Imperial Spain, 1476-1840 module (HY32017)

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Module code


  • Level 3
  • Semester 2
  • History - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 50% Examination 50%
  • European Studies module choice. 


This module focuses on many of the key problems in what was Spain's most successful period.

In 1492 the Moors were at last expelled from Spain and Columbus first sailed across the Atlantic. Thereafter Spain acquired a European and world empire, the first on which 'the sun never set'.

This empire endured for more than 300 years but collapsed at the same time as the political, social and religious structures of the old order, or antiguo regimen, were increasingly called into question in Spain itself.

In this module, we look at the following issues - and others:

  • What was the "Black Legend" and why is it important?
  • To what extent did Ferdinand and Isabella, the "Catholic Kings" create a united Spain?
  • Why was Spain able to
    1. become the greatest military power in sixteenth and early seventeenth century Europe and
    2. build up a vast overseas empire?
  • Have historians been too hard on the Spanish Inquisition?
  • How did the Spanish Armada fit into the aims of Philip II?
  • What was the impact of empire on Spain itself?
  • Was early modern Spain "institutionally racist"?
  • Did the Count-Duke of Olivares have a blueprint for a united Spain?
  • To what extent was Spain in "decline" in the second half of the seventeenth century?
  • Was the War of Spanish Succession the first Spanish civil war?
  • How did Spain respond to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic challenge?
  • Why did Spain's American empire collapse in the first decades of the nineteenth century?


Dr Christopher Storrs


This module is assessed as follows:

  • Essay (20%)
  • Presentation (15%)
  • Book review (15%)
  • Examination (50%)


Introductory Reading

  • J. H. Elliott., Imperial Spain 1469-1716 (London 1961; 2nd ed, 2002)
  • H. Kamen., Spain 1469-1714: A Society of Conflict (Harow 1983)
  • H. Kamen., Spain's Road to Empire: The Making of a World Power 1492-1763 (London 2002)
  • J. Lynch., Bourbon Spain 1700-1808 (Oxford 1988)
  • R. Carr., Spain 1808-1975 (Oxford, 2nd ed., 1982) [relevant sections]

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