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Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would highly recommend this to anyone who has the patience to listen closely to a deeply layered analysis of Spanish history. I found the academic tone of the work to be highly stimulating. This is no rough sketch such as you might find in any lesser work; the author brings his long career as an historian and academician to bear on analyzing everything from economics to war to geography to politics in the shaping the Spain of today.
Who was your favorite character and why?
The discussion of the highly controversial dictator Franco was intensely interesting, as was having a better understanding of the root causes of the Civil War. But so was the entire story from the Visigoths to the Twenty-First Century.
Have you listened to any of Kevin Pierce’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I haven't listened him before, but he gave an incredible performance in spite of his understandably Anglicized enunciation of tons of Spanish words. Getting past those hiccups was a bit distracting, but not much.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The closing chapter, in which specific conclusions are drawn to illustrate what Spain is today and where it might be going, from the perspective of a very intelligent social scientist.
Any additional comments?
The lengthy introduction was tedious but probably necessary in order to establish the author's credibility. The rest of the work was so good that I've given it a couple of listens. Of course, just having traveled through Spain for the first time added to the correlative joy of hearing this. I highly recommend this unique outlook on the history of an amazing culture.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Spain?
This book is of particular interest to those who are interested in history not only for facts and stories but for an understanding of how things came to pass, not only on the primary level of events but also on the levels of how these are interpreted, transformed and transmitted. It is a very rich work that gives insights into historiography as well as history. I came away feeling enriched in many ways.
The discussion of the Arabic occupation and how it has been seen at different times is alone worth the price of the book to me. I had a rosy vision of a tolerant and cultivated Islamic state that contrasted with the rough and bigoted Christians; this book not only sets the record straight but also explains where this idealized vision comes from.
Do not pass up this book because of negative reviews, though these are right in saying that it is not written for those who want a easy account of the personages and events of Spanish history. The reader is also good, and though he reads foreign words with a pronounced American accent, he does not MISpronounce Spanish words as some reviews suggest (the incomprehensible words they allude to are probably Latin or French). Spanish words are all comprehensible, though the rare French words are seriously mispronounced.
Any additional comments?
The book is quite dense and not a "easy listen". Negative reviewers are not wrong to bring this up, but I am extremely grateful for having listened to it. It gives a wonderful overview of Spanish history with invaluable insights, but it is not a "concise history of Spain" and needs to be complemented by other books if you know little about Spanish and European history.
The author's account of his academic career is both interesting and meaningful in the context of an important subject central to the book: historiography. I CAN understand how a casual listener might be put off by this book, and I would not recommend it to everyone. But to those with a somewhat deeper interest in history, it is a real find.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I feel like I've been conned by the blurb regarding this book which promised "a balanced, broadly chronological survey of Spanish history from the Visigoths to the present." In fact this is a highly academic work that begins with a self-indulgent, two hour lecture on the author and the development of hispanist history more generally. The author then proceeds to spend more time deconstructing the historiography of Spain than it does telling you anything interesting about what went on in the county's past. It is assumed the reader is already very familiar with the history of Spain and is keen to find out how and why that history came to be told in the way that it is. If you do not meet both of these criteria this may not be the book for you.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
An idiosyncratic and ultimately disappointing overview of Spain's history by one of the leading modern historians of the country, Payne's analysis is rather superficial; too often, he is satisfied with debunking an 'accepted' version of events, without exploring the questions that an alternative version raises.
For example, Payne dedicates a lot of time to dismissing the motion that the Republican side during the Civil War stood for liberal democracy, but here he is really arguing with pro-Republican political propaganda circa 1937, not with current historiography. And rather than simply railing against the Republic's lack of democratic credentials, he might usefully have explored the question as to why a large part of Spanish liberalism had decided to adopt an authoritarian approach, why a large portion of the Spanish Socialist Party was committed to revolutionary rather than gradualist change and why, uniquely in world history, Spain produced mass radical anarchist movements in both rural and urban settings.
To take another example, Payne is highly critical of the PSOE's controversial decision to politicise the issue of the recent past at the start of the 21st century, but his explanation is far from enlightening. It is, he argues, simply the expression of the dominance of the 'ideology' of political correctness. A more convincing explanation would need to set the decision in the context of the PSOE's economic policies of the time, and the need for the party to establish a clear distinction between itself and its opponents on the right.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful