Empire How Spain Became a World Power Book Review

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¶ … Spain Became a World Power

Spain, before its 'super power' status was barren, a somewhat isolated country from the rest of Europe. So how did it come to be one of the world's first superpowers? Kamen, in his book, Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763, attempts to answer this question.

Spain in the Middle Ages was quite a sophisticated land with both magnificent Islamic culture and the biggest Jewish population in all of Europe. The Iberian Peninsula (now home to Spain and Portugal) was divided between Christian and Muslim states, but there were moments of peace and thus a time when people could exchange in traditions and cultural differences, and they did exactly this.

In his book, Kamen recreates the amazing world of imperial Spain, from the beginning with the capture of Moorish Granada to its huge expansion into Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and finally all the way into the frontiers of Texas and California in the United States.


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Kamen's book comes across as a bit derogatory in its collection of essays. Without a very stable argument one way or another, Kamen argues that the Spanish empire was more of a random collection of territories that were passed down from generations -- as opposed to being a strong political unit. Because of this, the empire was not as threatening or as strong as the world once thought. Kamen proves that Spain wasn't responsible for running their own empire, but rather it was the foreigners who did. It would have been impossible for Spain to run their own empire in Kamen's view because of the fact that Spain was quite poor and behind the times in more than a few ways.


This paper will first summarize Kamen's book, which will include the author's purpose, themes, ideas, and sources, and will end with a conclusion.


Book Review on Empire How Spain Became a World Power Assignment

Kamen suggests in his book the great importance of globalization, even going as far back in history as the Spanish Empire of the 16th and the 17th centuries. Kamen looks at this Golden Age in Spain's history as he recounts how the empire spread from Europe, to Asia, to Africa, to North America. He is able to show, with ease in fact, that Spain was something special because of the way it was able to be multinational. While there have been other similar empires, the Spanish Empire was rather special and it gives new meaning to the word 'globalization' today.


The author's goals seem to be to educate the scholar or student about these great centuries in European history, what it meant for Spain, the world, and what it means today in the context of globalization. Kamen tries to show that Spain was not entirely responsible for its own greatness in regards to its empire. While it may have been considered to be a world power, Spain relied on the help of other nations in taking care of its conquests. It needed the help and the resources of the very places that it controlled (like Italy, for example, as well as places in North America). In this way, Kamen shows that Spain's empire was not something that was completely unoriginal or great, for that matter (which has not looked good in the eyes of Spanish scholars). Kamen's goal is to show that whether Spain was at peace with its territories or whether it was at war, it so desperately need help from others.


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