The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad

Course No. 8286
Professor Joyce E. Salisbury, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
Share This Course
4.5 out of 5
87 Reviews
82% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 8286
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for diagrams, illustrations, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. While the video version can be considered lightly illustrated, there are photos, location images, 3-D animations, maps, timelines, videos and text on screen, which may help reinforce material for visual learners.
Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • Learn how the Habsburg kings spent Spain's New World treasure in the glorious architecture of Madrid and in fostering an artistic renaissance.
  • Examine how the voyages of Columbus led to the carving out of vast Spanish possessions in the Americas.
  • Look at the nearly seven centuries of Islamic rule of Spain, and its zenith in the legendary Caliphate of Cordoba.
  • Track the deeply integral presence of Catholicism in Spanish life over the centuries.

Course Overview

Spain has played a unique and pivotal role in Western civilization. It has historically stood at a critical crossroad—a crossroad of geography, of cultures, of religions, of ideas, of trade, and more. Spain’s strategic location, through the centuries, has made it a magnet for multiple different peoples, and it has participated in and witnessed numerous major shifts, trends, and historical moments.

Across 5000 years, from its prehistory and ancient Roman rule to the glory of Moorish al-Andalus, and from its empire building to its religious passions and kingly dynasties, Spain’s history has been extraordinarily dramatic, colorful, poignant, inspiring, and heartrending.

And yet, Spain’s remarkable role has not always been detailed in standard history curricula, at times overshadowed by the high profile of other European powers. But to understand the unfolding of Spain’s epic history is to come to terms with one of the West’s great civilizations, and to grasp its enduring presence and influence on the world stage. Consider these singular features of Spanish history:

  • The Renaissance began in Spain 15 years before the rest of Europe;
  • Spain was both the instigator and the catalyst for the opening of the New World, spanning North, Central, and South America—leaving Spanish as the world’s second most widely spoken language, following only Chinese;
  • Spain was a primary player in the vast commercial revolution that changed the world in the 17th century;
  • The collapse of Spain’s great empire both prefigured and sheds light upon the later disintegration of other European empires;
  • Spain’s 20th century history reveals much about the rise and fall of fascism in Europe.

In The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad, Professor Emerita Joyce E. Salisbury of the University of Wisconsin unfurls a broad and fascinating panorama of Spanish history, spanning the centuries from the first Neolithic settlement of the peninsula to Spain’s 20th century Civil War.

Linking one extraordinary era with the next, the course begins with how early Spain drew a spectrum of peoples from ancient Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, who formed vibrant communities on the peninsula. From there, you’ll witness the subjugation of the peninsula by both Rome and Gothic peoples, leading to the breathtaking drama of Islamic Spain and the Reconquista, Catholic Spain and the Inquisition, and the conquest of the New World. In the final lectures, you’ll travel into the royal dynasties and dazzling artistic heritage of the Habsburg and Bourbon kings, and you’ll track Spain’s storied emergence into the modern world.

These 24 accessible and highly enjoyable lectures offer you a penetrating overview of the development of Spanish civilization. Designed for a wide audience, the course presents a comprehensive picture of Spanish life and culture, encompassing history, architecture and art, religion, science, and the humanities, as well as offering many pointers for travel in Spain, highlighting the country’s outstanding historical and cultural sights, and why they’re important.

A Thrilling Journey through Five Millennia of History

In the course’s opening, you’ll trace the melding of Neolithic peoples, Celts, Greeks, Phoenicians, and other immigrants who gave the Spanish peninsula its unique character. Across the centuries of history and the numerous seminal epochs the course illuminates, you’ll witness extraordinary historic moments such as:

  • The Kingdom of the Visigoths--Following Rome’s imperial domination of the region, discover how the Visigoths wrested control of the peninsula, and contemplate the remarkable society they built--a culture that produced great art, codes of law, theology, and hugely influential scholarship in the intellectual centers of Toledo and Seville;
  • The Golden Age of Islamic Spain--Take account of the nearly seven centuries of Islamic rule of Spain, and its zenith in the legendary Caliphate of Córdoba; grasp the underpinnings of Córdoba’s great wealth, and its astonishing achievements in art, science, aesthetics, and learning, that spread its fame across the known world;
  • Spain’s Catholic Passion--Track the deeply integral presence of Catholicism in Spanish life over the centuries. Learn about Spain’s role in the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and the Inquisition; trace Spain’s bloody wars against Protestants and Muslims, as well as its history and remarkable resurgence of religious tolerance;
  • The New World: Treasure and Tragedy--Witness how Columbus’s voyages led to the carving out of vast Spanish possessions in the Americas; follow the huge commercial empire which transpired, and the exploits of conquistadors, missionaries, and pirates, against a backdrop of economic oppression, slavery, and the decimation of native populations;
  • The Habsburgs: A Splendorous Era--In yet another illustrious epoch, learn how the Habsburg kings spent Spain’s New World treasure in the glorious architecture of Madrid and the El Escorial summer palace, and in fostering an artistic renaissance in the work of some of history’s greatest painters, composers, and literary artists;
  • Spain in the Modern World--Following the disintegration of Spain’s empire, observe its adaptations and contributions to the modern era, from its great 20th century artistic and intellectual innovators to its trials under the dictator Francisco Franco and its place as a vibrant 21st century nation.

A Rich Tapestry of Spanish Culture

As a primary strength of this course, Professor Salisbury brings to the table a vast and extraordinarily detailed knowledge of the Iberian Peninsula; its history as well as its unique culture. Demonstrating a flair for historical narrative, she expertly conveys the monumental scope and movement of events while at the same time revealing details that make the story compellingly three-dimensional. In her descriptions of the ancient trade in garum (Roman fish sauce, a surprisingly valuable commodity), the glittering court culture of Islamic Spain, and the features of life aboard Columbus’s ships, these distant eras come vividly alive.

Intertwined with the unfolding of Spanish history, Professor Salisbury illuminates Spain’s iconic cultures, and its phenomenal contributions to art, architecture, literature, music, theology, and learning. In the lecture on Spain’s gypsy heritage, you’ll explore the origins and forms of flamenco music and dance, and their deep links to gypsy and Andalusian culture. You’ll learn how the ritual of bullfighting—held as an art form in Spain—evolved from its origins as an equestrian pastime of the nobility to its markedly altered modern form.

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 Catalan modernist Antoni Gaudí. Professor Salisbury also highlights the evolution and forms of Spanish music, spanning the eras from the music of Islamic Spain to the great Baroque composers Guerrero and de Victoria and the 19th century master Albeniz. And you’ll encounter Spain’s geniuses of the visual and written arts, encompassing 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.

The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad takes you on a wide-ranging journey through the remarkable scope of Spanish civilization, life, and culture. Travel with us to this extraordinary land, and savor the majesty and the great human drama of the story of Spain.

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    From Stones to Bronze: Prehistoric Spain
    Begin by exploring the origins of human settlement on the Iberian Peninsula. Learn how the rich spiritual life of early hunter/gatherers in Spain is reflected in magnificent cave paintings. Study the geography of the peninsula, and how it drew peoples from Africa and the Middle East. Finally, discover the extraordinary megalithic tombs of early Copper and Bronze Age builders. x
  • 2
    Celtic, Phoenician, and Greek Colonists
    Follow three remarkable immigrant groups who left their mark on Spanish culture. First, trace the impact of the Celts and the technology they brought to the region. Learn about the Phoenicians, famous as mariners, and their legacy of trade and engineering. Continue with the singular influence of the Greeks, who shaped the history and culture of the peninsula for future immigrants. x
  • 3
    Rome Conquers the Iberian Peninsula
    Roman conquest changed the peninsula in ways that endure today. Track the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, through which Iberia became part of the Roman Empire. Observe how Rome joined the Iberian provinces together, created thriving cities, and developed commerce. Learn about the marvels of Roman engineering, infrastructure, and mining, through which Spain grew rich. x
  • 4
    Christianity Comes to Hispania
    Witness the events through which Christianity took root on Spanish soil. Learn about early Christian communities in Spain, and the factors that led to persecution and martyrdom of Christians. Chart the role of Spanish churchmen in the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, how pagan practices were transformed into Christian ones, and how Spain became a bulwark of church orthodoxy. x
  • 5
    Barbarian Tribes Divide the Peninsula
    As Rome's empire waned, Germanic and Iranian tribal groups besieged Spanish territories. Take the measure of these peoples, and the new agricultural technology, clothing, and other innovations they brought with them. Observe how they partitioned and ruled different areas of the peninsula, and how their culture and religion kept them separate from Spain's Roman population. x
  • 6
    The Visigoths Unite Spain
    As a prelude to the three-century rule of the Visigoths, learn how the Goths penetrated Roman territories, and how they came to dominate Spain. Study the structure of Visigoth society, which gave rise to influential legal codes, monasticism, and great scholars such as Isidore of Seville. Take account of Toledo as a center of learning, and the diffusion of Visigothic scholarship and culture. x
  • 7
    Islam: The New Religion
    Islam was to play a critical role in Spanish history. As background, delve into the founding of Islam by Muhammad, its five tenets or “pillars”, and how the new religion spread with astonishing speed. Witness the Muslim invasion that conquered most of Spain, and observe how the invaders ruled, coexisting effectively with Jews and Christians. x
  • 8
    Conflict within Islam
    Internal divisions in the Muslim world shaped Islamic rule of Spain. Investigate issues concerning the larger governance of Islam that led to enmity between Muslim Spain and the Caliphate in Bagdad. Study the role of the Frankish king Charlemagne in these conflicts, and trace conspiracies and rebellions within Muslim Spain that culminated in the establishment of the Caliphate of Cordoba. x
  • 9
    The Moors and the Glory of al-Andalus
    Relive the golden age of Islamic Spain, as the capital city of Cordoba emerged as a center of learning, art, and beauty. First, take account of the agricultural advancements and artisanal industries that underlay Cordoba's prosperity. Then, follow developments in music, poetry, intellectual life, science, engineering, and architecture that made al-Andalus famous throughout the world. x
  • 10
    The Christian Reconquista
    This lecture charts the centuries-long process by which Christians gradually reclaimed the lands of Islamic Spain. Learn how pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela became a catalyst for the Christian cause. Explore four critical events in the Reconquista: the conquest of Toledo, the taking of Valencia by “El Cid”, the creation of Portugal, and the final conquest of Granada. x
  • 11
    Medieval Spanish Culture
    Discover how the melding of Spanish Islamic culture and medieval Christian ideas produced dazzling masterpieces of architecture. Travel to the times of king Alfonso the Wise, whose rich court life fostered scholarship and medicine, as well as courtly entertainments such as music, sports, and bullfighting. Learn about the flourishing of trade, highlighting the complex wool and textile industry. x
  • 12
    The Sephardim: Iberian Judaism
    Follow the changing fortunes of the Jewish people on Spanish soil, beginning with how they arrived in Spain, and how they prospered under Roman rule. Trace repression of Jews under the Visigoths, and how Jewish scholarship and poetic art thrived in Muslim Spain. Then witness the trials of Jews under subsequent Christian rule, leading to the 15th century exodus of many Jews from Spain. x
  • 13
    Gypsy Influences on Spain
    Gypsy immigrants to Spain left a far-reaching imprint on Spanish culture. Here, uncover the origins of gypsy peoples, their itinerant nature, and note how they were originally welcomed by Spanish kings and nobles. Study subsequent oppression of gypsies, the nature of gypsy culture, and the iconic flamenco music and dance that is deeply linked with Spanish gypsies. x
  • 14
    The Growth of Catholic Religious Passion
    Grasp how Spain was brought into the conflict of the Protestant Reformation. Assess the Catholic Counter-Reformation, as it sought to connect the faithful more directly to God through reinvigorated spirituality and mysticism. Learn how the Council of Trent, codifying Catholic doctrine, led to the horrors of the Inquisition, and how Catholic theology was expressed in glorious Baroque art. x
  • 15
    Columbus and the New World
    European contact with the isolated Americas dramatically changed the world. Begin by delving into the self-education of Columbus, and the lead-up to his legendary voyages. Follow Columbus’s travels, and the impact of his “opening” of the New World. Finally, track further European ventures into the Americas, the Columbian Exchange of foodstuffs, and the devastation wrought by European diseases. x
  • 16
    Conquistadors and Missionaries
    Spain now extended both its empire and its Catholicism into the New World. Witness the exploits of Hernán Cortés, who battled the Aztec Empire in the quest for gold, and of Francisco Pizarro and his brutal subjugation of the Incas. Then, take account of the Catholic missionaries who followed, intent on converting native souls, and how Spanish empire building was undergirded by slavery. x
  • 17
    The Spanish Main: Trade Convoys and Piracy
    Spain's empire in the New World spawned a vast commercial revolution. Learn about Spanish silver mining in South America, and agricultural riches from giant haciendas producing sugar and tobacco. Follow the transport of Spanish goods in armed convoys, and the resulting golden age of piracy, as both pirates and government-sanctioned privateers preyed on treasure-laden ships. x
  • 18
    The Golden Age of the Spanish Habsburgs
    Here, encounter Spain's king Philip II, architect of a magnificent era. Observe his strategic moving of the royal capital to Madrid, and his creation of architectural works such as the fabulous El Escorial. Learn how Philip and his sons fostered an artistic heritage emblemized by visionaries such as the painter Velasquez, composers de Victoria and Guererro, and writers Lope de Vega and Cervantes. x
  • 19
    Religious Wars on Muslims and Protestants
    Now witness the Ottoman incursions against Christian lands and shipping that resulted in the massive naval battle of Lepanto. Then, see how the clash with Protestants involved Spain in religious bloodshed in the Netherlands, the assault on Britain of the Spanish Armada, and the Thirty Years War. Note how the ruinous costs of these wars prefigured the downfall of the Habsburg Dynasty. x
  • 20
    The 18th-Century Bourbon Kings of Spain
    Learn how the French House of Bourbon assumed the Spanish throne, and how they transformed Habsburg Spain. In particular, review the reforms instituted by Carlos III, highlighting his architectural and urban planning achievements, and his reforms of education, industry, banking, and religion. Then trace the effects on Spain of the French Revolution and the ascension of Napoleon. x
  • 21
    Spain Loses Its Empire
    Follow Napoleon’s crusade to impose a new French dynasty on Spain, and the cultural backlash of Romanticism that rejected the “universal” principles of the Enlightenment. Witness the emergence of Spanish nationalism, the ensuing deep political strife regarding how to govern the country, and see how the spread of nationalist ideologies culminated in the independence of Spain’s colonies. x
  • 22
    20th-Century Spanish Modernism
    Following World War I, Spain emerged at the forefront of a revolution in the European arts. Grasp the extraordinary innovations of the painters Picasso, Miró and Dalí, the architect Antoni Gaudí, and the contributions of musical masters Segovia and Casals. Also, delve into the political factors that led to the disintegration of Spain’s constitutional monarchy. x
  • 23
    The Spanish Civil War and Franco's Reign
    Study the political antagonisms within Spain which led to the outbreak of civil war in 1936. Track the unfolding of the war, leading to the ascension to power of the dictator Francisco Franco. Then take account of Franco's lengthy, authoritarian regime, and how he strove to create a national identity for Spain through the mediums of the church, language, and Spanish culture. x
  • 24
    Modern Spain: Still on a Crossroad
    Conclude with reflections on Spain's recent history. Look into such subjects as the restoration of the Spanish monarchy, Spain's contemporary links with Latin America, separatist movements within the country, its new secularism and religious freedoms, its popularity as a travel destination, and its diverse economy. Contemplate why this great land stands on a crossroads of the future. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Audio Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 264-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available
Video DVD
CD Includes:
  • 24 Lectures on 12 CDs
  • 264-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 264-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Joyce E. Salisbury

About Your Professor

Joyce E. Salisbury, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
Joyce E. Salisbury is Professor Emerita of Humanistic Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, where she taught history and served as associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of International Education. She earned her Ph.D. in Medieval History at Rutgers University, specializing in religious and social history. Professor Salisbury began her career performing research in Spain, and she has...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor

Reviews

The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 87.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It was a cross road. Love title. Planning a vacation to Spain and wanted to know more about history. Fills the bill.
Date published: 2018-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Now I know I wish I had seen the History of Spain before I traveled through the country several years ago. Now I understand what I saw. It was a fantastic trip, but the course would have made it even better. The prof did an great job of providing the info that explained what I saw and why when I was there.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional course, if your passion is Spain! My husband and I are Spain-a-holics....We've visited every year, for between 2-10 weeks, for several years now, and have had the privilege of seeing most of the country on our travels. This exceptional course helped us to much better understand the context and the richness of Spain, as it relates to the rest of Europe, as well as the nature of it's people and society. Dr. Joyce Salisbury is an especially engaging professor, and her insights and the associated graphics really enriched our reflections on what we had seen and what we had experienced. It especially cemented for us our satisfaction in planning a 2.5 week visit to Cadiz in the south of Spain in 2019....an extremely important port in Spain's history in a town not even mentioned by Rick Steves! Thank you, Dr. Salisbury, for enriching our experiences through this course.
Date published: 2018-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great debut course from a terrific lecturer I really enjoyed this course, and learned a lot. Many elements of the history of what is now Spain are covered in other TC course, including those on Greek and Roman history, the middle ages, Western civilization, the Islamic world, 1492, the Celtic world, the Napoleonic Era, and more. It's extremely interesting and useful to have a sweeping survey course on Spain, from the stone age to the present. I found Prof Salisbury to be an excellent lecturer, who hooked me from her first few sentences. She loves the material and surveys Spain with passion. I hope she does more TC courses. In a few recent reviews, one complained about Prof Salisbury's use of correct Spanish pronunciations for various cities, and another claimed that the course is anti-Catholic. I think any open-minded person would find both comments nonsense, so I suggest ignoring those reviews.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Annoying presentation The professor's habit of attempting to pronounce Spanish nouns like a native seriously detracts from the presentation. This is an English speaking audience not Spanish. Every time she says "Cordoba" she sounds like she's coughing up a hairball. I can understand the desire to say as the natives do but please remember you audience.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just what I wanted My son and his wife are living in Spain and I wanted a history of Spain to learn about the land where my son 's family lives. This course was exactly what I wanted and served as a great introduction to the land, people, culture and history of the Iberian Peninsula
Date published: 2018-08-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well-organized but anti-Catholic This course is well-organized and informative. The big negative is anti-Catholicism. Some of it is legitimate, but the professor goes way overboard. Even the great Queen Isabella, a savior of Spain, is mentioned far less than warranted, and always as a negative force. There is a whole other side to the story.
Date published: 2018-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In-depth, engaging and fair-minded An excellent discussion of the history of Spain, with consistent emphasis on the theme of Spain as a crossroads of various cultures and forces. Parts of the course that I found most interesting or surprising: * The influence of Celts in the early history of Iberia * Religious trends during the Counter-reformation * The long period of tolerance among Jews, Christians and Muslims in Spain and the reasons behind the shift to intolerance and persecution * An anthropological look at gypsies and their influence in Spain * The insularity and conservatism of the Franco era I don't understand the reviews that call her biased as I detected no political or other leanings. She deliberately covered both positive and negative aspects of everything from the Church and the flowering of Islamic culture to the right and the left. Two criticisms: First, there are way too many stumbles in the narration. I do not understand why The Great Courses doesn't edit these during or after the recording sessions, as happens with all professionally produced audiobooks. It's so distracting, and unnecessarily so. I blame the company rather than the professor for this serious flaw. Second, her pronunciation of both Spanish and French words is terrible - painful to hear. Bad enough for me to complain about it but not bad enough to stop listening and taking away new understandings of Spanish history.
Date published: 2018-07-27
  • y_2018, m_9, d_20, h_2
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_2.0.8
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_9, tr_78
  • loc_en_US, sid_8286, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 11.29ms
  • REVIEWS, PRODUCT

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought