"Imagining Spain" by Henry Kamen

Imagining Spain Historical Myth and National Identity Henry Kamen

Publication date:
28 Apr 2008
Yale University Press
256 pages: 156 x 234mm
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A leading historian explores the myths that define Spain’s view of its own past

This book, the latest contribution by eminent historian Henry Kamen, is a unique analysis of the myths that Spaniards have held, and continue to hold, about themselves and about their collective past. Kamen discusses how perceptions of key aspects of early modern Spain, such as the monarchy, the empire, and the Inquisition, were influenced by ideologies that continue to play a role in the formation of contemporary Spanish attitudes.

Anxious to create a national identity, influential politicians and historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries sought the roots of that identity—an allegedly powerful, united, and Catholic nation—in a fictitious image of what Spain was during the sixteenth century. Kamen holds up this imagined Spain to historical light and also examines the persistent obsession with the notion of national decline. Analyzing the historical basis of attempts to create a convincing nationalist ideology, Kamen speaks to issues that remain at the heart of Spanish politics and public controversy today.

"In seven trenchant chapters and a postscript, Mr. Kamen demolishes one cherished fantasy after another. Drawing on archival sources, unpublished manuscripts, and a vast body of scholarship in several languages, he takes a fresh, and often scathing, look at Spanish notions of nationhood, monarchy, and empire, and shows them to rise almost wholly out of ignorance and self-delusion. . . . Only someone who loves Spain deeply could have written this book. By stripping away the corrosions of myth, Mr. Kamen, shows a Spain as rough-and-tumble as it is various?not the 'lively sensation,' but the thing itself."?Eric Ormsby, New York Sun

"Kamen . . . brings his magisterial command of early modern Spain to a rich, fresh reading of the symbolic meanings that permeate Spanish history and culture. . . . Highly recommended."?G. W. McDonogh, Choice

"Two hundred readable and enjoyable pages. . . . Kamen is on solid ground with his myth busting, and he continues to write with exceptional flair and a trademark wit that has made him one of the deans of Spanish historiography."—Enrique A. Sanabria, Journal of World History