The Best Spanish History Books

Learn about the history and culture of Spain.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The modern shape of Spain was effectively created in 1469 when the crowns of Aragon and Castile united through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella. But Spanish history also includes a thriving Muslim era and a world empire.

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The History of Spain by Peter Pierson

Pierson's book has been lauded as the single-volume history of Spain, the first choice for students and general readers alike. There are certainly lots of 'extras', including mini-biographies, a timeline, and a bibliographic essay! More importantly, Pierson has written an excellent text that provides a warm and interesting overview which acknowledges recent scholarship.

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Spain 1469 - 1714 by Henry Kamen

This marvelous narrative covers nearly 250 years of history in a consistently clear and concise manner. Kamen's style is suitable for all readers - although this general introduction is aimed mainly at students or beginners to the subject - and the clear chapters, which make full use of sub-divisions, are wholly accessible. A glossary, maps, family tree and bibliography supplement the quality text.

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Spanish History Since 1808, edited by Jose Alvarez Junco and Adrian Schubert

This book uses a chronological structure to present a fairly revisionist (although some might just say accurate) examination of Spanish history. Historians from Spain, Britain and the Americas have contributed, providing an excellent blend of ideas from across the Spanish-speaking world. If you want new ideas and new approaches to Spain as well as good history, try this.

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Spain: A History, edited by Raymond Carr

Here, Spanish history is covered in just nine essays, each written by an expert in the relevant field and covering such topics as the Visigoths and modern politics, as well as artistic endeavors. Heavily praised and, unusually for a history, partially illustrated, Spain is too expensive for those after one essay but excellent for anyone with a broader interest.

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A Social History of Modern Spain by Adrian Shubert

Although this book does precisely as the title suggests - it's a social history of Spain since 1800 - such a description ignores the many depths of a text that fully acknowledges the relevant regional and political variations. As such, this book makes a perfect starting point for anyone interested in the people, as opposed to the government, of modern Spain.

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Moorish Spain by Richard Fletcher

Centuries of Christian Spaniards attacked the memory of the period when an Islamic State ruled Spain, and to be honest we’re still feeling the effects. But Fletcher’s book is a balanced account of a fascinating era that already appears in political argument.

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A History of Medieval Spain by Joseph F. O'Callaghan

This older work is the standard one-volume text for Spain from the Visigoths to Ferdinand and Isabella, and it retains a sweeping sense of history. It can be heavy going but is a good overview to build on with more focused works.

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The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky

Whatever your thoughts on the political issues of Basque independence, there's no denying that Kurlansky's marvelously written history of the Basque people - a witty and anecdotal text that includes pictures and recipes - is entertaining and enlightening stuff, and the warm partisanship avoids bitterness or arrogance.

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The Spain of Catholic Monarchs 1474-1520 by John Edwards

The title may not be representative of the content, but this book offers a comprehensive introduction to the era of Ferdinand and Isabella. Edwards covers a range of subject matter, from politics to religions by way of military activities and cultures. Fortunately for readers, this volume is not only highly educational and competitively priced, but also lively reading.

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A Spanish Society, 1348-1700 by Teofilo Ruiz

Covering an earlier era, Ruiz's text explores the changes in Spanish society between the medieval and early modern period with warmth and humor. The result is a colorful and lively account that switches between broad discussion and individual lives whilst ranging from the highest clergy to the lowest brothels.

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Philip II by Patrick Williams

For much of the sixteenth century, Philip II dominated, not just Europe, but large parts of the world, leaving a complicated legacy which historians still fail to agree on. This study uses a chronological narrative to explore the changing nature of Philip and his actions, the king's supporters and detractors as well as the extent of his influence.

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Spain: The Centre of the World 1519-1682 by Robert Goodwin

As you can conclude from the title, this look at Spain is focused on one of the first global European empires, but there’s still plenty on the European part if that’s what you want. This is a large, rich and masterful book that you can indulge in.

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Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy by Paul Preston

When twentieth-century historians come to reappraise Juan Carlos they will find Paul Preston ahead of them. In this biography, we see the remarkable story of a man who was able to guide Spain post-Franco and establish it as a democracy, when much about his youth suggests the opposite.

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Franco: A Biography by Paul Preston

A big book requiring some dedication to get through, this biography of Spain’s twentieth-century dictator is a classic study by one of the leading experts. There’s plenty of original research and a story which dominates modern Spain, all handled well. For a shorter work look for Michael Streeter’s ‘Franco’.

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Editors, ThoughtCo. "The Best Spanish History Books." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2023, Editors, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 6). The Best Spanish History Books. Retrieved from Editors, ThoughtCo. "The Best Spanish History Books." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).