THE Spanish Empire of Ferdinand and Isabella and their successors has its origins in the earliest periods of antiquity. Far more than the British Empire, to which it has often been compared, it is linked with the history and traditions of the past. England�s insular position, which ultimately forced her into a maritime career, is of course the fundamental explanation of her modern imperial domain; but this insular position did not actually bear fruit in voyages of distant exploration and conquest until after she had practically relinquished her mediaeval ambitions to win land on the European continent from France. The Tudor period, which witnessed the beginning of the one and the abandonment of the other, forms a sharp dividing line in English history; and it is possible to make an intelligent study of the British Empire without going back of the sixteenth century. But the story of the empire of Spain is at once more complicated and more continuous. The geographical position of the Iberian Peninsula tempted its inhabitants to expand both by land and sea. From the very dawn of history its fate has been closely associated with that of North Africa, southern France, and the islands of the western Mediterranean. At times it has formed a portion of empires which controlled all these territories, either wholly or in part; and at times its own rulers have, in turn, dominated large portions of them. The European lands outside the limits of the peninsula which acknowl�edged the rule of Spanish sovereigns in the year of the discovery of America were already extensive, and they were to be substantially increased during the first century of the conquest and exploration of the New World. At the greatest crises of her imperial career Spain has been confronted by a bewildering array of irreconcilable opportunities. In her refusal to choose between them, in her heroic but misguided attempts to utilize them all, lies the explanation of some of her most disastrous defeats...