The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad

Narrated by: Joyce E. Salisbury
Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (754 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Spain has played a unique and essential role in Western civilization. To understand the unfolding of Spain's epic history is to come to terms with one of the West's great cultures, and to grasp its enduring presence and impact on the world stage.

In these 24 accessible lectures, Professor Salisbury presents a broad and enthralling panorama of Spanish history, covering the centuries from the first prehistoric settlement of the peninsula to Spain's 20th-century civil war.

Linking one seminal era with the next, the course begins with how early Spain drew a range of peoples from ancient Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, who formed vibrant communities on the peninsula. From there, you'll witness the rule of the peninsula by both Rome and Visigothic peoples, leading to the spellbinding drama of Islamic Spain and the Reconquista, Catholic Spain and the Inquisition, and the opening of the New World. Finally, you'll travel into the kingly dynasties and the dazzling artistic heritage of the Habsburgs and Bourbons, and you'll track Spain's emergence into the modern world.

Together with the unfolding of Spanish history, Professor Salisbury illuminates Spain's iconic cultural forms - such as flamenco music and dance, and the ritual of bullfighting - and its phenomenal contributions to art, architecture, literature, music, theology, and learning.

Across the centuries, you'll explore jewels of Spanish architecture, from the resplendent Moorish Alhambra and Alcázar of Seville to the sublime Sagrada Familia cathedral of modernist Antoni Gaudí. And you'll encounter Spain's geniuses of the visual and written arts, including such masters as the painters Velasquez, el Greco, Goya, and Picasso, and writers from the philosophers Averroes and Maimonides to literary greats Lope de Vega and Cervantes.

Travel with us to this remarkable culture, and savor the beauty and the great human drama of the history of Spain.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad

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    3 out of 5 stars

As much travelogue as history

Prof Salisbury starts her first lecture acknowledging her love for Spain and Spanish culture, which is fair enough, perhaps even to be expected. She follows through with a parade of colorful highlights, a 12-hour whirlwind from Phoencians to Franco.

Often she gets a little carried away. Spain's is not all that fertile a soil, for example, nor do I think she really believes it's difficult to think of an architect on par with Gaudi. This kind of cheer-leading, paired to a brisk, skimming pace, can gives the lectures more of a feel of travelogue or a pre-collegiate world cultures course than of collegiate level history. Good news for casual listeners, bad news for history buffs in search of some meaty analysis. As a history buff, I was disappointed, but recognize that this kind of enthusiasm can go a long way to holding the interest of someone who typically finds lectures dry and awful.

Sometimes, however, she takes the adoration too far, charitably understating the more... problematic aspects of topics like colonialism, bullfighting, slavery, guerillas, and the Spanish Inquisition. She prefers celebrating reform to identifying the problems needing reform. Bring a healthy dose of cynicism to your listening.

Full marks for Salisbury's speaking voice, which I could follow even in a noisy work environment, and for an unusually low incidence of verbal tics.

27 people found this helpful

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History is complex - presented as if all sources agreed with content as she presented it to us

I have studied about Spanish history a little prior to listening to this book. At least some parts of the history of Spain were presented here as ‘The’ facts when there are varying accounts of those times. This led me to feel less trusting of the rest of the information presented. But overall I do feel like I learned more about Spain and I enjoyed listening to the entire audio book.

9 people found this helpful

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Good

I was expecting a bit more in depth about history. Was mostly a broad view. It did cover some elements of culture which I found very interesting

7 people found this helpful

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Excellent

I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture series and learned a lot. It has inspired me not only to visit the Iberian Peninsula, but to delve into the histories of other nations as well.
I enjoyed Prof. Salisbury's presentation and the overall presentation in general.

6 people found this helpful

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Best Great Courses Yet

I have listened to about 20+ great courses, and this one has absolutely been my favorite. The professor has a contagious enthusiasm for the subject matter, clear and consise speaking style, and organizes the material in a way that is engaging and helps bring the lectures to life. I never once "spaced out," and found myself looking forward to the next commute. I am now hoping to travel to Spain to experience some of its rich history and culture and hope the professor will have other Great Courses soon! Thanks!

4 people found this helpful

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Too partisan

This sounded more like a op-ed piece than history. It's often anti-Catholic and overly sympathetic to the Arabs and North Africans who invaded Spain in the 7th century and occupied it until the 15th century ... to the extent that the author indulges a right of return for the descendants of the invaders. The occupation that the author celebrates as benevolent was based on the social and economic institutions of Apartheid and slavery. How in heaven's name can the enslavement and castration of boys and the enslavement and sexual exploitation of young girls be positioned as benevolent.

21 people found this helpful

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Listen before travel

This quickly moving course provided a great, broad description of Spain. When we traveled there immediately after I finished the course, I was more aware of the history and importance of what I saw. Truly helpful and enjoyable.

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heavy Muslim focus

I rated this book only 3 stars because the narrator focused what seemed like many lectures on Muslim Spain and spent very little time painting a picture of Spain after the middle ages. To give just two examples, I did not feel like enough attention was paid to Spain's relationship with its colonies or the Spanish civil war. I wish the narrator spent more time on these and other aspects of Spanish history. However, there doesn't seem to be much about Spanish history on Audible so I would say this book is worth listening to if you can't find anything similar.

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A fabulous presentation about a fascinating land.

Before listening to this course, I never realized the Importance of Spain to the thread of history running from the ancient Roman Empire through the evolution of Europe to the wider world of today. It has put together many pieces of information into a coherent whole for me.

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Delightful and fun

Heading for Barcelona today and just finished. Combination of history with author’s stories of her time there works well.

History if Spain often bleak. She makes it interesting with her obvious passion.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-03-18

Good

Narrator's voice kept breaking, bit annoying
Wars and battles skipped over a bit
Overall good

1 person found this helpful

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  • Master Ewan J. Johnstone
  • 06-07-18

Fairly lackluster, with a few good chapters.

fairly shallow overview, a bigger focus on culture than I would of liked; descriptions of famous architecture doesn't make for good audio.
I thought the chapters on gypsy and Jewish history respectively were interesting. I feel bad for bringing it up but the lecture did stumble on her words quite a lot, I guess they don't do retakes?

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  • caroline h (Manchester, England)
  • 07-16-20

Fabulous

Absolutely superb. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Joyce Salisbury has done Spain's history proud. Broad brush strokes and fine details.

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  • J. Watts
  • 04-18-20

one of the best Great Courses I've listened to.

The lecturer certainly knows her stuff and her enthusiasm for Spain and Spanish history is heartfelt. I had little idea that Spain's history was so eventful: from being ruled by Arabs to being rulers in South America themselves, It takes you through many interesting periods of history such as the Counter Reformation, the Enlightenment, through the Civil War right up to the reinstatement of the Monarchy and the current democracy. It left me wanting to learn more about every part of Spain's history. Fascinating.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 07-13-19

Great introduction to Spanish history

As someone who knew next to nothing about Spanish history this gives a good overview.

Rather than simply a chronological list of Kings and dates, the lectures often divert off into topics like the medieval wool trade or the birth of cubism bringing the topic alive.

Prof Salisbury's love of the country shines through and her personal anecdotes about her visits are enjoyable and often quite humorous.

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  • Manish
  • 09-12-18

Spanish History

I chose this as it was specific to Spain. However there were times when the story diverted to other events particularly around the time of Muslim Spain. I would also have liked more on Spanish painters like El Greco, Murillo and Ribera as well as political issues like the War of the Spanish Succession . But otherwise good set of lectures

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  • mcsmall
  • 03-17-18

Overview of Spanish history

Inevitably, a broad over view is likely to feel superficial, and this is no exception.However, for someone with little or no previous knowledge, it would be a useful introduction.If you have any previous knowledge, it would be better to focus on particular periods.
The narration was a little too fast at times.

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  • muovikassi88
  • 03-02-18

A good introduction

A good introduction to Spanish history, I learned a lot. At times there was too much religion and architecture for my taste, and given the limited amount of lectures in depth analysis was understandly somewhat lacking. Regardless I recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in Spain, it covers a huge amount, and explained many things about modern Spain to me even though I speak Spanish and have lived here for five years.

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  • cath haye
  • 12-12-17

Sweep of Spanish history

Loved the content. Makes me want to learn more. Narration uneven and a bit distracting though.

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  • Shahriar
  • 10-01-17

Inspiring

She is as marvelous a narator as she is an author and combined you are in for a treat.

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  • Shane M Healy
  • 07-16-18

Must, before a visit to Spain

After visiting Spain over a number of years my appreciation of this fabulous country has been found wanting until I listened to these lectures. Colour and depth have been brought to the Spanish picture. A must before anyone idiots.