The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Très bon survol de l'histoire de l'Espagne Le cours présente un très bon survol de l'histoire de l'Espagne et des cilivilations qui l'ont influencé, avec différents points de vue i.e. culture, langues, religions, luttes politiques, arts, etc. La professeur est structurée et enthousiastes. Elle est objective et en général présente son sujet sans biais ou parti pris. J'ai écouté les 24 leçons dans une semaine. La présentation est en excellent anglais, facile à suivre. Le cours invite à des lectures plus détaillées, selon l'intérêt suscité.
Date published: 2020-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! Prof. Salisbury has not only given us an insight into the entire history of Spain, but she has also used very powerful language to describe the events. Her language and oratorical skills are remarkable. This series incites you to get more into the details of all the phases of Spanish History. I'm really glad I found this course.
Date published: 2020-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WELL TAUGHT AND EXCELLENT LECTURE I thought that Dr. Joyce E. Salisbury course was very well organized and taught. She was clearer interested in the whole of Spanish History which is often overlooked in European studies. She was able to cover the early Celtic inhabitants of Spain to the rebirth of modern Span after Franco with a high level of insight and emotion. I would like to see her teach other courses for the Great Courses Plus.
Date published: 2020-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great look at a fascinating civilization i've been to spain in the 80's, just went back a few years ago. Spain defies stereotypes. 40 years ago I was expecting a european Mexico. I highly recommend this for an enthusiastic and comprehensive look at this land, and think the title is very accurate. One thing I did come away from this with was a feeling that the Spaniards may well have been the cruelest regime in colonial history.
Date published: 2020-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Presentation It never got boring in any of the chapters. The presentation was well done and kept your interest at all times.
Date published: 2020-08-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but with Distractions Overall, the content and delivery is pretty well done. No complaints there. This is my first GC course recorded on this new set, and I found the two changing video panels in the background a distraction. They cycle through a limited set of images which only occasionally are relevant to the material being presented at the time. I honestly don't see what they add to the presentation. For me, the camera changes, accompanied often by quick moves by Dr. Salisbury to face the new camera, was noticeable. And there were maybe twice as many of these camera changes as necessary. I also noticed that Dr. Salisbury frequently reached up to adjust her glasses. That wasn't a problem, but it is easily fixed. Why didn't the director notice and do something?
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Organized and Presented My wife and I enjoyed this well organized and presented history of Spain. It is readily apparent that the lecturer has a great passion and respect for the subject and presents the material with occasional interjections of personal experiences of her family during their travels in Spain. The lectures are well thought out and easy to follow. We have been to Barcelona three times, but thanks in part to this lecture series, we plan to spend time traveling to other parts of Spain.
Date published: 2020-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Scintillating! Another winner from "Great Courses" We watched this series through our Public Library. Professor Salisbury knows her subject and she was so enthusiastic. The course is broad and some may say there was not enough detail, but for anyone who does not know much about the history of Spain, this course was perfect. My wife and I learned so much and now we want to learn more.
Date published: 2020-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! My husband and I enjoyed this course tremendously. We learned so much about the history and importance of Spain. We also felt that the professor shared her enormous knowledge of Spain so well, as if she were a storyteller. We liked her so much that we ordered another course that she has done for the Great Courses.
Date published: 2020-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Lectures! Professor Salisbury really knows her stuff! Every lecture is full of interesting details and anecdotes! I thoroughly enjoyed every one!
Date published: 2020-06-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive History of Spain Dr. Salisbury has provided a very comprehensive history of Spain and events in other countries that impacted Spain. I learned a lot. Her last two lectures (Spanish Civil War and Franco years in the first and post-Franco years in the second) were especially strong, perhaps because she lived in Spain during 1977.
Date published: 2020-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Outstanding!! Dr. Salisbury takes the listener on an exciting trip through the history of the wonderful country - she brings Spain alive - this is the best of the Great Courses that I have taken.
Date published: 2020-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great history course. Terrific lecturer. Very enthusiastic about her subject. Makes me want to return to Spain. I’ve been there 3 times but I see now how much I overlooked.
Date published: 2020-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All lectures were top-notch I was so glad to see this series on Kanopy. My husband and I watched it voraciously and enjoyed every single lecture. I learned so much about Spain, my ancestral home (grandfather was born there).
Date published: 2020-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Knowledgeable but scripted. I bought this series a few months ago and I’m glad I did. My only complaint is that it is highly scripted - meaning you can tell the lectures are memorized material. Instead of referring to notes (like the prof in the Middle Ages series) she is simply regurgitating material she has written. The material is well written and you can tell she is extremely knowledgeable - but the lectures come across rehearsed and unnatural. Sometimes the off-the-cuff stuff can be the best! I bet you she would kill it in the classroom.
Date published: 2020-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting subjects. I have purchased many subjects from Great Courses. Enjoyed every one of them so much so I ordered a course for my dad. He was so happy and loves to learn about history. Thank you so very much for your courses.
Date published: 2020-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The History of Spain I enjoyed this course very much as I took many Spanish history course in college. The instructor gave very interesting lectures, and I learned much that I didn't already about Spain's history. Loved this course.
Date published: 2020-04-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from She lost me in Lecture 19 I was mostly enjoying this course until lecture 19. That’s when the professor started to rhapsodize about and glorify the cruelty of bull fighting. Where where as through much of the course she seems careful to provide balance, When she spoke about bullfighting it was about how graceful and brave the matadors and picadors were. I am not for sanitizing the past. But I found the professors affection for such filed cruelty to be a complete turn off, and I stopped the course right there.
Date published: 2020-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great History course I've walked three Caminos in Spain and this course supplied some background to really help me to understand my next trip to Spain. I hadn't realized the intersection of so many trends and events that tie back to Spain.
Date published: 2020-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview Prof. Joyce E. Salisbury gives an exciting and detailed overview of the history of Spain in just 24 lectures. So much information. I want to watch it again and then hear some of the music and see some of the art. It makes me want to go there. Like so many of the Great Courses, this is a college course and more.
Date published: 2020-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview It's a challenge to present an overview as complex as this in a comprehensive manner, but Professor Salisbury manages very well. My wife and I particularly enjoyed her presentation style, which is engaging and not at all pedantic.
Date published: 2020-04-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from These wonderful lectures capture the intellectual and cultural histories of Spain in addition to the traditional political histories. Unfortunately, the horribly captioned subtitled take away a lot of the enjoyment. Rife with typos and (sometimes funny) word transpositions, the captions are thrill kill for sure.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthusiastic Presenter This is a good survey with a lot of detail for such a short course. Her Spanish is Castilian which will throw us New Worlders off a bit.
Date published: 2020-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from OLE!! I have purchased dozens of Great Courses, and I was ready to grab my Thesaurus to find superlatives describing this offering. Instead, let me just say Prof. Salisbury presented a wonderfully detailed, sweeping, exciting, and emotional experience. Covering thousands of years of history, she kept me riveted in every lecture. To add to her excellent delivery, the course was filled with informative maps, paintings, and graphics as well as beautiful photos of Spain and its people. It was one of the best Great Courses productions at every level.
Date published: 2020-03-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Cultural History of Spain This course presents a broad outline of Spain's history from the Paleolithic to the 21st century. I appreciate the treatment of Iberia from the Romans to Moors. It adds some nuance to my knowledge of the period. However, if you wish to learn about the progress of the Moors in Spain this is not the course for you. If you wish to learn about the interplay between the Arabs and the Berbers this is not the course for you. If you wish to learn about the reconquest of Christian Spain this is not the course for you. These have been replaced by cultural explorations and a few anecdotes. In fact the course is better though of as the cultural evolution of Spain rather than a description of the leaders and events that ran through Spanish history. Finally, if a course on Political Philosophy can be taught without the Presenter revealing his biases, it should be possible to do so for a course on Spanish History.
Date published: 2020-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good information. I enjoyed this course more than I thought I would. The teacher was great. Lots of information. My only complaint is that dates & names were not left on the screen long enough for me to write them down. Would prefer to see more of that information left on the screen.
Date published: 2020-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chock full of information I got this course because I had arranged a trip to Spain. I'm so glad I did. It gave me a great overview of the rich history of Spain, something I was completely unaware of. Every minute of this course is packed with information. I writing this review from Córdoba where I have been exploring the monuments, buildings, and history of this city and the surrounding area. I find myself referring to the course book frequently to refresh my memory of important events and enhance my appreciation of the sites I visit.
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good series The course covers the history of Spain well. I would have preferred a little more pre-history. This is the first course I have seen that has the new background with the screens flashing pictures behind the instructor. It distracts from the presentation while adding nothing to it. If nothing else, I would prefer to see some static pictures that have a connection to the current lecture rather than random pictures drifting around the screen. Some parts that I considered important were glossed over like the intervention of the British into the Peninsular War, taking about 2-3 sentences to cover. A good presentation and a good course
Date published: 2020-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive this is an excellent review of Iberian History from the Paleolithic to the present.
Date published: 2020-01-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Regrettably - a chore! I got this from my local library - so can't complain about the price - and have been listening to the audio in my car. From the start, I realized it was going to be one of those GC offerings that has just enough information to barely override the many annoying/disappointing aspects of the presentation. One, the presenters very distracting decision to use - seemingly at random - English or Spanish pronunciations of the same names for places and people. This approach comes across as very 'effected' which, then, leads one to subconsciously question the presenter's credibility about the material in general. Two, I know enough about the ancient and early historic years of the Iberian Peninsula to recognize that the presenter way oversimplifies or just gets wrong many historical facts. Hamilcar Barca didn't originally conquer the area for Carthage; they'd had a significant presence in Iberia for several generations before he, simply, was assigned the military command there. Three, the presenter has a tendency to ramble and to drift off into in-depth sessions about topics - the history of Judaism, pirate life in the new world, the conquests of Mexico and the Incas - that, while related to the history of Spain, don't merit the overly detailed attention she gives them. I was expecting a history of Spain and the Spanish, not that of the Jewish diaspora or the rum trade in the Caribbean. Fourth, even when she actually gets around to focusing on Spain itself, she gives it a broadbrush look while only getting down to the nitty-gritty on what are obviously her favorite painters, poets, rulers, authors. So, as I said at the outset, there's enough interesting material here but you better be prepared to ferret it out. I was hitting the 'track forward' button on my CD player for, at least, a third of the time while listening. Normally, I'd renew this item at the library if it looked like I wasn't going to finish it on time. I won't bother with this one if it comes to that.
Date published: 2019-12-06
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The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad
Course Trailer
From Stones to Bronze: Prehistoric Spain
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....

31 min
Celtic, Phoenician, and Greek Colonists
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....

29 min
Rome Conquers the Iberian Peninsula
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....

30 min
Christianity Comes to Hispania
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.

32 min
Barbarian Tribes Divide the Peninsula
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....

30 min
The Visigoths Unite Spain
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....

29 min
Islam: The New Religion
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....

30 min
Conflict within Islam
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 Córdoba....

31 min
The Moors and the Glory of al-Andalus
9: The Moors and the Glory of al-Andalus

Relive the golden age of Islamic Spain, as the capital city of Córdoba emerged as a center of learning, art, and beauty. First, take account of the agricultural advancements and artisanal industries that underlay Córdoba's prosperity. Then, follow developments in music, poetry, intellectual life, science, engineering, and architecture that made al-Andalus famous throughout the world....

31 min
The Christian Reconquista
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....

28 min
Medieval Spanish Culture
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....

30 min
The Sephardim: Iberian Judaism
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....

29 min
Gypsy Influences on Spain
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....

31 min
The Growth of Catholic Religious Passion
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....

31 min
Columbus and the New World
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....

30 min
Conquistadors and Missionaries
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 slaver...

28 min
The Spanish Main: Trade Convoys and Piracy
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....

30 min
The Golden Age of the Spanish Habsburgs
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....

30 min
Religious Wars on Muslims and Protestants
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....

30 min
The 18th-Century Bourbon Kings of Spain
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....

32 min
Spain Loses Its Empire
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....

31 min
20th-Century Spanish Modernism
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....

30 min
The Spanish Civil War and Franco's Reign
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....

29 min
Modern Spain: Still on a Crossroad
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.

34 min
Joyce E. Salisbury

We humans do not walk lightly. We leave our imprint as we go, and I want to show you how each group has left its mark on Spain.


Rutgers University


University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

About Joyce E. Salisbury

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 continued to travel there to conduct further research, lecture, and guide students and other travelers. She is currently working on a book about the history of early Christian martyrdom.

In addition to receiving the University of Wisconsin's Outstanding Teaching award, she was named Professor of the Year in 1991 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She has taught three times on Semester at Sea, a study-abroad program on a ship that circumnavigates the world with more than 500 students for a full semester.

Professor Salisbury is a prolific author whose books include the award-winning Perpetua's Passion: Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman; The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages; Rome's Christian Empress: Galla Placidia Rules at the Twilight of the Empire; and the widely used textbook The West in the World. She has been interviewed many times on National Public Radio on topics from religion to the books she has written, and she appeared on the PBS special The Road from Christ to Constantine.

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