Franco: A Biography by Paul PrestonGeneralissimo Francisco Franco, the Caudillo of Spain, was the most tenacious and most successful of twentieth-century Europes great dictators. He is remembered widely as the astute general under whose leadership the Nationalist cause was victorious in the Spanish Civil War and the Communist threat exterminated, and as the head of state who skillfully negotiated safe passage for Spain through World War II, played Hitler off against the Allies, modernized his country, and orchestrated the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s. By the time of his death in 1975, he had steered a unified Spain to worldwide respectability and envy and deftly schooled the young prince Juan Carlos to be his successor. To many, Franco was Spain incarnate—a heroic figure to match his illustrious—a heroic figure to match his illustrious predecessors El Cid, Charles V, and Philip II.
This idealized portrait—still widely accepted today—is now subjected to Paul Prestons penetrating scrutiny. He has written a magnificent, monumental biography that vividly recreates the man and sets before us, unclouded by the prejudices or simplifications of apologists or adversaries, a definitive portrayal of this complex, elusive figure.
The controversy about Francos achievements has raged since his death. Just how good a general was he? Would he have won the civil war without German and Italian help? Can he be blamed for the bombing of Guernica and other atrocities? Did he dupe Hitler during World War II? Were his self-sufficient economic policies directly responsible for ushering in Spains economic boom? Did he deliberately seek to liberalize the regime in his later years, or was he perhaps losing his grip on the controls? Did Franco preside over another Spanish golden age or did he merely stall and stifle his countrys natural growth? How, in the final reckoning, are his achievements to be judged? Preston addresses and resolves, often to startling effect, these pivotal questions, deploying an enormous quantity of new evidence and fresh insights culled from previously inaccessible sources and unexamined witnesses, colleagues, and enemies alike.
Paul Prestons credentials as the biographer of France are incomparable. His many books on modern Spain have been acclaimed for their seriousness and their stylishness, and this gloriously engaging biography is, in many ways, the culmination of his work of an intellectual odyssey of twenty-five years duration, spent in the company of the Caudillo. Paul Preston sits in judgment on this enigmatic dictator, and his verdict will be compelling to anyone interested in the history of modern Spain or, indeed, in the formation of modern Europe.
A Look at 1961 Spain During the Dictatorship of Francisco Franco
The general and dictator Francisco Franco ruled over Spain from until his death. Some of these restrictions gradually eased as Franco got older, and upon his death the country transitioned to democracy. Until age 12, Franco attended a private school run by a Catholic priest. He then entered a naval secondary school with the goal of following his father and grandfather into a sea-based military career. In , however, the cash-strapped Spanish government temporarily suspended the admission of cadets into the Naval Academy.
Franco entered a naval secondary school at age 12, and hoped to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, but in the Spanish government, crippled by the Spanish—American war, suspended the admission of new recruits to the naval academy, forcing Franco to join the army academy instead. Like his ally and fellow dictator Adolf Hitler, Franco reportedly only had one testicle.
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2. He Wasn’t All There
Francisco Franco was a career soldier who rose through the ranks until the mids. When the social and economic structure of Spain began to crumble, Franco joined the growing right-leaning rebel movement. He soon led an uprising against the leftist Republican government and took control of Spain following the Spanish Civil War — He then presided over a brutal military dictatorship in which tens of thousands were executed or imprisoned during the earlier years of his regime. Francisco Franco was born on December 4, , in Ferrol, Spain, a northwestern port city with a long history of shipbuilding. The men in his family had served in the navy for generations, and the young Franco expected to follow in their footsteps. However, the economic and territorial aftermath of the Spanish-American War led to a reduction in the navy, and after completing his primary education at a Catholic school, Franco was forced to enlist at the Infantry Academy at Toledo instead.
The Spanish general and dictator Francisco Franco played a major role in the Spanish Civil War and became head of state of Spain in The young Franco was rather active; he swam, went hunting, and played football. At 12, he was admitted to the Naval Preparatory Academy whose graduates were destined for the Spanish navy. However, international events conspired to cut short his anticipated naval career. Spain was slow to rebuild, therefore many ports which had relied on naval contracts were plunged into an economic recession.