History of Spain

Spain is a country with a long and fascinating history. Most of my reading seems to have been focused on the 15th century – the fall of Granada, the Inquisition, Isabella and Ferdinand, and the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Any more recommendations, particularly for other periods of Spanish history, would be very welcome!


Court of Lions by Jane Johnson

A dual timeline story set in Spain. Although I found the modern day storyline too melodramatic, the historical storyline is fascinating, covering the life of Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad XII (known as Boabdil) and the fall of Granada.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

Another novel with a dual timeline, it is set partly in Spain in the 1930s. I learned a lot about Spanish politics of the time – a time when Spain was on the brink of civil war. Not as good as Burton’s The Miniaturist, but still an interesting read.

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Set in the late 15th century, this novel focuses on the persecution faced by the Jews and conversos in Spain during the Inquisition. In another subplot, we follow Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) as he attempts to obtain the financial support he needs to embark on his famous voyage.

The Last Queen by CW Gortner

I loved CW Gortner’s portrayal of Juana of Castile (referred to as ‘Juana the Mad’). This moving and exciting novel took me through a period of Spain’s history of which I previously knew very little – and made me feel very sorry for Juana!

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

Sofonisba Anguissola was a female artist of the 16th century who spent many years at the Spanish court. Despite her talent, she was prevented from reaching her full potential and receiving the recognition she deserved because of being a woman. However, this as much the story of King Philip II of Spain and his wife, Elisabeth of Valois, as it is of Sofonisba.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Not all of this book is set in Spain – much of the second half takes place in Chile and Venezuela – but the earlier chapters follow our protagonists, Victor and Roser, through the end of the Spanish Civil War when they become refugees fleeing across the border to France. Although the novel as a whole wasn’t really for me, I found it interesting to learn about what happened in the aftermath of the Civil War to those who had fought on the losing side.