A conversation with Paul Preston : A People Betrayed

book cover of Paul Preston's A People Betrayed featuring black and white image of refugees

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A People Betrayed Blurb:

From the foremost historian of modern Spain comes the bloody, much misunderstood story of how, from 1874 to the present day the Spanish people were devastatingly betrayed by their political class, military and Church.

This comprehensive history chronicles the fomenting of violent social division by institutionalised corruption and startling political incompetence. Most spectacularly during the Primo de Rivera and Franco dictatorships, grotesquely shameless corruption went hand-in-hand with inept policies that prolonged Spain’s economic backwardness well into the 1950s. Prior to 1923, electoral corruption excluded the masses from organized politics and gave them a choice between apathetic acceptance and violent revolution. Bitter social conflict, economic backwardness and conflict between centralist nationalism and regional independence movements exploded into the civil war of 1936-1939.

It took the horrors of that war and the dictatorship that followed to break the pattern. The moderation shared by the progressive right and a chastened left underlay a bloodless transition to democracy. Yet, as before, corruption and political incompetence continued to have a corrosive effect on political coexistence and social cohesion. Sparkling with vivid portraits of politicians and army officers, some corrupt and others clean, recounting the triumphs and disasters of Kings Alfonso XIII and Juan Carlos, A People Betrayed unravels the mystery of why both right and left have been unable or unwilling to deal with corruption and the pernicious clash between Spanish centralist nationalism and regional desires for independence.


Sir Paul Preston CBE, FBA is Príncipe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish History at the LSE. He was born in Liverpool in 1946 and has dedicated the bulk of his professional life to writing the history of twentieth century Spain in both its domestic and international dimensions. He has lectured widely in Europe and America. Among his books are The Coming of the Spanish Civil War (1978); The Triumph of Democracy in Spain, (1986); Franco: A Biography (1993); Doves of War. Four Women of Spain (2002); Juan Carlos. A People’s King (2004); The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, Revolution, Revenge (2006); We Saw Spain Die. Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War (2008); The Spanish Holocaust. Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain (2012); The Last Stalinist (2014) The Last Days of the Spanish Republic (2016) and A People Betrayed (2020). He holds the Marcel Proust Chair of the Academia Europea de Yuste (2006) and is a Corresponding Member of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (2009). His work has been awarded several distinctions and prizes in Spain including the Encomienda de la Orden de Mérito Civil (1986), the Premi Internacional Ramon Llull (2005), the Gran Cruz de la Orden de Isabel la Católica (2007), the Premi Pompeu Fabra (2012) and the Gernika Peace Prize (2019).

Professor Helen Graham is Professor of Modern European History at Royal Holloway University of London. She has published widely on the war of 1936-39 in Spain, including in broader European and transnational context; and also on Francoism, including the mass repression/prison universe of the 1940s. She is the author of five books (and a sixth close to completion), three edited volumes and numerous scholarly articles, as well as many popular historical articles. Her books include the 1995 volume (with Jo Labanyi) Spanish Cultural Studies (Oxford University Press) and The Spanish Civil WarA Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2005) which has been translated into Spanish, German, Turkish, Greek and Portuguese/Brazilian Portuguese, and is available as an audio-book in the US. She has previously taught at the University of Southampton and at New York University and she is currently the holder of a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2018-21) for a study of Franco’s prisons 1936-1978.

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