Cathy writes: "Since we have read a few Spanish related books, would we be interested in another to fill out our understanding/" She identified the following possibilities. (I have deleted those with fewer than 4 stars on average, and those that exceed our page length preference.)
World Without End: Spain, Philip II, and the First Global Empire by Hugh Thomas. 4.5 stars (Goodreads). 496 pages (300 pages of text). Here is the New York Times review of the book.
Following Rivers of Gold and The Golden Empire and building on five centuries of scholarship, World Without End is the epic conclusion of an unprecedented three-volume history of the Spanish Empire from “one of the most productive and wide-ranging historians of modern times” (The New York Times Book Review).
The legacy of imperial Spain was shaped by many hands. But the dramatic human story of the extraordinary projection of Spanish might in the second half of the sixteenth century has never been fully told—until now. In World Without End, Hugh Thomas chronicles the lives, loves, conflicts, and conquests of the complex men and women who carved up the Americas for the glory of Spain.
Chief among them is the towering figure of King Philip II, the cultivated Spanish monarch whom a contemporary once called “the arbiter of the world.” Cheerful and pious, he inherited vast authority from his father, Emperor Charles V, but nevertheless felt himself unworthy to wield it. His forty-two-year reign changed the face of the globe forever. Alongside Philip we find the entitled descendants of New Spain’s original explorers—men who, like their king, came into possession of land they never conquered and wielded supremacy they never sought. Here too are the Roman Catholic religious leaders of the Americas, whose internecine struggles created possibilities that the emerging Jesuit order was well-positioned to fill.
With the sublime stories of arms and armadas, kings and conquistadors come tales of the ridiculous: the opulent parties of New Spain’s wealthy hedonists and the unexpected movement to encourage Philip II to conquer China. Finally, Hugh Thomas unearths the first indictments of imperial Spain’s labor rights abuses in the Americas—and the early attempts by its more enlightened rulers and planters to address them.
Written in the brisk, flowing narrative style that has come to define Hugh Thomas’s work, the final volume of this acclaimed trilogy stands alone as a history of an empire making the transition from conquest to inheritance—a history that Thomas reveals through the fascinating lives of the people who made it.
Imperial Spain: 1469-1716 by J. H. Elliott. 4.4 stars, 448 pages (386 pages of text). Here is a brief review of the book. Here is a video of an interview of Sir John Elliott on his life as a historian. Selected for December 2015!
Since its first publication, J. H. Elliott's classic chronicle has become established as the most comprehensive, balanced, and accessible account of the dramatic rise and fall of imperial Spain. Now with a new preface by the author, this brilliant study unveils how a barren, impoverished, and isolated country became the greatest power on earth—and just as quickly fell into decline.
At its greatest Spain was a master of Europe: its government was respected, its armies were feared, and its conquistadores carved out a vast empire. Yet this splendid power was rapidly to lose its impetus and creative dynamism. How did this happen in such a short space of time? Taking in rebellions, religious conflict and financial disaster, Elliott's masterly social and economic analysis studies the various factors that precipitated the end of an empire.Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs by Buddy Levy. 4.6 stars. 448 pages (330 pages exclusive of Appendices, etc.) Here is a TED talk by Buddy Levy.
In this astonishing work of scholarship that reads like an edge-of-your-seat adventure thriller, acclaimed historian Buddy Levy records the last days of the Aztec empire and the two men at the center of an epic clash of cultures perhaps unequaled to this day.
It was a moment unique in human history, the face-to-face meeting between two men from civilizations a world apart. In 1519, Hernán Cortés arrived on the shores of Mexico, determined not only to expand the Spanish empire but to convert the natives to Catholicism and carry off a fortune in gold. That he saw nothing paradoxical in carrying out his intentions by virtually annihilating a proud and accomplished native people is one of the most remarkable and tragic aspects of this unforgettable story. In Tenochtitlán Cortés met his Aztec counterpart, Montezuma: king, divinity, commander of the most powerful military machine in the Americas and ruler of a city whose splendor equaled anything in Europe. Yet in less than two years, Cortés defeated the entire Aztec nation in one of the most astounding battles ever waged. The story of a lost kingdom, a relentless conqueror, and a doomed warrior, Conquistador is history at its most riveting.Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker. 4.0 stars, 456 pages (375 pages of text) Here is a review of the book. Here is an interview with Geoffrey Parker.
Philip II is not only the most famous king in Spanish history, but one of the most famous monarchs in English history: the man who married Mary Tudor and later launched the Spanish Armada against her sister Elizabeth I. This compelling biography of the most powerful European monarch of his day begins with his conception (1526) and ends with his ascent to Paradise (1603), two occurrences surprisingly well documented by contemporaries. Eminent historian Geoffrey Parker draws on four decades of research on Philip as well as a recent, extraordinary archival discovery--a trove of 3,000 documents in the vaults of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City, unread since crossing Philip's own desk more than four centuries ago. Many of them change significantly what we know about the king. The book examines Philip's long apprenticeship; his three principal interests (work, play, and religion); and the major political, military, and personal challenges he faced during his long reign. Parker offers fresh insights into the causes of Philip's leadership failures: was his empire simply too big to manage, or would a monarch with different talents and temperament have fared better?The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor. 4.0 stars. 560 pages. Here is a review of the book.
A fresh and acclaimed account of the Spanish Civil War by the bestselling author of Stalingrad and The Fall Of Berlin 1945
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War's outbreak, Antony Beevor has written a completely updated and revised account of one of the most bitter and hard-fought wars of the twentieth century. With new material gleaned from the Russian archives and numerous other sources, this brisk and accessible book (Spain's #1 bestseller for twelve weeks), provides a balanced and penetrating perspective, explaining the tensions that led to this terrible overture to World War II and affording new insights into the war-its causes, course, and consequences.The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie. 4.7 stars, 522 pages (462 pages of text) Here is a CSPAN book talk by author MacQuarrie on this book.
The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.
In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 by John H. Elliott. 4.8 stars, 608 pages (411 pages of text). Here is a review of the book. See above for a video of an interview with Sir John Elliott.
This epic history compares the empires built by Spain and Britain in the Americas, from Columbus’s arrival in the New World to the end of Spanish colonial rule in the early nineteenth century. J. H. Elliott, one of the most distinguished and versatile historians working today, offers us history on a grand scale, contrasting the worlds built by Britain and by Spain on the ruins of the civilizations they encountered and destroyed in North and South America.
Elliott identifies and explains both the similarities and differences in the two empires’ processes of colonization, the character of their colonial societies, their distinctive styles of imperial government, and the independence movements mounted against them. Based on wide reading in the history of the two great Atlantic civilizations, the book sets the Spanish and British colonial empires in the context of their own times and offers us insights into aspects of this dual history that still influence the Americas.The order given above in that from Cathy. I find the books by Elliott, Thomas and Parker the most interesting. JAD
A Book About Montgomery County
Montgomery County: Centuries of Change by Jane Sween. 4.35 stars (average between Amazon and Goodreads), 254 pages. Jane Sween was the Montgomery County Historical Society librarian for 30 years. Its library is named after her.
An in-depth and impressive account of Montgomery County, Maryland's illustrious history, from its 1776 birth as a leader in the battle for freedom, to its emergence as a technological and economic force in the shadow of the nation's capitol.239 years ago, Thomas Sprigg Wootton introduced a bill in the Maryland General Assembly on September 6, 1776, to divide Frederick into three counties---Frederick, Montgomery, and Washington. This book was not selected for Book Club discussion, but it was thought that many members would want copies for their home libraries. It was thought that a second edition is now available via the Montgomery County Historical Society. Several members asked Eli to have the Kensington Row Bookshop procure copies that they might purchase.