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Spain: A History

3.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192802361
ISBN-10: 0192802364
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Spain, influential historians once maintained, was an "exceptional" country--meaning that, in many key respects, it lay outside the course of European history. Unlike any other nation of Western Europe, Spain was for centuries the province of Islamic rulers, and the crowned heads of other parts of the continent scorned it as an "oriental," necessarily backward nation--when in many ways it was considerably more advanced than its neighbors.

The exceptionalist view of Spanish history was misguided and damaging, writes the eminent historian Raymond Carr, but it was one that many Spanish people accepted: to them, it helped explain why Spain, once so mighty and rich an empire, should have fallen behind while the rest of Europe grew stronger and wealthier, and why a retrograde ruler like Franco could have remained in power when democracy flourished elsewhere.

Carr and his colleagues, including several Spanish scholars, seek to restore Spain to the mainstream of European history in this highly useful survey. Taking in a view that extends deep into prehistory and forward to the recent presidential elections, the contributors emphasize the diversity of Spain's many peoples, whose union under the kings and queens of Castile and Aragon would bring so much of the world under Spanish dominion, and the difficulty of maintaining that political union in the recent climate of ethnic and regional rivalry. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Potent yet palatable, this history of Spain is remarkably seamlessAespecially considering that it traces the development of a fractious society and that it is the creation of nine collaborating authors. The work's fluidity is both evidence of editor Carr's diligence and a manifestation of the authors' unity of purpose. Together and individually they dismiss the romantic notion that, to preserve traditional values, Spain has repeatedly resisted social change and intentionally sacrificed its own prosperity. Instead they propose that Spain's unique path toward integration with modern Europe has been the result of the perpetual clash of its diverse inhabitants and conquerors. Far from isolating itself from Europe, they argue, Spain grew in power by exploiting its ties to other European societies. The authors' shared thesis spans the centuries from Roman domination, to the Islamic invasion, to the tyranny of Franco, but their narrative styles and interests are by no means uniform. Carr (a former warden at St. Anthony's College at Oxford and author of Modern Spain, 1875-1980) displays what amounts to contempt for Spanish culture of the mid-19th century; Felipe Fern ndez-Armesto (professor of history, Oxford) combines effervescence with erudition in his discussion of the Spanish Golden Age; Sebastian Balfour (assistant director of Spanish studies, London School of Economics) employs the brevity demanded by the book's structure to heart-wrenching effect in his account of the Spanish Civil War. As era is layered upon era, the events of history become linked not only by a causal relationship, but by a creative one as well: this book suggests that the concept of Spain has evolved through the continuous and repeated reinterpretation of a rich and controversial past. 8 pages color and 70 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802361
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter J. Adams on June 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First, you must realize that a 300-page book that covers 2500 years of history can only accomplish the briefest of surveys. This book does a solid job with this task. The text is sensibly divided into nine chapters, each covering a distinct historical period. Raymond Carr is the editor and author of one chapter. Considering that each chapter has a different author, the book has a remarkably unified feel. Carr has done a good job making sure each chapter supports the others and avoiding redundancy. There is good balance as well; most chapters touch on social, demographic, economic, and cultural trends as well as the obligatory political narrative. This gives the reader nice insights into the character of each period and helps to understand the course of events.
Also, there are several high-quality pictures included, a bonus for a short survey history book. The bibliography has helped me choose other books to read. It is organized by chapter, which is helpful although some referenced books ought to have been included under more than one chapter.
I do have one complaint: there is no chapter on Islamic Spain. This topic is not covered at all, except peripherally when the Moors directly impinge upon the medieval Christian kingdoms. The Moorish presence is probably the single factor that, more than any other, distinguishes Spanish history from that of other Western European countries. Islamic Spain also made a huge contribution to the development of Western civilization by serving as the avenue for the reintroduction of Aristotle's works to Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Also, most of Spain was under Islamic rule for about 500 years.
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Format: Hardcover
I am shortly leaving on my third trip to Spain and, every time before I go, I try to read another history of the country. This time around it was this book, Spain: A History.
Oxford University Press can usually be counted on to put out a good product and this book is no exception. It is a nice coverage of the very complex past of Spain from pre-history to the present. It is edited by Raymond Carr but the individual chapters were written by different authors. Carr himself covers only the period from 1833-1931.
Ironically, it is Carr's section that I find the weakest of the book. He wanders through so many different names and governments that I became a bit lost. This is one of the main dangers about writing of Spain's recent past, I guess, since it seems that the leadership often changed minute by minute. Still, the earlier sections of the book are much more engaging.
Overall, I found this book to be a good read. It is quite detailed but still rather brief. Sometimes these histories tend to get lost over a thousand pages or so. This book can be read in a reasonalbe amount of time. I was also pleased to see how the importance of regionalism in Spain is brought out. For anyone interested in getting the big picture of Spanish history, this is a book for you.
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Format: Hardcover
Since it is written by various authors, the book is not entirely of an even quality. The earlier parts and the last chapter are the best. But it is all reasonably good. It is fairly clear cut and brief so you do not get bogged down. It has a great reading list for further adventures. It does not have a lot of nit-picking footnotes that I have to compulsively read. It does have a lot of excellent and helpful black and white illustrations. I rarely finish a history book. I finished this one.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent compilation of well written essays on the history of Spain. Comprehensive and succint, but boring as all get out. Having trouble with insomnia? Then give this book a try. I was hoping to get a grasp on Spanish history and this book certanly made me aware of the complexities, but it did nothing to ease the burden that the lay reader faces on the subject. I would recommend this book as a reference but not as a starting point or a casual read, despite its relative brevity. Those with a stronger background on the subject may have more of an appreciation.
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Format: Hardcover
For all our extensive resources concerning specific period in Spanish history, we still lacked (believe it or not) a good, comprehensive history of Spain. This new volume, edited by award-winning historian Carr, gives a clearly-written, concise history of Spain from prehistoric times through the present day, complete with very nice black-and-white photos and color plates. The text, written by eminent historians from Carr to Henry Kamen (Philip of Spain), is detailed and engaging yet accessible to the lay reader. A great find for English-speaking students of Spanish history.
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Format: Paperback
Words that define this book: accurate, engaging, reliable, fascinating, scholarly, solid... Even the Spaniards awarded this exacting Englishman with the famed "Prince of Asturias Award" and an honorable doctorate from the University of Madrid.

This book is a must read for any Iberophile!
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Format: Paperback
This book is a combination of nine chapters, each written by a different historian. The overall effect is that of an interesting social history of Spain. That is to say, instead of focusing on wars and battles, the book focuses on how Spain and Spanish culture evolved over the course of its history. The book starts with prehistory, and ends with the death of Francisco Franco and Spain's return to democracy.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting and informative book. I did not know much about Spain's history before reading this book, and I liked the way it informed me about how Spain developed. I enjoyed reading this book and don't hesitate to recommend it.
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