Going to Spain/Portugal – #history

Off to the Iberian peninsula for a break? Or moving there?


Do you have just vague concepts of the history of Spain and Portugal? Want to know more?

Are your thoughts inspired by fiestas of militant Catholics battling exotic Moors, of Charlton Heston as El Cid dead and strapped to his horse and of a gaunt Don Quixote tilting at windmills? Do you see images of proud horsemen from Castile and Aragón, wielding swords fashioned in Toledo steel?

What about the Dominican friar, Tomás de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor?- and Monty Python’s skit repeating the mantra ‘nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’?

You will know something of the discoveries of Christopher Columbus and of Portuguese navigators such as Magellan and Vasco da Gama as they ploughed out new sea routes around the globe. You may think of the Conquistadors searching for El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth, some falling victim to Montezuma’s revenge. Remember Portuguese and Spanish treasure ships from South America hounded by swashbuckling privateers on the Spanish Main, of Drake singeing Philip’s beard and the disastrous Spanish Armada?

But what about the Spanish Civil War and Guernica, of General Franco, of ETA and the Basques?

Most of us have a host of images of bull-fighting, flamenco, castanets and sombreros (which are in fact Mexican!).


So why not take a must-read with you on your Kindle – 1492 and all that!

All the things you might wish to know about the history of Spain and Portugal as a visitor or an ex-patriot.

Read how, for the vast majority of its history, the peninsula was in fact ruled by outsiders – the Visigoths, Moors, Habsburgs and Bourbons. Napoléon ruled it for a period too.

Learn how the province of Asturias played a central role in many key moments of Spanish history, playing its part in the most significant moment of nationhood – the Reconquista, the slow process of ridding the peninsula of Moorish occupation.

Read how King Juan Carlos, who announced his intention to step down this week, actually became king.

See how the War of the Spanish Succession, the Peninsular War and the Spanish Civil War shaped the peninsula.

The story is punctuated with illustrative pieces about Iberian culture and idiosyncracy throughout the otherwise largely chronological review. These are shown in italics with a font change to tell of the origins of tapas, the menú del dia, of Atlantis, of troglodytes and cheeses, the misleading corpse in Huelva, why the Canary Islands have nothing to do with that little yellow bird…

See also

Viral campaigns – Spanish flu

Golden Girls – Isabella and Elizabeth 1

Tapas – origins

Charles II of Spain – victim of inbreeding

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