Between 1000 and 1700, Spain did what no other European country or region has done:  its inhabitants liberated themselves from what nationalist historians would later call centuries of foreign occupation, and they acquired and then held the world’s first truly global empire; then, in the space of 150 years, Spain’s European power largely evaporated, as it lost out to Britain and France in the great-power conflicts of the eighteenth century. Despite their continued possession of far flung colonies (virtually all of Central and South America) until the nineteenth century, the Spanish collapse was so complete and the subsequent English ascendancy so total, that American students often learn about the Spanish empire, which endured longer than the English one, only as a footnote to history. 


This course thus focuses on the political and social history of Spain from the Christian “Reconquest” of Iberia, through Spain’s imperial expansion and European domination in the sixteenth century, to its rapid decline in the seventeenth century. Each week, we will cover some issue or theme related to the history of Spain in its Golden Age. Students will be broken into groups and scheduled to lead the discussion of readings in given weeks.


Because it is a once-per-week seminar, each class period will be broken into two or three parts. 1. Many students know little about Iberian history before 1492, and so I will give presentations covering this earlier history of the Iberian Peninsula in the effort to catch students up to the period the course covers. 2. Discussion/presentation of assigned readings on aspects of Spain in the Golden Age. 3.In-class writing or research paper workshopping or the occasional film.