Architects of Terror: Paranoia, Conspiracy and Anti-Semitism in Franco’s Spain

By Paul Preston


From the preeminent historian of 20th century Spain Paul Preston, Architects of Terror is a new history of how paranoia, conspiracy and anti-Semitism was used to justify the military coup of 1936 and enabled the construction of a dictatorship built on violence and persecution.

It is the previously untold story of how antisemitic beliefs were weaponised to justify and propagate the Franco overthrow of liberal Spain.

The Spanish military coup of 1936 was launched to overturn the social and economic reforms of the democratic Second Republic, and its educational and cultural challenges to the established order. The consequent civil war was fought in the interests of the landowners, industrialists, bankers, clerics and army officers whose privileges were threatened. However, a central justification for a war that took the lives of around 500,000 Spaniards was that it was being fought to combat an alleged scheme for world domination by a non-existent ‘Jewish- Masonic-Bolshevik Conspiracy’. Despite the fact that Spain had only a tiny minority of Jews and Freemasons, Franco and his inner circle were ardent believers in this fabricated conspiracy and spread the notion that the survival of Catholic Spain, as well, of course, of the establishment ’ s economic interests, required the total annihilation of Jews and Freemasons.

Architects of Terror is the story of how fake news, mendacity, corruption and nostalgia for lost empire generated violence and hatred. The book presents vivid portraits of the key ideologues who propagated the myth of the Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik Conspiracy and of the military figures who implemented the atrocities that it justified. Among the convictions shared by these individuals was their belief in the idea that Freemasonry was responsible for Spain ’ s loss of empire and in the factual veracity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious fiction about the global domination of the Jews.

This is a history that reverberates in our own political moment

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 01 Feb 2024
Pages: 464
ISBN: 978-0-00-852215-5
SIR PAUL PRESTON CBE is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and was previously a lecturer at the University of Reading and Professor of Modern History at Queen Mary University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and holds the Marcel Proust Chair of the European Academy of Yuste. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by universities in Spain and the UK. In 2006, he was awarded the International Ramon Llull Prize by the Catalan Government and, in 2018, the Guernica Peace Prize. Among his many works are Franco: A Biography, Comrades, Doves of War: Four Women of Spain, Juan Carlos, The Spanish Civil War, The Spanish Holocaust, The Last Stalinist, The Last Days of the Spanish Republic and A People Betrayed. In Spain, he was appointed a Comendador de la Orden del Mérito Civil in 1986 and awarded, in 2007, the Gran Cruz de la Orden de Isabel la Católica. He lives in London.


”'Deeply researched and revealing . . . Preston’s study is based on both profound knowledge and shrewd human understanding” - Daily Telegraph, five-star review

”'Preston’s great skill lies in carefully dissecting these vile characters…This book reveals Preston at the peak of his powers; he’s an enormous intellect and a great storyteller” - The Times, Gerald DeGroot

Praise for A People Betrayed (2020) -

A Financial Times Best History Book of 2020 -

‘For decades, Paul Preston has been one of the English-speaking world’s premier historians of modern Spain. His latest book, dealing with the controversial topic of corruption in Spanish politic, public administration and business, is particularly good on the Franco dictatorship and post-Franco democratic era’ -

Financial Times -

”'Fascinating … The depth of the book’s research cannot be faulted and the examples of grand malfeasance and political corruption are extraordinary … Buried in the narrative lies ample treasure … I applauded Preston’s heroic feat.” - Times

‘Tremendously rich and learned … Preston is one of Britain’s finest historians … This book, massively researched … Powerful, persuasive and utterly fascinating - makes for harrowing reading’ -

Sunday Times -

‘A magisterial study of [Spain’s] turbulent past, seen through the optic of those apparently ineradicable twins: corruption and political incompetence … Races along in a riveting fashion, replete with eye-catching and often blackly humorous anecdotes …Preston’s narrative combines his gift for cogent, summarising clarity and for telling details …Preston has written an admirable book - a lively, comprehensive history of modern Spain.’ -

Guardian -