Fifty years after his death, Portugal's Salazar remains a controversial and enigmatic figure, whose conservative and authoritarian legacy still divides opinion. This 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.
[Salazar] was the lone 'benevolent autocrat' in a cohort that comprised Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin. So reckons Tom Gallagher in Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die, a learned and lively biography of a man who governed Portugal for 36 years, running it 'very much like a punctilious head butler in charge of a sprawling country estate' ... Some readers, among the more unkind perhaps, may see in this biography an apologia of sorts. Most others will view it in a different light: as the humane and open-minded story of a man whose legacy has been erased but who could well be regarded as the most consequential minor statesman of the 20th century.
What is a fascist? ... The question lies at the heart of Tom Gallagher’s new life of António Salazar, leader of Portugal from 1932 to 1968 ... Gallagher believes that Salazar has been unfairly categorised. He may have been a despot, but his despotism was more in the mould of Frederick the Great’s than Franco’s or Hitler’s. Gallagher marshals a good deal of evidence – some of it aesthetic – to support his argument ...In his introduction, Gallagher admits that he has written this book without consulting Salazar’s personal papers. At times it shows ... If nothing else, Gallagher has demonstrated how injudicious labelling can conceal the essence of things.
Gallagher insists that his biography is 'not an apologia', but his admiration for Salazar’s dedication and statecraft certainly shines through, and he tends to relativise the regime’s 'obviously repressive side' ... Gallagher’s own conservative political views too often intrude on his conclusions, his Euroscepticism leading him to dismiss post-Salazar Portugal as a 'well-behaved child in the European Union' despite undeniable economic and social progress under democracy ... In the era of the rising alt-right, we must hope that Gallagher is wrong that there may again be 'demand for national leaders of a not dissimilar stamp'.