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

Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2020. 768p. ISBN 9780871408686. $35. HIST
Preston (history, London Sch. of Economics; The Spanish Holocaust) is the foremost historian of modern Spain writing in English. This latest work continues Preston’s pattern of producing definitive studies of 20th-century Spain. Citing more than a hundred pages of sources, this massive volume paints a pessimistic picture of Spain’s historically stagnant economy, venial and incompetent politicians, reactionary military and clergy, regional separatist movements, and relentless boom-and-bust cycles of revolution and reaction that blunted progress for more than a century. Spain began transitioning to democracy after far-right dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, but the country is still beset by old ills, including rampant corruption and a burgeoning Catalan independence movement. Spain has seen an astonishing number of military coups: 50 from 1814 to 1981. It has withstood crisis after crisis: humiliation in the Spanish-American War (1898), Miguel Primo de Rivera’s kleptocratic regime (1923–30), civil war (1936–39) and ensuing decades of dictatorship, and an uphill struggle for democracy (1975–present). Betrayed by their leaders time and again, the Spanish people have nevertheless sustained a rich, robust culture.
VERDICT A definitive political history of modern Spain: searing, sympathetic, analytical, and packed with enough intrigues and regime changes to excite scholars and history buffs alike.
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