"It's easy to make enemies in Spain." That's one of the more cutting observations that British historian Paul Preston gives in an interview with The Beaver, the London School of Economics (LSE) student newspaper, in which he states his support for the right to self-determination as it applies to Catalonia.
Preston explains that his position has always been that Catalans should be able to vote on their future because "people should have the right to express their views." Additionally, he says he has learned that Spanish life, and especially intellectual life, "tends to be Manichean" - breaking everything down into good and evil - and according to the historian: "It’s easy to make enemies in Spain. There’s a ‘those who aren’t with us, are against us’ kind of mentality."
Paul Preston recalls a talk given by Pedro Sánchez at the LSE before he became Spanish prime minister and he says that at that time he described what he heard as "Rajoy-light." Preston points out that although Sánchez was "more reasonable than Rajoy, he was not significantly different."
On similar lines, Preston juxtaposes the Spanish politician's statement that the country's justice system is independent with the situation in which, for no reason, "people are held without trial for so long and face possible sentences of thirty years". Paul Preston comments with understatement that this is "slightly unreasonable" and the historian's exasperation almost leaps out from the page when he says: "The idea that the only solution to separatist sentiment is sending in the Civil Guard…see what I mean?"
UK historian Paul Preston is one of the best known Hispanists, author of many works on Spanish history, particularly on the Civil War era.