Spain as a political entity can be traced to the joining of the two largest Iberian kingdoms through the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469. Over the course of the next centuries, Spain rose to European dominance, presided over the world's largest empire, and saw its power and wealth decline until it was finally conquered and occupied by Napoleon in the early nineteenth century. Early Modern Spain: A Documentary History, the first broad-ranging collection in English of writings from the entire period from 1469 to the end of the eighteenth century, comprises 61 documents carefully selected and introduced by Jon Cowans. Beginning with the marriage contract of Ferdinand and Isabella, the volume unveils the rich and turbulent history of early modern Spain through contemporary writings, including documents on the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, a narrative of the conquest of Mexico, accounts of the Inquisition, a profile of King Philip II, a cleric's primer on the perfect wife, a sermon on the defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588, reports of a bread riot in Seville, a royal investigation of the painter Velazquez, Benito Feijoo's defense of women of 1737, a 1790 denunciation of bullfighting, and Charles IV's declaration of war on revolutionary France in 1793. Covering political, cultural, social, and ecomic history, Early Modern Spain: A Documentary History provides a valuable opportunity to explore the history of Spain through primary sources, revealing the problems and experiences of Spain's empire, tensions among ethnic groups and across regions, the place of women and mirities in Spanish society, and the outlooks and roles of Spanish artists.
Jon Cowans is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, Newark. He is the editor of the companion volume Modern Spain: A Documentary History, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.