Franco: The Patient Dictator

Paul Preston assesses how time has obscured the legacy of the Spanish military rebel and leader.

Few historians, and fewer serious ones, write works in praise of Hitler or Mussolini. In contrast, Franco, despite his undeniable fascist credentials, has enjoyed a good press. During the Spanish Civil War, Catholics and conservatives saw him as the defender of Western civilisation against Muscovite barbarism. One of them, Douglas Jerrold, in his Georgian Adventure, described Franco as 'a supremely good man; a hero possibly; possibly a saint'. Virtually the only dissenting voice in England was that of the Left Book Club, and with its demise the field was left to a fresh wave of admirers. During the Cold War, new enthusiasts welcomed Franco as the bulwark of Western defence. And finally, on the eve of his death, appreciative biographers saw him as the elder statesman, the helmsman steering Spain to order and prosperity. The prevalent Anglo-Saxon view would have been acceptable to all but the most fervent Falangist.

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