Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die
Author: Tom Gallagher
9781787383883 | HB | pp. 360 | 2020 | Hurst Publishers
A vivid, balanced and enormously enjoyable biography of António Salazar, head of Europe’s longest-lived right-authoritarian regime. The best introduction to Portuguese affairs in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
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Many years after his death, Portugal’s Salazar remains a mystery, even to the Portuguese, but this book goes a long way towards deciphering him. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, this is both a biography and an intellectual portrait. Salazar was a normal man, but a very unusual dictator, whose thoughts and actions continue to pose a challenge to democratic politics in Europe and elsewhere.
For a dictator, Salazar’s end was anti-climactic—a domestic accident. But during his nearly four decades in power, he survived less through reliance on force and more through guile and charm. This probing biography charts the highs and lows of Salazar’s rule, from rescuing Portugal’s finances and keeping his strategically-placed nation out of World War II to maintaining a police state while resisting the winds of change in Africa. It explores Salazar’s long-running suspicion of and conflict with the United States, and how he kept Hitler and Mussolini at arm’s length while persuading his fellow dictator Franco not to enter the war on their side.
Iberia expert Tom Gallagher’s immensely detailed portrait of a fascinating man is itself fascinating. The author is a distant presence, coolly objective and disinclined to judge his huge cast of politicians, soldiers, diplomats and bishops. In his book, he allows readers space to come to their own conclusions.
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