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A Unique History

A Choice Outstanding Academic Book
Best Books for General Audiences, Public Library Association

“An excellent, balanced discussion of important controversies.”
—Juan Linz, author of Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes

From bloodthirsty conquest to exotic romance, stereotypes of Spain abound. This new volume by distinguished historian Stanley G. Payne draws on his half century of experience to offer a balanced, broadly chronological survey of Spanish history from the Visigoths to the present. Who were the first “Spaniards”? Is Spain a fully Western country? Was Spanish liberalism a failure? Examining Spain’s unique role in the larger history of Western Europe, Payne reinterprets key aspects of the country’s history.

Topics include Muslim culture in the peninsula, the Spanish monarchy, the empire, and the relationship between Spain and Portugal. Turning to the twentieth century, Payne discusses the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War. The book’s final chapters focus on the Franco regime, the nature of Spanish fascism, and the special role of the military. Analyzing the figure of Franco himself, Payne seeks to explain why some Spaniards still regard him with respect, while many others view the late dictator with profound loathing.

Framed by reflections on the author’s own formation as a Hispanist and his evaluation of the controversy about “historical memory” in contemporary Spain, this volume offers deeply informed insights into both the history and the historiography of a unique country.


Stanley G. Payne is the Hilldale–Jaume Vicens Vives Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His many books include The Franco Regime: 1936–1975; Fascism: Comparison and Definition; Spain’s First Democracy: The Second Republic, 1931–1936; and A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, all published by the University of Wisconsin Press.





“This is a fascinating and original addition to the canon of single-volume surveys of Spain.”
European History Quarterly

“Payne’s revivalist presentation of a broad continuity of Spain’s history, centered on its Castilian heartland, unfailingly maintains the standards of balance and objectivity that have always been the hallmark of his endeavor.”
—Robert A. Stradling, author of The Irish and the Spanish Civil War

“Beginning with an informative account of his ‘formation’ as a Hispanist, Payne addresses critical questions in Spanish history, e.g., the role of Islam, alleged decline and decadence, empire, and interpretations of liberalism. Following is a substantial examination and analysis of what Payne labels ‘dilemmas of contemporary history,’ uncommonly valuable as a succinct discussion of major developments since the 1930s, including the origins of the Spanish Civil War. For each of these, Payne reviews and challenges many familiar accounts. Thoughtful yet provocative; indispensable reading for everyone.”
CHOICE October 2011



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Spain: A Unique History

January 2011
LC: 2010015039 DP
326 pp.   6 x 9
3 maps

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Paper $26.95 a
ISBN 978-0-299-25024-9
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2008 Spanish edition, España, una historia única, published by Temas de Hoy