The grandeur of a nation’s history.
By Hugh Thomas
A chronicle of the founding of Spain’s Latin American empire, this engrossing book finds the nation at its peak of global influence from 1522 to 1566, when Charles V ruled the undisputed powerhouse of Europe and extended its reach to the New World. Highlighted in colorful detail are the sharp ends of Spain’s imperial spears, the men who first ventured across intemperate seas and through sweltering jungles in the name of King and country, including Cortés, Pizarro, and de Soto. Neither condemning nor endorsing colonialism’s assault on indigenous people, Thomas seeks rather to encapsulate a specific time, the dawn of a new Europe.
By Maria Rosa Menocal
More than any other European country, Spain has been at the crossroads of three major monotheisms. During the period of Moorish conquest (756-1492), the Ummayads and their political descendants displayed inclusive tolerance to the “peoples of the Book”; Jews persecuted elsewhere in Europe flocked to the Iberian peninsula, and the intellectual heritage of the classical world was preserved for posterity. Offering insights that could prove invaluable to our globalized era, Maria Rosa Menocal composes a valuable portrait of this period of cultural equanimity, and its eventual devolution into the chaos of the Inquisition.
Edited by Raymond Carr
From the prehistoric period to the era of Roman colonization, from the Moorish invasion to the Inquisition, from the Spanish Civil War to Spain’s inclusion in the EU, this sweeping, comprehensive collection of essays offers a dynamic perspective on Spain’s hotly contested history. Often overlooked by those enthralled by France and England, Spain’s past is crowded with drama, spectacle, and not a little blood. Amid the wars and power struggles, some of humanity’s greatest works of art emerged, and this volume — edited by historian Raymond Carr, but including diverse and often competing points of view — includes over 70 pages of illustrations to bring Spanish art and architecture to life.
By Robert Hughes
Beyond Madrid, Barcelona is the Spanish city best known to the rest of the world. Except that it isn’t part of the historic Spain of Aragon and Castile — rather, it’s the capital of what was once the Kingdom of Catalonia, and that country’s language, culture, and cuisine give this city its unique personality (and its spirit of independence, celebrated by George Orwell in his Homage to Catalonia). In this volume, famed art critic and historian Robert Hughes doesn’t merely provide a guide to the city’s landmarks, but unveils its tumultuous, violent, and deeply fascinating story.
By Miguel de Cervantes
A work of sheer storytelling genius, credited by many as the first European novel, Don Quixote (published in two parts in 1605 and 1615) is the most influential work of the Spanish Golden Age, if not all of Spanish literature. The tale concerns an old country gentleman who, after reading of a lost chivalric era, becomes delusional and believes that he is a knight errant charged with the protection of honor. That a madman should be the last guardian of honor is Cervantes’ wry commentary on the faded glory of the world in which he lived. Hilarious and dismaying, packed with tangential tales and a gallery of colorful characters, including the beleaguered squire Sancho Panza, this book is bursting with a vitality and irony that remains uniquely Spanish, though its sensibility has been taken to heart by readers around the globe.