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Paul Preston

Paul Preston
Preston in 2004
Born (1946-06-21) 21 June 1946 (age 77)
Liverpool, England
Academic work
InstitutionsLondon School of Economics

Sir Paul Preston CBE (born 21 July 1946) is an English historian and Hispanist, biographer of Francisco Franco, and specialist in Spanish history, in particular the Spanish Civil War, which he has studied for more than 50 years. He is the winner of multiple awards for his books on the Spanish Civil War.[1]


Preston was born in 1946 in Liverpool. Preston said in an interview that he has sympathy for the Second Spanish Republic: "I came from a fairly left-wing family. You could not really be from working-class Liverpool and not be left-wing. Emotionally, in my feeling for the Republic I think there is an element of indignation about the Republic's defeat, solidarity with the losing side. Maybe that's why I support Everton, although Everton wasn't the losing side in my day."[2]

Preston studied for his undergraduate degree at Oriel College, Oxford. He then gained an MA in European Studies at the University of Reading. He moved back to Oriel College to gain his DPhil.[3]

From 1991 to 2020 Preston taught at the London School of Economics, where he was Príncipe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish Studies and the founding director of the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies.

He is a frequent visitor to Spain, where his work appears in Spanish and Catalan. He speaks both languages.[4]

He has a wife, Gabriella, to whom he dedicated The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain.[5]


"I try to be honest, even if the right-wing press paints me as an amateur and a liar." (2021)[6]

Preston has produced a biography of Franco (Basic Books, 1994). He has also published a biography of King Juan Carlos I (2003). Recent books include We Saw Spain Die, on the subject of foreign correspondents who reported on the Spanish Civil War and Perfidious Albion: Britain and the Spanish Civil War, a collection of essays exploring "the hypocrisy of British foreign policy towards the Spanish Republic, in contrast to the selfless contribution of medical personnel from across the globe, including many doctors and nurses from Britain, Ireland and Commonwealth countries, and assessing the influence of prominent ‘writer-historians’ including George Orwell and Herbert Southworth."[7]

The Spanish Holocaust

In 2012 he published the English edition of the Spanish Holocaust.[8] This book represents a challenge to the pact of forgetting,[9] examining the many deaths and atrocities associated with the Spanish Civil War, and following the Francoist repression into the early 1950s.[10]

The book was criticised by the historian Stanley Payne; while Payne did praise Preston for his depth and breadth of research into atrocities in and after the war, he criticised Preston for bias when it came to Republican atrocities. Payne argues that Franco's policy was to simply eliminate the leaders and main activists of the Republicans while letting most of the rank and file go free.[11]

At the same time the book received praise among academics and journalists, with Giles Tremlett writing in the Guardian: "Preston provides facts, figures and harrowing descriptions in the first full and proper attempt to explain the horror. He does not shy away from strong words – 'holocaust' is deliberately chosen to describe the extent of cold-blooded killing [...] because its resonances with systematic murder should be evoked in the Spanish case, as they are in those of Germany or Russia".“[12]

Architects of Terror

In 2023, he published Architects of Terror: Paranoia, Conspiracy and Anti-Semitism in Franco’s Spain, in which he examined the conspiracy theories and antisemitism behind the rise of Francoism.[13][14][15] The book included profiles of six figures within the Francoist camp: Emilio Mola, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, Mauricio Carlavilla, Juan Tusquets Terrats, José María Pemán, and Gonzalo de Aguilera Munro.[16]

Robert Low of The Jewish Chronicle reviewed the book positively, saying that it "shows how fake news is certainly not an invention of the 21st century, and that its consequences can be far-reaching and frequently lethal."[17]

Awards and honours

Honorary Doctorates


  • — (1978). The Coming of the Spanish Civil War: Reform, Reaction and Revolution in the Second Republic 1931–1936. London: Macmillan.[30]
  • — (1993). Franco: A Biography by Paul Preston. HarperCollins.[31]
  • — (1993). Franco: A biography. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780465025152.[32]
  • — (1999). ¡Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War. London: HarperCollins.[33]
  • — (2002). Doves of War: Four Women of Spain. London: HarperCollins.[34]
  • — (2004). Juan Carlos: A People's King. London: HarperCollins.[35][n. 1]
  • — (2006). The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge. London: HarperCollins.[36]
  • — (2008). El gran manipulador. La mentira cotidiana de Franco. Barcelona: Ediciones B.[37]
  • — (2009). We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War. London: Constable and Robinson.[36]
  • — (2012). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. London: Harper Press.[38]
  • — (2013). El zorro rojo, la vida de Santiago Carrillo. Madrid: Debate.[39]
  • — (2016). The Last Days of The Spanish Republic. London: William Collins.[40]
  • — (2020). A People Betrayed: A History of Corruption, Political Incompetence and Social Division in Modern Spain 1874-2018. London: William Collins.
  • — (2023). Architects of Terror: Paranoia, Conspiracy and Anti-Semitism in Franco’s Spain. London: William Collins.
  • — (2024). Perfidious Albion: Britain and the Spanish Civil War. London: The Clapton Press.

As Editor

  • Paul Preston, ed. (1976). Spain in Crisis: Evolution and Decline of the Franco Regime. London: Branch Line.
  • Paul Preston, ed. (1976). Leviátan: Antologia. Ediciones Turner.
  • Paul Preston, ed. (2001). Revolution and War in Spain, 1931–1939. Routledge.


Informational notes

  1. ^ Published in the US with the subtitle: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy.


  1. ^ Night Waves, BBC Radio Three, 6 March 2012
  2. ^ "The man who can't say no: Preston is working harder than ever". 2013.
  3. ^ "Professor Paul Preston". Department of International History, London School of Economics. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  4. ^ (in Spanish) 2007 Cadena SER interview Archived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, accessed via El País website
  5. ^ The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, p. 530
  6. ^ "Paul Preston: 'Franco was shy with women, Mussolini an aggressive predator, and Hitler harbored a range of perversions'". 19 November 2021.
  7. ^ Perfidious Albion: Britain and the Spanish Civil Warby Paul Preston, The Clapton Press, London,2024.
  8. ^ Spanish and Catalan editions appeared in 2011. España masacrada, El País.
  9. ^ Treglown (February 2012). "The Spanish Holocaust by Paul Preston: review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  10. ^ Tremlett, Giles (March 2012). "The Spanish Holocaust by Paul Preston – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  11. ^ Payne, Stanley "The History War", Wall Street Journal, 12.10.2012, retrieved 14.10.2019
  12. ^ Tremlett, Giles (9 March 2012). "The Spanish Holocaust by Paul Preston – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 24 November 2023.
  13. ^ Degroot, Gerard (26 June 2023). "Architects of Terror by Paul Preston review — paranoia, conspiracy and antisemitism in Franco's Spain".
  14. ^ "John Foot - Fascists & Fantasists". 26 June 2023.
  15. ^ "Paul Preston: 'Franco was shy with women, Mussolini an aggressive predator, and Hitler harbored a range of perversions'". 19 November 2021.
  16. ^ Bishop, Patrick (24 January 2023). "How an anti-Semitic 'fake news' conspiracy drove mass murder in Franco's Spain". The Telegraph.
  17. ^ "Book review: Architect of Terror - When Franco ruled and hatred spread". Retrieved 24 November 2023.
  18. ^ Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación: "Real Decreto 1455/2006, de 1 de diciembre, por el que se concede la Gran Cruz de la Orden de Isabel la Católica al señor Paul Preston, Director del Centro Cañada-Blanch de Estudios Españoles Contemporáneos en la London School of Economics" (PDF). Boletín Oficial del Estado (288): 42534. 2 December 2006. ISSN 0212-033X.
  19. ^ Alison Flood (5 October 2012). "Six books to 'change our view of the world' on shortlist for non-fiction prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  20. ^ ACN (12 November 2012). "La Fundació Lluís Carulla atorga el Premi d'Honor a l'historiador Paul Preston". Vilaweb. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  21. ^ "The London Gazette 8 June 2018". The London Gazette. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  22. ^ "The London Gazette 21 August 2019". The London Gazette. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  23. ^ "The Hispanist historian Paul Preston is awarded an honorary doctorate by the URV".
  24. ^ "Spanish history professor awarded honorary degree".
  25. ^ "Paul Preston, Member of the European Academy of Yuste, receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Extremadura".
  26. ^ "The Universitat de València will grant to the historian Paul Preston the distinction of new Doctor Honoris Causa".
  27. ^ "Eugene Garfield and Paul Preston awarded Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Barcelona".
  28. ^ "Paul Preston y José Antonio Martín Pereda ingresan en el Claustro de Doctores Honoris Causa UC".
  29. ^ "El historiador Paul Preston nuevo Doctor Honoris Causa por la UGR".
  30. ^ Lannon, Frances (1980). "Book reviews". West European Politics. 3 (2): 268–269. doi:10.1080/01402388008424284.
  31. ^ McLynn, Frank (7 November 1993). "The folly of appeasement". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022.
  32. ^ Smyth, Denis (1996). "Franco Cunctator". The International History Review. 18 (3): 629–640. doi:10.1080/07075332.1996.9640757. JSTOR 40107499.
  33. ^ Pulpillo Leiva, Carlos (2016). "Acercamiento bibliográfico a las relaciones hispano-británicas durante la Guerra Civil Española" (PDF). La Albolafia: Revista de Humanidades y Cultura (9): 44. ISSN 2386-2491.
  34. ^ Brendon, Piers (1 June 2002). "Love and death on the front line". The Guardian.
  35. ^ Brendon, Piers (5 June 2004). "From a pawn to a king". The Guardian.
  36. ^ a b Romero Salvadó, Francisco J. (2014). "Investigando el laberinto español en el Reino Unido". Studia Historica. Historia Contemporánea. 32. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca: 455, 461. ISSN 0213-2087.
  37. ^ Reig Tapia, Alberto (2007). "Preston, Paul: El gran manipulador. La mentira cotidiana de Franco, Ediciones B, Barcelona, 2008, 371 pp". Historia Contemporánea (35). Bilbao: Universidad del País Vasco: 867–872. ISSN 1130-2402.
  38. ^ García‐Guerrero, Isaac (2015). "Preston, Paul The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth‐Century Spain , London: Harper Press, 2012, 700 pp. £30.00 (hbk)". Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. 15 (2). doi:10.1111/sena.12145.
  39. ^ Buj, Serge (2016). "Santiago Carrillo, une biographie de Paul Preston". Cahiers de civilisation espagnole contemporaine (16). doi:10.4000/ccec.6180. ISSN 1957-7761.
  40. ^ Webster, Jason (19 March 2016). "Franco's bloody finale". The Spectator.
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Paul Preston
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