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Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy Hardcover – June 17, 2004


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Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy + The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge (Revised and Expanded Edition)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (June 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058048
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,701,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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A good biography of King Juan Carlos of Spain.
Gene Rhea Tucker
It was thanks to him that Spain made the successful and mostly smooth transition from Francisco Franco's absolute dictatorship to a strong parliamentary democracy.
Alexander Tonks
This is a fascinating and well-written page-turner of a book telling an incredible story so amazing it blew me away.
Tudy Hollingshead

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Philip Hurst on August 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Other reviews of Professor Preston's biography of the King of Spain describe it as a masterpiece. For all its virtues, I am reluctant to go that far.

No-one seeing the emotional pictures of the King and Queen of Spain and their family visiting the injured and bereaved in the wake of the bombing atrocities in Madrid on the 11th March can be in any doubt about the position and role of the Bourbon monarchy in contemporary Spain. Of all the European monarchs today, Juan Carlos I of Spain enjoys the greatest stature, primarily for his role in the nurturing and development of democracy in the wake of the decades of dictatorship under General Franco. The road to his coronation as King of Spain in 1975 was a long one and a hard one, indeed a dangerous road. From 1948 the two decades under the watchful and omnipresent eye of the Caudillo, the years of monarch-in-waiting after designation as Franco's successor, and as king after Franco's death, until the mid-1980s, were fraught with uncertainty, loneliness, political tension and intrigue, threats of military intervention, and, in 1981, a somewhat farcical but potentially deadly attempted coup by army officers who longed to return the country to the old days of the Caudillo. Professor Preston relates this history of Juan Carlos's youth, apprenticeship to Franco and succession to the throne with painstaking, sometimes numbing detail, all supported by a wealth of footnotes pointing to original sources. But it is very much a political, academic biography.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fans of the usual kinds of biographies about kings and princes should be careful about this one. It's a very good book, but it's likely to be very far from the sort of thing you're expecting. But then, King Juan Carlos of Spain's life has been very different from that of most modern royals. In a sense, this book is hardly even "about" him at all. Rather, it's an in-depth look at a transitional era in Spanish history, as well as at the man who, in many ways, was the pivot on which that transition turned. People looking for that kind of book will be rewarded here.

Let me expand a little on what this book isn't, because I think that's important. There's not really very much in these pages about Juan Carlos' life outside the political realm. For example, the author mentions in passing toward the end of the book the king's "obsession with speed and with expensive sports in which he risked his life and which frequently caused him serious accidents and injuries" (p. 511). In most royal biographies, those kinds of things would be central to the story. Here, they're barely an aside. Likewise, Queen Sophia hardly appears here except tangentially in a political context. The Infantas and Prince Felipe show up even less. Is this book a well-rounded look at Juan Carlos as a man? No.

But then, it doesn't seem like it's intended to be. What this book is, as I said, is a look at the king's role in helping Spain move from the Francoist dictatorship to the current popular democracy. That role was a central one -- not only at key moments like dismantling the 1981 coup attempt, but also in slowly, quietly, and yet unrelentingly keeping in check the forces that wanted to maintain Francoism even after the Caudillo's death in 1975.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By pnotley@hotmail.com on September 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Royalty demands sycophancy from its subjects, and this is especially the case for royal biography. Notwithstanding that it doesn't take too much for people to realize that most monarchs are deeply unattractive people. Whether it is the selfish, irresponsible house of Savoy so acutely delineated in Denis Mack Smith's Italy and its Monarchy, or the houses of Hohenzollern and Romanov leading their countries to disaster, or the fundamentally mediocre British monarchy as seen in the essays of David Cannadine, or for that matter Juan Carlos' irresponsible, shallow brother-in-law, Constantine II, the last king of Greece, monarchs are people who believe the rest of the world owes them a living.

In 1931 it seemed that the Spanish branch of the Bourbons had met its own well-deserved fate, as King Alfonso went into exile and his countrymen formed a democratic republic. As Preston puts it, the royal family does not take exile well. Hemophiliac uncles, morganatic marriages, adulterous affairs, a deaf and dumb uncle whose son will be used by Preston to make Juan Carlos' life even more miserable, it all looked most unpromising. One detail that comes to mind is a picture of a four year old Juan Carlos in military uniform. It was only after he had been standing in it for hours that people realized that his books were too small and his feet had been rubbed raw. But on the whole this is a picture of Juan Carlos that is fairly sympathetic to him. After he appears on the scene, there is little gossip of the Eurotrash aspect of things. (Although we do learn that Juan Carlos accidentally shot his brother to death.)

Juan Carlos, born in 1938, and his father Don Juan had to find a way to restore the monarchy after the Spanish Civil war. The problem was simple.
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