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About this book

An invaluable introductory textbook that provides students with a concise overview of the whole sweep of Spanish history, from its prehistoric origins right through to the present day. Simon Barton offers a clear and balanced account of the country’s strikingly rich and diverse history.

This is an ideal core text for dedicated modules on Spanish History and Iberian History, or a supplementary text for broader modules on European History, which may be offered at all levels of an undergraduate History, Spanish or European Studies degree. In addition it is a crucial resource for students who may be studying the history of Spain for the first time as part of a taught postgraduate degree in Spanish, European History, Spanish History or European Studies.

Table of Contents

1. Origins: Prehistory to AD 711

Abstract
The ethnic origins of the population of the Iberian peninsula are shrouded in mystery and controversy. However, thanks to the remarkable excavations currently taking place in the Sierra de Atapuerca, high up in the north-eastern corner of the Castilian meseta, we can at least be sure that communities of hominids (ultimately of African origin) had already begun to establish themselves in the peninsula around 1.2 million years ago. Homo antecessor, as he has been dubbed, probably relied principally on hunting to sustain himself, although the grisly forensic evidence from Atapuerca — where human bones bearing cut marks have been discovered — suggests that he also routinely resorted to cannibalism. Whether any relationship existed between Homo antecessor and the other hominid forms that subsequently settled in the peninsula has yet to be firmly established. Among the latter were the cave-dwelling Neanderthals, who during the Middle Palaeolithic period (c. 100,000–40,000 bc) founded numerous settlements on Iberian soil, with particularly important concentrations in Cantabria, the Western Pyrenees, Catalonia and the Levante.
Simon Barton

2. Spain and Islam, 711–1000

Abstract
Writing c.625, Bishop Isidore of Seville prefaced his History of the Kings of the Goths with this extravagant paean of praise to his homeland:
Of all the lands from the west to the Indies, you Spain, O sacred and always fortunate mother of princes and peoples, are the most beautiful … You are the pride and ornament of the world, the most illustrious part of the Earth, in which the Gothic people are gloriously prolific, rejoicing much and flourishing greatly. Indulgent nature has deservedly enriched you with an abundance of everything fruitful … Rightly did golden Rome, the head of the nations, desire you long ago … Now it is the most flourishing people of the Goths, who in their turn, after many victories all over the world, have eagerly seized you and loved you: they enjoy you up to the present time amidst royal emblems and great wealth, secure in the good fortune of empire.
Simon Barton

3. The Ascendancy of Christian Iberia, 1000–1474

Abstract
When al-Manṣūr died in August 1002, as he returned from yet another successful raiding expedition into Christian territory, al-Andalus appeared to be at the peak of its power. Yet when his son and successor as chief minister (ḥājib), al-Muẓaffar, followed his father to the grave six years later, unitary political authority in al-Andalus suddenly collapsed and in 1031 the western Umayyad caliphate passed into history, never to be resurrected. Although Muslim Iberia was subsequently to regain short-lived unity under two Berber movements — the Almoravids and Almohads — the balance of power in the peninsula thereafter shifted decisively away from al-Andalus towards the increasingly self-confident and expansionist states of the Christian north.
Simon Barton

4. The Universal Monarchy, 1474–1700

Abstract
In the short space of barely a century, between 1479 and 1580, the Hispanic realms were to experience an extraordinary change in their fortunes. The two peninsular heavyweights — the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon — were joined together in dynastic union in 1479, an event which, in the eyes of traditionalists, marked the birth of the modern Spanish state, and peninsular unity was forged for the first time since the Visigothic era with the annexation of Granada (1492), Navarre (1512) and Portugal (1580). During this same period, Spain acquired — by conquest and settlement — a vast American empire and also had a substantial European one thrust upon it after the accession of the Habsburg Charles I to the Spanish throne in 1516. For a few decades, Spain became not only the arbiter of political affairs in Europe, but the most powerful monarchy on the planet: this was the first empire on which it could truly be said that the sun never set.
Simon Barton

5. The Enlightened Despots, 1700–1833

Abstract
The eighteenth century in Spain was a period of continuity and change. On the one hand, the process of demographic and economic expansion, which had already got under way during the final decades of the previous century, became more pronounced. On the other, the Bourbon monarchy which established itself in the peninsula in 1700 implemented a number of significant reforms which were designed to enhance the power and resources of the state, safeguard its still vast colonial empire, and restore Spain’s international standing. This expansionary process, which reached its peak between 1740 and 1790, was brought to an abrupt halt by the French Revolutionary Wars and the ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte, which not only inflicted untold destruction and suffering upon the peninsula, but also led to the loss of most of the Spanish empire shortly afterwards.
Simon Barton

6. Liberalism and Reaction, 1833–1931

Abstract
The century that followed the death of Ferdinand VII in 1833 was marked by rapid demographic expansion, significant economic growth and far-reaching social change. In the political and economic spheres, liberalism took firm root, the structures of absolutist rule were in large part dismantled and the administrative and legal framework of a modern, centralized state was established. However, the demise of absolutism was not accompanied by sweeping political reform. Instead, a new oligarchy came into being, comprising the liberal bourgeoisie and the traditional land-owning class, which, while committed to ‘ordered progress’, was determined to resist any attempt to introduce fundamental political or social reforms which might ultimately undermine its privileged position. The failure of the Spanish liberal state to secure legitimacy, and thereby cement its power, meant that political conflict became endemic throughout this period.
Simon Barton

7. The Modern Era, 1931–2008

Abstract
The advent of the Second Republic heralded the introduction of a fully developed democratic system in Spain. However, deepening political divisions soon emerged between the antagonistic forces of the Left, which demanded social justice, and those of the Right, which feared imminent popular revolution. In July 1936, a military pronunciamiento triggered a bloody civil war, which was finally resolved three years later in favour of the right-wing Nationalists, led by General Franco. For the next 36 years, thanks in large part to his political acumen, his fierce repression of any signs of opposition, and, not least, the support of the army, the Church and the United States, General Franco was able to maintain his grip on power. During the 1960s, Spain underwent a process of far-reaching economic and social change, but it also experienced a growth in opposition to the regime. By the time of Franco’s death in 1975, Spain’s boom had ground to a halt, and many among the political and economic élites were of the view that political change was imperative if the nation were to flourish. As a result, from 1976, the structures of Francoism were gradually dismantled and the peaceful transition to democracy was accomplished.
Simon Barton
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