The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad

Last summer, I decided to listen to my first audiobook. Something about listening to fiction seems weird to me, so I decided to start with nonfiction and one of my biggest interests: Spain. I found The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad, and was excited to dive in.

This audio book comes from The Great Courses, and is taught by Professor Joyce E. Salisbury from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. This audiobook – and I assume all of their offerings – closely resembles a college course. Indeed, the narrator is a professor, and the 24 chapters are actually signified as “lectures.” I enjoyed this format and felt like a student again. What I would give to be in college once more! Thanks to audiobooks – or courses – like this one, I can be a lifelong learner.

In The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad, Professor Salisbury takes us from prehistoric Spain through now. The early lectures focus on the Stone and Bronze Ages, then we slowly move through the Roman reign, the introduction of Christianity, and the Visigoths. We later see Islam come to what is now Spain, the Moores and al-Andalus, and the horrific Spanish Inquisition.

We spend some time in the New World and both the horrors that went on there and the wonders that were brought back to Spain. Then we work our way through the centuries – learning about the Hapsburgs and Bourbon Kings – until we get to 1900s Modernism, the Spanish Civil War, Franco, and the Spain we know today.

While there was plenty I already knew about Spain, most of what Professor Salisbury presents here was new to me. She goes into great detail and describes historic figures with care. She gives special attention to some of the most well-known artistic works of Spain’s history, and adds a personal touch in mentioning her own views of the topics she discusses.

I also love how Professor Salisbury contextualizes everything. Although I have some basic awareness of world history – or, more precisely, European history – I’m pretty fuzzy on the years and details. She regularly identifies where Europe was at during the many eras of and events in Spain.

The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad was my first audiobook, but even though I’m a beginner here, for me it was a well-produced and engaging narrative. Professor Salisbury is an animated speaker, and although some minor errors could have been edited out, they didn’t detract from the course.

I love Spain, and lived there twice. First, I studied abroad there in my third year of college, spending the full spring quarter in León with a terrific host family. Then I did my full one-year Master’s program in Valencia. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with learning more about the country. I have a number of fictional books set in Spain, but with The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad, I was able to learn more about its past and its culture.

If you want a far-reaching overview of Spain – from the Stone Age to now – then The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad is an excellent place to start.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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