From bloodthirsty conquest to exotic romance, stereotypes of Spain abound. This new volume by distinguished historian Stanley G. Payne draws on his half-century of experience to offer a balanced, broadly chronological survey of Spanish history from the Visigoths to the present. Who were the first “Spaniards”? Is Spain a fully Western country? Was Spanish liberalism a failure? Examining Spain's unique role in the larger history of Western Europe, Payne reinterprets key aspects of the country's history.
Topics include Muslim culture in the peninsula, the Spanish monarchy, the empire, and the relationship between Spain and Portugal. Turning to the twentieth century, Payne discusses the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War. The book's final chapters focus on the Franco regime, the nature of Spanish fascism, and the special role of the military. Analyzing the figure of Franco himself, Payne seeks to explain why some Spaniards still regard him with respect, while many others view the late dictator with profound loathing.
Framed by reflections on the author's own formation as a Hispanist and his evaluation of the controversy about “historical memory” in contemporary Spain, this volume offers deeply informed insights into both the history and the historiography of a unique country.
A Choice Outstanding Academic Book
©2011 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System (P)2012 Redwood Audiobooks
“An excellent, balanced discussion of important controversies.” (Juan Linz, author of Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes)
“Concise, engaging, and above all scholarly, this volume offers a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of Spanish history.” (Julius Ruiz, author of Franco's Justice)
“Thoughtful yet provocative; indispensable reading for everyone.” (CHOICE)
I would highly recommend this to anyone who has the patience to listen closely to a deeply layered analysis of Spanish history. I found the academic tone of the work to be highly stimulating. This is no rough sketch such as you might find in any lesser work; the author brings his long career as an historian and academician to bear on analyzing everything from economics to war to geography to politics in the shaping the Spain of today.
The discussion of the highly controversial dictator Franco was intensely interesting, as was having a better understanding of the root causes of the Civil War. But so was the entire story from the Visigoths to the Twenty-First Century.
I haven't listened him before, but he gave an incredible performance in spite of his understandably Anglicized enunciation of tons of Spanish words. Getting past those hiccups was a bit distracting, but not much.
The closing chapter, in which specific conclusions are drawn to illustrate what Spain is today and where it might be going, from the perspective of a very intelligent social scientist.
The lengthy introduction was tedious but probably necessary in order to establish the author's credibility. The rest of the work was so good that I've given it a couple of listens. Of course, just having traveled through Spain for the first time added to the correlative joy of hearing this. I highly recommend this unique outlook on the history of an amazing culture.
This book is of particular interest to those who are interested in history not only for facts and stories but for an understanding of how things came to pass, not only on the primary level of events but also on the levels of how these are interpreted, transformed and transmitted. It is a very rich work that gives insights into historiography as well as history. I came away feeling enriched in many ways.
The discussion of the Arabic occupation and how it has been seen at different times is alone worth the price of the book to me. I had a rosy vision of a tolerant and cultivated Islamic state that contrasted with the rough and bigoted Christians; this book not only sets the record straight but also explains where this idealized vision comes from.
Do not pass up this book because of negative reviews, though these are right in saying that it is not written for those who want a easy account of the personages and events of Spanish history. The reader is also good, and though he reads foreign words with a pronounced American accent, he does not MISpronounce Spanish words as some reviews suggest (the incomprehensible words they allude to are probably Latin or French). Spanish words are all comprehensible, though the rare French words are seriously mispronounced.
The book is quite dense and not a "easy listen". Negative reviewers are not wrong to bring this up, but I am extremely grateful for having listened to it. It gives a wonderful overview of Spanish history with invaluable insights, but it is not a "concise history of Spain" and needs to be complemented by other books if you know little about Spanish and European history.
The author's account of his academic career is both interesting and meaningful in the context of an important subject central to the book: historiography. I CAN understand how a casual listener might be put off by this book, and I would not recommend it to everyone. But to those with a somewhat deeper interest in history, it is a real find.
This is a good book, for a certain audience. The author is clearly an excellent historian and does a beautiful job laying out a broad history of the country of Spain. However I would term this book more of a commentary on history than an overview or introduction. I am a lover of history with a reasonable general background on most subjects, but I found myself often lost while listening to this book. He does not really lay out the subject in any comprehensive, chronological, or explanatory way, but essentially provides a commentary on Spanish history. If you know little about Spain, this is not a good place to start at all. It would be interesting for a person who already has a strong basic background in Spanish history. Also, if you are picky about proper pronunciation of Spanish names, then you will be disappointed. Furthermore, the first chapter of the book is really more of an autobiography of the author's professional career. It certainly seems his due after a long and distinguished career, but I doubt many will find it very interesting.
I was looking for a basic history of Spain. The book started with hours of the author basically telling the reader about himself, seeming to justify his authority to write the book. He then goes into exhaustive details of Spanish history, presupposing that the reader already has more than a rudimentary knowledge of the subject. For example, he often drops names of obscure people or refers to obscure events as if they were common knowledge to the average reader. Finally, the book doesn't cover its subject in historical order, which in the author's defense was probably not his intention, since he couldn't do so and cover the subject the way he covered it. Bottom line. this is more of a book for readers with more than a casual knowledge of Spanish history looking for greater detail to fill in gaps and answer questions they may have on the subject.
This book NEVER took any shape -- and I listened to the entire work on a long drive. It starts with an hour and a half of the driest academic biography that even the author's mother would not read. Then it rambles on, about various topics, in no clear order. Not a single story or anecdote of any character ever appears. The author clearly KNEW such tales, but he talks in such an unfocused way, you don't even know the era or region under discussion. Only when he got to Franco did any narrative emerge and even that was minimal.
Unlike a number of reviewers, I think the narrator was outstanding. He read complex academic writing in a patient but not monotone voice. Perhaps his Spanish pronunciation could have been better, but there was so very little in Spanish, that didn't matter.
The author does have original thoughts and surely was a great professor. The author should have worked with an editor, or even family members, to make this engaging. This work smothered any insight into what should have been fascinating.
I wanted to like this. I wish I had heeded the many warning reviews.
This is an astonishingly bad book. It rambles over time in no special order, with long discussions on historiography but without giving more than a sketch of what actually happened. I love history, but I couldn't finish this one.
I was looking for a book on the history of Spain. After plodding through 2 hours of the author's background on how he researched this book, who he met and a list of other books written on Spain, I gave up and decided to get one of the other books. Maybe I gave up too soon, but after the first two hours, I couldn't stand it any longer!
The narrator ineptitude towards Spanish pronunciation.
Unique book. Horrendous narration.
Anyone. Even my 9 year old son.
Probably teach the narrator Spanish pronunciation.
A narrator who knows how to pronounce Spanish words would have greatly improved this book. Also, less background on why the author decided to study Spain -- it was a very uninteresting hour.
I've heard that he is an authority on the comparative history of fascism, so I would give that work a chance. But the amount of ideological axe-grinding he does in this book was a little obnoxious. He couldn't get through the Visigoth period without lashing out at multiculturalists.
The number one criterion for a good narrator for a book on the history of Spain is being able to pronounce Spanish-language words. Pierce did not meet that criterion. Every time he had to say a Spanish-language word or name, it was cringeworthy. He seems like he would be okay for other audiobooks...but he was not the right person for this job.
I wish that I could get my credit back.
Great fan of dogs and audio boooks!
Without going into details the book gives a nice overview of major stages in Spain development. An interested reader can look further for a more detailed description of the events. But from the standpoint of universal history this review is fair and balanced.
"Not a History of Spain"
I feel like I've been conned by the blurb regarding this book which promised "a balanced, broadly chronological survey of Spanish history from the Visigoths to the present." In fact this is a highly academic work that begins with a self-indulgent, two hour lecture on the author and the development of hispanist history more generally. The author then proceeds to spend more time deconstructing the historiography of Spain than it does telling you anything interesting about what went on in the county's past. It is assumed the reader is already very familiar with the history of Spain and is keen to find out how and why that history came to be told in the way that it is. If you do not meet both of these criteria this may not be the book for you.
"Superficial and tendentious"
An idiosyncratic and ultimately disappointing overview of Spain's history by one of the leading modern historians of the country, Payne's analysis is rather superficial; too often, he is satisfied with debunking an 'accepted' version of events, without exploring the questions that an alternative version raises.
For example, Payne dedicates a lot of time to dismissing the motion that the Republican side during the Civil War stood for liberal democracy, but here he is really arguing with pro-Republican political propaganda circa 1937, not with current historiography. And rather than simply railing against the Republic's lack of democratic credentials, he might usefully have explored the question as to why a large part of Spanish liberalism had decided to adopt an authoritarian approach, why a large portion of the Spanish Socialist Party was committed to revolutionary rather than gradualist change and why, uniquely in world history, Spain produced mass radical anarchist movements in both rural and urban settings.
To take another example, Payne is highly critical of the PSOE's controversial decision to politicise the issue of the recent past at the start of the 21st century, but his explanation is far from enlightening. It is, he argues, simply the expression of the dominance of the 'ideology' of political correctness. A more convincing explanation would need to set the decision in the context of the PSOE's economic policies of the time, and the need for the party to establish a clear distinction between itself and its opponents on the right.
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