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Franco: A Biography Paperback – 11 Jul 2011
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Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the Caudillo of Spain from the Nationalists' brutal, Fascist-sponsored victory over the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War until his quiet death in 1975, is the subject of this book. The biography presents a mass of new and unknown material about its subject, the fruits of research in the archives of six countries and a plethora of interviews with key figures. Paul Preston is the author of "The Triumph of Democracy in Spain" and "The Spanish Civil War 1936-9".
From the Publisher
YORKSHIRE POST BOOK OF THE YEAR 1994
"General Franco was the most successful of 20th-century dictators in Europe. He was also the most unlikely. Franco had none of the charisma of some of his counterparts. Yet he was loved and hated as much as any of them. The portrait of Franco that emerges here is is far removed from both the demonologies and the hagiographies to which he has been subjected for so long. Preston's book skilfully weaves together anecdote and analysis in a seemingly effortless and enthralling narrative. His portrait is fascinating and chilling at the same time. As a biography of Franco, it is unlikely to be surpassed." Sebastian Balfour, SCOTSMAN
"Will stand as the definitive biography of the Caudillo...no history of modern Spain can be written from now on without constant recourse to the lavish and fascinating details and the penetrating analyses of this masterly work." Bernard Knox, LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS
"It is difficult to see this marvellous, brilliantly written and surely authoritative biography ever being matched. It is a book which any historian would be proud to have written." Ian Kershaw, TIMES HIGHER
"No previous study has told us so much about the formation of Franco's character. It grips the reader even in familiar passages from Franco's life. Its poised judgements and masterful scholarship make it certain to endure and difficult to refute." EUROPEAN
"This terrific book finally buries Franco. I read all its pages with unfailing fascination and sometimes astonishment. It is a tremendous piece of work." INDEPENDENT
"Preston's book is a work of great scholarship, making use of much new material. But it is not dry : He is a master of narrative, with an eye for the arresting and sometimes horrific detail. A gripping read." DAILY TELEGRAPH
"Brilliantly clear-minded and detailed...the definitive biography of Franco; there is nothing to match it in Spanish. It is a triumph of clarity, judicious analysis and detailed research." Colm Toibin, SUNDAY TIMESSee all Product description
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Preston provides an intricately detailed analysis of each stage of Franco's life from childhood to senescence. He offers a careful assessment of the Caudillo's military strategy during the Spanish Civil War, which relied on the pitiless destruction of all resistance across the nation before giving consideration to ending the conflict. Whilst he was in power, Franco saw himself as ruling for the winning side, rather than on behalf of all Spaniards. He saw reconciliation as weakness and was responsible for the ruthless repression of all potential opposition after his victory. Though Franco kept Spain out of WW2, Preston concludes his inclination was consistently to sympathise with the fascist axis.
This authoritative and well-referenced work ultimately portrays Franco as a vindictive mediocrity of limited intellect with no real vision for his country other than to cling on to power. It is a must read for anyone interested in the history and evolution of modern Spain.
It is cram-full of political and diplomatic details that can be exhausting for the casual reader but rewarding for the patient committed reader. I feel that a shortened version could have a wider readership through editing particularly the long wartime narrative with the General's constant prevarications about joining the Axis forces and the crafty opportunism he displayed by playing one side against the other. I am not so sure that every reader would want to know the outcome of every single meeting he had with the Western ambassadors or the German and Italian dignitaries, let alone every exchange he had with his various foreign affairs ministers and acolytes. Sure it can be riveting in a perverse way but I would have preferred for instance more information about the nature of the " Carlist" movement and the origins and doctrine of the Falangists. An insight into the post civil war living conditions of the Spanish population would have been interesting or the fate of the incarcerated Republican prisoners.This is a matter of personal taste and doesn't detract in anyway from the magnificent achievement of the author , a monument to his meticulous scholarship.
Paul Preston is an author who has command of his material and uses it well. What prevents him from becoming a great Historian however is he cannot remain objective on his subject but allows his left tendencies to come out.
Anything done by the right has to be from base motives, an obvious distortion and because of this I can only give 4 stars where I wanted to give 5.
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