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Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, Preston Paul, New York: W. W. Norton & Company. (June 2004).

Paul Preston was born on 13th September, 1946 in Liverpool. The Hispanic and a British historian who specializes in the Spanish History- a field he has mastered for a period more than thirty years. At the present, he is a full time professor at the prestigious London School of Economics and a visiting professor to a number of institutions of higher learning across Spain where he teaches Spanish Civil War and other related specialties.

 Professor Preston has made a number of publications most of which appear in Spanish. The Calatan speaking scholar is the 2005 winner of the highly coveted Ramon Llull International Prize owing to his outstanding advocacy for the return of Salamanca papers. Besides Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy he has also published The Spanish Civil War: reaction, revolution and revenge (2006), We saw Spain die: foreign correspondents in the Spanish Civil War (2008), The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-century Spain (2008) among others.

Summary of the Book Content

The book, Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, provides a descriptive account of the personal and political mysteries surrounding the life of Juan Carlos- a Spanish Bourbon monarch brought up during the regime of Franco. Based on the ideological influences of the Franco Junta, Juan Carlos was deeply rooted on the ideals of authoritarian traditions which made him more inclined towards an imminent dictatorship. The first part of the book places much emphasis on the dynamics of the Spanish monarchy as well as the structures of the political systems in Spain under the newly promulgated succession laws that put Bourbon throne under the Catholic Kingdom.

In the second part of the book, the author explains how Juan Carlos, the perceived cornerstone of dictatorship, turned from the prevailing dictatorial ideologies of the traditional Bourbon monarchy to embrace egalitarianism after the death of Franco and the United Nations intervention in 1946. The book explains the detailed role of the pioneer Juan Carlos in introducing democracy across Spain with the help of UN and U.S. Nixon administration. Also discussed in the book are the huddles Juan Carlos encountered in his historic political endeavors that help shape the once monarch Spain into what it is today such as considerable resistance of the fascist loyalist and the 1981 outlived Spanish military coup.

In the final section of the book, Professor Preston presents a detailed description of how Juan Carlos managed to steer Spain into a fully fledged democracy by reinstating all the institutions of democracy, check military coups by the army, guard against Basque terrorism, and the eventual attainment of regional separatism.

Book Review

Suffice it to say, Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, remains the only book that has expanded my knowledge about the history of Spain in regard to how the country transited from dictatorial monarchy (under the influential Franco of Bourbon throne) to a fully fledged democratic nation with all its democratic institutions in place. The publication is comprehensive and articulate in the use of historic evidences such as documented legislations and scripts from the Roman Catholic and the United Nations. These documentary evidences corroborate all the claims presented in the book by the author. Additionally, the author makes reference to other reputable history sources (outside the book) to support various hypotheses he advances in the book thus an overwhelming approval it gains from the World History Society and other scholarly quarters of the world. In my own judgment there is no any other book that provides detailed and elaborate history of Spain than Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy.

Furthermore, Professor Paul Preston provides an excellent and accurate presentation about the historic transition of Spain from the dictatorial systems of monarchy to democracy under the influence of tenacious Juan Carlos after the death of Franco in 1975 (November). Professor Preston records an outstanding reputation in the Spanish history thus guaranteeing authenticity of the book in this specialty. The worldwide respected British scholar of Hispanic origin is extremely knowledgeable in the history of Spain thereby making this particular publication a big success and an authority in the subject area.

Prior to reading this book, I never understood the events and personality behind the change of Spain from a dictatorial to democratic state. I must say that the book has not only enhance my understanding of Spanish history but it has also widened my scope of acknowledging the political contribution of Juan Carlos, the United Nation, and U.S. (spearheaded by President Nixon) towards building a democratic Spain- as it stands today.

In summary, Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, is exceptionally convincing that Juan Carlos was the pioneer who steered Spain from dictatorial monarchy a fully fledged democratic nation but through a lot of turbulence such as resistance from the fascist loyalists and attempted coup of 1981.  The book is written in a simple but a highly descriptive language (English) and its contents are systematically organized into Sections and chapters for easy reading. Furthermore, the inclusion of footnotes and endnotes to explain technical terminologies used throughout the book make its reading fun and guarantee subsequent understanding of all historic concepts therein. I recommend this book for general readership because of its usefulness in the understanding of Spanish history.

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