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Spain: The Centre of the World 1519-1682

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  213 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The Golden Age of the Spanish Empire would establish five centuries of Western supremacy across the globe and usher in an era of transatlantic exploration that eventually gave rise to the modern world. It was a time of discovery and adventure, of great political and social change--it was a time when Spain learned to rule the world.

Assembling a spectacular cast of legendary
Hardcover, 587 pages
Published July 21st 2015 by Bloomsbury Press (first published May 7th 2015)
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3.68  · 
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 ·  213 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enlightening and somewhat unusual history of the golden age of Spain. It's main focus is the Hapsburg monarchs--Carlos V, Felipe II, III, and IV-- and the political and cultural world around them. It covers painters el Greco, Titian, Velazquez, Zurbaran; writers Gongora, Quevedo, Garcilaso, Lope de Vega, Cervantes, Calderón, among others. As a Spanish major many years ago I had to read all of these authors. I wish I had at that time the context and background this history provides.

It's written
Lauren Albert
Jul 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-european
I found the book a bit odd the way it jumped from in-depth analysis of poems or paintings to straight history. It's as if Goodwin really, really wanted to talk about poetry or paintings and got so into it, he forgot about the history. I also found the book a little confusing in its breakdown of the Habsburgs/the Holy Roman Empire/Spain. It wasn't a terrible book but I wouldn't start with it.
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
I lost a lot of interest after Goodwin made reference to Scipio Aemilianus (185-129 BC) and his time as a general under Julius Caesar (100-44 BC). Who knows, maybe the whole book is similarly researched. At least I got to read this gem:

"...the reality of his life has been endlessly eclipsed by the relentlessly overblown myth-making of legion biographers caught in the dizzying Charybdis of his effervescent chivalric chutzpah."

Dizzying, yes.
David Cavaco
Jul 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Disappointed is an understatement! This book is a boring history of art in Hapsburg Spain suited solely for advanced learners of art history. I had hoped to read about Spain's rise from a cultural and geopolitical point of view with particular interest of when the massive oversea empires of Portugal and Spain were under one Crown. Book is way too long and meanders with no focus but does have an impressive photo collage. Either way, avoid as there are superior books about Spain.
Cameron McLachlan
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm back after a 5 week hiatus and finished Spain: the centre of the world 1519-1682 by Robert Goodwin on January 28. The book aims to cover the development of Golden Age Spain as both a geopolitical and cultural superpower during this period. Interestingly, Goodwin further delineates the history into 2 parts. The first part "gold" is preoccupied with political, institutional and military history and spans roughly the coronation of Charles V and the conquest of Mexico to the aftermath of the Spa ...more
Ronan Conroy
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charting the rise and deterioration of the first global empire as it began its pillage of the New World under the tutelage of the Habsburg monarchy, expanding throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, “Spain” tells the story of this 400 year superpower. While not directly addressing the question of Catalonia that has grabbed media attention in recent years, there is much about the Catalans here for those who are interested in learning more about that region.
The book is divided into secti
Tony Thomson
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thought I had a good grasp of the basics of Spanish history. I was wrong. With a light touch Professor Goodwin navigates through the Spanish archives to shed light on everything from the Armada to Velazquez.

Reads like a novel - full of biographical data and interpretation of the lives of Cervantes and his great contemporaries. Brilliant comments on painting.

Loved this book. Highly recommended!
Jason Perlman
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the most gripping, delightful large-scale work of popular synthesis that I've read in a very long time. My only complaints are about the decision to spend an entire chapter essentially just summarizing 'Don Quixote', and about his use of adverbs like 'ironically' and 'tragically', which should be very strictly rationed.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Now here's an odd one. It's a history of Imperial Spain told mainly through the arts. Goodwin has a highly discursive style, which normally puts me off completely, but he won me over with his wonderful turn of phrase and his great love for the subject. This one is decidedly not for everyone. Read a few pages before you buy it.
Jack Hrkach
Much of my reading these days has to do with places to which I will travel. I leave for Southern Spain on 12 October and have already read several, most recently, before this one, the entire Don Quixote. I had read the first part in my teens, but that was more than 50 years ago and the memories are very vague and tied up frequently with Man of La Mancha - a good musical but not to be mistaken for Cervantes's great proto-novel.

Among the many benefits I received from Robert Goodwin's closely resea
Reza Amiri Praramadhan
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-ebooks
I am always fascinated by books about the Habsburgs, especially the spanish branch. This book discusses Habsburg Spain in a detailed manner, divided into parts, which in the first part the reigns of Charles V and Philip II brought Habsburg into world's first global power. The second part deals with Spain's decline as a superpower, which ironically, coincided with the flourishing of spanish art, literature and culture. Far from strictly describing Habsburg dynasty, the book features a large cast ...more
Lance Johnson
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was generally a good book. It approaches the history of Hapsburg Spain from more of a cultural perspective than a purely political one, which is refreshing. The author does seem to have a tendency to try and make his writing lyrical and elevated, almost like poetry. This has the advantage of making some passages exceptionally elegant or memorable, but the downside of other sections making me wish that the author was less attached to his thesaurus. I had the pleasure of an extended summer tr ...more
Angel Serrano
La historia de España del siglo de Oro es la historia de Castilla, desde la coronación de Carlos I hasta el fin del reinado de Felipe IV demuestra que en esa época España era el centro del mundo civivlizado, alimentada por el oro de América. Demasiadas referencias literarias y artísticas para mi gusto.
Andrea Zuvich
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very good. Full review to come on The Seventeenth Century Lady!
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starting with Charles V becoming King of Spain and the first treasures from the America’s docking on Spanish shores, Goodwin charts the incredible journey of the Spanish empire, as, fuelled by the riches of the Americas, and it’s monarchy, driven and weighed down by destiny and dynasty, became the centre of the world.

Goodwin’s pen merely touches the new world, with an early view of Oviedo and Las Casas, advocates of very different views on ruling the burgeoning empire in the Americas. Charles ho
Mike Reilly
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating trip through Spain's golden age. Goodwin brings the various characters from the Kings and Queens to artists, writers, soldiers, courtiers and architects who shaped this period to vivid life. He frames a period of a bit more than 150 years in ways that deeply resonate 500 years later. By choosing to begin the book with the first delivery of gold and silver to Spain from the New World, Goodwin shows how the wealth of the Americas helped catapult Spain to the major world power ...more
Julia DeBarrioz
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spain
Excellent reference, and a lot of information that is rather hard to find in English. Its long but entertainingly written. The first half of the book reads as pure history, and the second half focuses on the artists of the period, from the great Cervantes to Velasquez and many others you probably haven't heard of before. I certainly hadn't. I wish there had been more pictures of the paintings included for the sake of quick reference, describing a picture only goes so far, but I guess I had my ph ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Packed with quality information, and well-written to help one assimilate all the data, this is certainly a worthy way to learn about Spain, and not only the range of dates provided in the title. When it informs the time period covered, the author provides further glimpses into Spain's past, such as the influence of the Moors starting in the year 711.

What makes this book truly unique and valuable is the weaving in of cultural and artistic life with the political - the kings, the wars, the allianc
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it

This is a big book that moves through the regional politics, art and world affairs during the high points of the Spanish Empire. As silver flows in from the Americas, Spanish kings work to keep the various Iberian kingdoms under unified control as well as keep the Hapsburg arms stretched as far as the Netherlands and Austria. The artists and authors of this time period are given as much attention as the wars and economy. Great text for someone (like me) a bit foggy on the time of silver-fueled e
Holden Groves
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
You can only call things "quixotic" so many times before you make me vomit. Especially if you're writing about Spain's Golden age. Too purple.

On the other hand the book put a lot history together for me, describing how Cervantes's job was to travel around southern spain buying wheat for sea biscuits for Phillip II's spanish armada. How he was jailed for graft and how his experience bore on the knight of la mancha.

Would I have been better served just reading Don Quixote again? possibly.
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the first half of this book tremendously. I hadn't knows much about Spanish history of this period, about Charles V and Philip II and their less worthy successors. The authors narrative was informative and moved right along at a perfect pace. The second half of the book was a detailed look at some the the works of literature, sculpture, painting and theater of the period. There are many pages of detail about the plot and the author's anaylsis of Don Quixote. I found this part of the bo ...more
Stefan Zak
Jun 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-read-spanish
63/200- In contrast to some other reviews of this book, i don't think this read like an encyclopaedia. Although i found the author's long musings about artists and their paintings very dull. Some events are covered in such great detail, whereas surprisingly, some pretty seismic events in Spain's history are mentioned only as if they are a brief sidetone.
So, i did learn a lot about Spain's 'Golden Age'- particularly the most famous arts and artists that were part of it. However, i felt like the
Charles Kerns
I was wondering what happened back then. These guys (Charles and the gang of Philips and their bad genepool) took over. (I like the Carlos V chocolate bar that still remains the best but that's not in the book). So here is the spoiler: Spain wasn't much, then it took all the silver in Peru and the gold too, it had its day, the money slowed, and that was it. Along the way Don Quixote and el Greco were hot (along with some others). The Catholics went ballistic. The (new) world got screwed.
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it
A very good social and cultural history of Spain from when was the leading European power until just before France took over that status. A lot of great literature from Cervantes and great paintings from El Greco-Roman and Valasquez accompanied that rise and fall and is very much a part of this books narrative.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A casual but thoughtful walk with important characters in the history of Castile, from the Catholic Monarchs through Philip IV. The author clearly loves the subject and writes passionately. He never fails to entertain. This book would be an excellent companion to a more formal history of the period.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is too long and spends too much time describing works of art and literature - I'd rather just read Don Quixote rather than listen to this author describe it for four hours. Still, there was some interesting historical information here. I recommend reading only Part I.
John Sinclair
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Loved this as a political and cultural history.
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Good book, laden with a lot of information and statistics about Espana (Spain) and how it really was the ' centre of the world ' several centuries ago.
David Mccarthy
rated it liked it
Feb 22, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Mar 11, 2019
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