Spain: A History

Raymond Carr, Editor
Raymond Carr, Editor Oxford University Press, USA $45 (336p) ISBN 978-0-19-820619-4
Paperback - 335 pages - 978-0-19-280236-1
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Potent yet palatable, this history of Spain is remarkably seamless--especially 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.)
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