For nearly two centuries Spain was the world’s most influential nation, dominant in Europe and with authority over immense territories in America and the Pacific. Because none of this was achieved by its own economic or military resources, Henry Kamen sets out to explain how it achieved the unexpected status of world power, and examines political events and foreign policy through the reigns of each of the nation’s rulers, from Ferdinand and Isabella at the end of the fifteenth century to Philip V in the 1700s.
He explores the distinctive features that made up the Spanish experience, from the gold and silver of the New World to the role of the Inquisition and the fate of the Muslim and Jewish minorities. In an entirely re-written text, he also pays careful attention to recent work on art and culture, social development and the role of women, as well as considering the obsession of Spaniards with imperial failure, and their use of the concept of ‘decline’ to insist on a mythical past of greatness. The essential fragility of Spain’s resources, he explains, was the principal reason why it never succeeded in achieving success as an imperial power.
This completely updated fourth edition of Henry Kamen’s authoritative, accessible survey of Spanish politics and civilisation in the Golden Age of its world experience substantially expands the coverage of themes and takes account of the latest published research.
Of the First Edition:
…a highly professional book…which gives a very useful and up-to-date account of the most interesting period in Spanish history.
The Times Literary Supplement
Preface to the Fourth Edition. List of maps. Glossary. A note on coinage. Prelude. 1. The Catholic Monarchs 1469–1516. 2. The rise of empire: Charles V 1516–1558. 3. A world power: Philip II 1556–1598. 4. The crisis of government 1598–1660. 5. Spain’s people in an age of crisis. The survival of the middle classes. 6. The end of the old empire 1660–1714. Appendix 1. Dynastic table of Spanish rulers, 1474–1700. Appendix 2. Economic and demographic statistics. Maps. Bibliographical Note. Index.