Paul PrestonNov 8, 2021
A People Betrayed
A History of Corruption, Political Incompetence and Social Division in Modern Spain
Liveright Publishing 2020
Sir Paul Preston’s A People Betrayed: A History of Corruption, Political Incompetence, and Social Division in Modern Spain (Liveright, 2020) is a masterful synthesis that offers a novel way of thinking about the turbulent history of Spain. Preston marshals an impressive amount of secondary and primary evidence to explain why corruption and political incompetence have consistently undermined the progress of Spain and created cleavages within Spanish society, eroding social cohesion and resulting in episodes of frequent violence. In examining these two themes of corruption and political incompetence, Preston avoids merely reproducing stereotypes of Spain as a backward and inherently violent country—the so-called “Black Legend” of Spain—and instead shows, with great nuance and appreciation for irony, the manifold ways that these two factors have decisively shaped modern Spain.
Preston, a professor at the London School of Economics, is the author of over a dozen books on the history of twentieth-century Spain. His work is marked by a critical engagement with the history of Spain, elegant prose, and virtuosic command of detail. Preston’s scholarship has been showered with many accolades from institutions inside and outside of the UK, and translated into numerous languages, including Spanish, Catalan, German, and Russian. Within Spain, Preston’s work is widely read and respected. His 2011 book, The Spanish Holocaust, has been central to informing discussions of historical memory about the Spanish Civil War by providing evidence of the systematic nature of the atrocities committed during this period.