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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Primary Sources
  • Document Collections
  • Eighteenth-Century Spain
  • Economy
  • Imperial Rule

Atlantic History Early Modern Spain
Allyson M. Poska
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0082


During the Early Modern period, the Spanish kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were unique in many ways. For centuries, they had struggled with significant Islamic and Jewish populations both inside and just beyond their borders. Long after the conquest of Granada and the expulsion of the Jews, the presence of newly converted and assimilated peoples informed Spanish culture. Columbus’s voyages to the Caribbean made Castile the head of an expanding American empire that transformed the kingdom politically, socially, and economically. With the succession of Charles I to the thrones of Castile and Aragon and his subsequent election as Holy Roman Emperor (Charles V), that empire grew to include much of northern and central Europe. Charles’s successors would add Portugal and parts of Asia to its possessions. As a result, Spain’s monarchs, institutions, policies, and social norms became critical in the formation of the early modern world.

General Overviews

A variety of general surveys and textbooks provide good overviews of early modern Spanish history. Originally published in 1963, Imperial Spain (Elliott 2002) still provides the best basic introduction to early modern Spain and is frequently used as a college textbook. Lynch 1981, the two-volume Spain under the Habsburgs, offers a basic political and economic history. Domínguez Ortiz 1971 is the first of a number of works that focus on the economic and social history of the period. Both Casey 1999 and Ruiz 2001 offer up-to-date, readable syntheses of the recent social and economic history. Morant Deusa 2005 provides a critical introduction to women’s history on the peninsula and in the Americas.

  • Casey, James. Early Modern Spain: A Social History. London: Routledge, 1999.

    Casey brings together the extensive social and economic history research of the past few decades. A very large and useful bibliography.

  • Domínguez Ortiz, Antonio. The Golden Age of Spain, 1516–1659. New York: Basic Books, 1971.

    A very readable synthesis of the social and economic history up to that point.

  • Elliott, J. H. Imperial Spain, 1469–1716. 2d ed. New York: Penguin, 2002.

    Formulated largely around political and economic history, this survey of Spanish history from the succession of Isabel to the end of the War of the Spanish Succession offers a good, clear introduction to the people, ideas, and institutions of early modern Spain.

  • Lynch, John. Spain under the Habsburgs. 2 vols. 2d ed. New York: New York University Press, 1981.

    A basic political and economic history. Volume 1 covers the reigns of Charles V and Philip II. Volume 2 covers the 17th-century kings.

  • Morant Deusa, Isabel, ed. Historia de las mujeres en España y América Latina. Vol. 2, El mundo moderno. Madrid: Cátedra, 2005.

    Essays by prominent scholars on different aspects of women’s lives, from work to writing to queenship.

  • Ruiz, Teófilo F. Spanish Society, 1400–1600. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2001.

    Ruiz takes a different perspective on periodization, emphasizing the connections between the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Focuses on aspects of daily life, festivals, and violence.

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