: The Years of Failure, 1926-1931 197

9 The Second Republic: Reform and Frustration, 1931-1933 227

10 The Black Years and the Coming of War, 1933-1936 259

11 Civil War: Hatred, Incompetence and Profit, 1936-1939 303

12 World War: Survival, Hypocrisy and Profit, 1939-1945 333

13 The Franco Regime: Corruption and Terror, 1945-1953 369

14 The Franco Regime: Corruption and Complacency, 1953-1969 403

15 The Twilight Years of a Corrupt Regime, 1969-1982 439

16 The Painful Creation of a Democracy, 1975-1982 471

17 The Grandeur and Misery of a Newborn Democracy, 1982-2004 509

18 The Triumph of Corruption and Incompetence, 2004-2018 539

Acknowledgements 567

Notes 569

List of Illustrations 705

Index 707

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