In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Spain

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies and Research Tools
  • Journals
  • Archives
  • Primary Sources
  • Nobility and Court Culture
  • Civic Ritual and Urban Life
  • Daily Life
  • Colonial Empire
  • Economy and Material Culture
  • Popular Culture and Rural Life
  • Law and Philosophy
  • Science, Medicine, and Technology
  • Historiography and European Perceptions of Spain

Renaissance and Reformation Spain
Hilaire Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 November 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 November 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0008


The Spanish Renaissance is more typically referred to as the Siglo de Oro, or Golden Age, although the potential political incorrectness of this term has come under fire in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (was this a golden age for everyone? for women? for the colonized?). Consequently, the alternative “early modern” is preferred in many circles, although Golden Age is very much still employed, particularly in Spain. Another slippery aspect of this umbrella term is the rather long period it covers. Typically its starting date is late medieval (1492 marked Christopher Columbus’s “encounter” with the “New” World, the end of the Reconquest, and the expulsion of the Jews). It extends through at least the early Baroque (a commonly chosen terminus ante quem for Spain’s period of greatest hegemony is the reign of the feeble monarch Carlos II, which ended in 1700). As is obvious from this time frame, the Renaissance happened later in Spain than in some other European countries. This factor has led to a certain sense of “belatedness” in both Spain’s historical process and its historiography. This time period proved extraordinarily fertile, however, coinciding with what could only be termed an era of Spanish world dominance: at various points during this same epoch, Spain controlled southern Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands in addition to its New World colonies. The rulers of this far-flung empire, beginning with the Holy Roman emperor Charles V, all came from one royal family, the Habsburgs of Austria. Imperial Spain was the birthplace of several important literary and artistic movements and genres, including the first modern novel. Opinions are divided on whether historical phenomena, such as the Inquisition, actually stifled or rather stimulated artistic creativity.

General Overviews

A strong preoccupation with ideology may be seen running through most late-20th- and early-21st-century overviews of this period, as in Cascardi 1997. Issues of cultural authority and cultural control, particularly in religious contexts, are most salient in essay collections such as Brownlee and Gumbrecht 1995 and Cruz and Perry 1992. Likewise, Henry Kamen refers to the Spain of this period as a “society of conflict” in Kamen 2005. This perceived conflict is escalated to a crisis in Lynch 1992. Spadaccini and Martín-Estudillo 2005 prefers historico-aesthetic terminology in its invocation of the period concept known as the Baroque. Cultural history, including history of the book, is the focus of Feros and Gelabert 2004.

  • Brownlee, Marina S., and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, eds. Cultural Authority in Golden Age Spain. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

    Contains essays on postmodernism and the Baroque, homographesis, the discourse of empire, and the “matter of America.” Golden Age authors covered include Miguel de Cervantes, Garcilaso de la Vega, Luis de Góngora y Argote, Félix Arturo Lope de Vega, and María de Zayas y Sotomayor.

  • Cascardi, Anthony J. Ideologies of History in the Spanish Golden Age. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.

    This book is about literary and historical ideology. Astonishingly broad in scope, it offers chapters on comedia (comedy), Don Quijote, Garcilaso de la Vega, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Don Juan, El Cid, and others.

  • Cruz, Anne J., and Mary Elizabeth Perry, eds. Culture and Control in Counter-Reformation Spain. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

    A frequently cited essay collection edited by two well-established scholars, one a literary critic and the other a historian. Has a distinctly feminist slant. Most of the contributions fall under the general rubric of religious studies. Essays on catechism, religious oratory, circumcision, crypto-Judaism, demonology, and marriage.

  • Elliott, John H. Imperial Spain, 1469–1716. New York: St. Martin’s, 1964.

    The standard narrative history of the period by Spain’s greatest living historian. A subsequent collection of the same author’s essays, Spain and Its World, 1500–1700 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), may be seen as a companion volume.

  • Feros, Antonio, and Juan Gelabert, eds. España en tiempos del Quijote. Madrid: Taurus, 2004.

    Collection of essays of above-average quality. Includes some excellent work by cultural historians, such as Fernando Bouza’s overview of book history.

  • Kamen, Henry. Spain, 1469–1714: A Society of Conflict. 3d ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005.

    Also available in Spanish translation, Una sociedad conflictiva: España 1469–1714. The title of this book refers to Américo Castro’s famous phrase describing the Golden Age in Spain as a “conflictive age” (De la edad conflictiva [Madrid: Taurus, 1976]). By one of the foremost historians of Spain. First published in 1983.

  • Lynch, John. The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 1598–1700. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

    A companion volume to the same historian’s Spain 1516–1598: From Nation State to World Empire (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).

  • Spadaccini, Nicholas, and Luis Martín-Estudillo, eds. Hispanic Baroques: Reading Cultures in Context. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2005.

    A transatlantic approach to a periodic, historical, and aesthetic concept. Solid essay collection explores cultures of crises, anxieties, subjectivities, strategies of identity, and transgressive recyclings.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.