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Ever since the Middle Ages, Spanish history has been a deeply polemical field. Preston, professor of international history at the London School of Economics, is one of a coterie of English-speaking historians of Spain whose reputation for objectivity has gained them intense admiration among the Spanish public. Following his definitive biography of the dictator Franco, Preston now turns his attention to the man Franco chose to perpetuate his repressive regime, the grandson of King Alfonso XIII. Juan Carlos, with his soldierly temperament and his taste for women and fast cars, was widely perceived as Franco's stooge and an intellectual mediocrity. Preston, however, a self-confessed pragmatist, is thoroughly sympathetic, presenting his subject as an intelligent patriot, repeatedly sacrificing personal happiness in long-term pursuit of democracy. In the pivotal years after Franco's death in 1975, Juan Carlos pacified the left, legalizing the Communist Party and bringing the socialists around to the cause of a constitutional monarchy. At the same time, the king desperately attempted to limit the fallout from attacks by the Basque terrorist group ETA and partially defused the threat of military conspiracy. While unable to avoid the attempted coup of 1981, he was, in Preston's view, undoubtedly instrumental in its failure, preventing a bloodbath and a second civil war. The warmth of Preston's respect for the king will be a surprise to some, but is well supported by the evidence in this exhaustive and compelling book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in contemporary Europe. 16 pages of illus. not seen by PW.
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*Starred Review* King Juan Carlos of Spain is a hero. He has created an effective--no, vital--place for the monarchy in Spanish politics and national life at a time in European history when the institution of monarchy is somewhat on the wane. Preston, author of the definitive Franco (1994), supplies a much-needed, serious, comprehensive, and absolutely dynamic biography of el rey, impressively researched and deeply probing--not only into Juan Carlos the character and king but also into recent Spanish history, which is the necessary context for understanding the king's life. Two major points are stressed here in effecting such an understanding: Juan Carlos was raised from boyhood with one purpose, to help regain for the Borbon royal house the throne left vacant in 1931 by the establishment of the Spanish republic; and, once installed as king upon the demise of the seemingly everlasting dictator Franco, Juan Carlos was determined that the restored monarchy would function as the force for democracy in the newly opened up, post-Franco Spain. What is learned here is that Juan Carlos' "long march to the throne" was most certainly not an easy journey, but the king's adeptness at performing as a constitutional monarch has been the primary factor in bringing Spain the political security it enjoys today. Brad Hooper
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A fascinating story well told. It is easy to get lost in all the persons mentioned, some overviews of teachers, advisers, ministers etc would have been helpfulPublished 15 months ago by Jorgen Lovland
King Juan Carlos I of Spain is a truly remarkable man. It was thanks to him that Spain made the successful and mostly smooth transition from Francisco Franco's absolute... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Alexander Tonks
A good biography of King Juan Carlos of Spain. It is assiduously researched, and generally well-written. Juan Carlos is an oddity, when you think about it. Read morePublished on July 18, 2013 by Gene Rhea Tucker
An interesting biography of a great King of Spain with a lot of details about his life. Needed this book for my dissertation, unfortunately it doesn't contain much information... Read morePublished on June 4, 2013 by Mariposa
This detailed and well researched book is a full account of Jaun Carlos' life inside the Franco regime and his personal journey to bring democracy to Spain despite his being... Read morePublished on February 4, 2013 by Brian Dedora
This is a fascinating and well-written page-turner of a book telling an incredible story so amazing it blew me away. Read morePublished on March 25, 2012 by Tudy
I made the mistake of thinking this was just a biography on Juan Carlos but instead its a complex read on Spain during the dictatorship and how it became a democrarcy again. Read morePublished on November 2, 2006 by Andromeda
If I were rating this book on content alone, Preston would get 5 stars. However, his writing style hampers him somewhat. Read morePublished on May 16, 2005 by soxfan87