The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V


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Ben Wilson enjoys The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V by Hugh Thomas.

They provided for that everywhere at a very early stage. Later on, his own wife came out from Spain and life began again. The brutality of the Conquistadors is often, rightly, stressed. He was a Farnese pope. But he saw the need to stretch out his hands, to hold a light for the naturales , the indigenous peoples. Las Casas must have had a very infectious personality: whenever Charles V saw him he was convinced by what he had to say. He was shocked by the Spanish method of landholding, which he himself took up when he went to what is now the Dominican Republic in By he had become a clergyman.

He later visited Rome and was shocked by what he saw there too. I believe he was the first clergyman to be sent to the New World. There has been a lot of work done on him in the last 25 years. He lived to a great age and was very active even in his seventies.

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Sometimes he is portrayed as a prophet of international human rights, with some justification. It was a sermon that Las Casas was strongly influenced by. The Dominicans were divided to begin with about how to treat the Indians.

When Spain Led the World

But they had become the defenders of the indigenous population by around the s. The first big slave contract for the New World was produced under the orders of Charles V in As a result, Charles felt he owed a debt to them. Though the Fuggers were much the most important, it was the Welsers of Augsburg who were given the opportunity to colonise Venezuela.

They were not very successful and had something of a tragic time. This was during the s.

Battle of English Channel (1588) - England vs Spain

He was determined to find the route from Venezuela to the Pacific and thought he could do that by crossing the Andes. They almost came to blows, but all eventually returned to Spain. But all the Conquistadors were outsiders in one way or another. Does the stereotype of the Conquistadors as rough and ready adventurers stand up to scrutiny? Pedro de Valdivia [c. Many of these tremendously inventive and brilliant conquerors came from there.

The Golden Empire — By Hugh Thomas — Book Review - The New York Times

He is a marvellous writer. The Spanish Empire is worthy of these mega-endeavors. At its height, it was the first truly global enterprise, a federation that sprawled across much of Europe, most of the Americas, parts of Africa and various commercial outposts in Asia. Lasting twice as long as the British Empire, it may have had more impact in the end. Its creators were a matchless collection of rogues, ruffians and religious visionaries. Thomas, who will turn 80 in October, first appeared on the scene in with an enormous, still-classic history of the Spanish Civil War.

Since then his interests have drifted backward in time. Encountering this claim, one type of reader will happily settle in for several hundred pages of buckle and swash. Others will object: Hey, wait a minute!

In Luther was establishing the first Protestant church. Copernicus was busy in his observatory, confirming that the Earth revolves around the Sun.


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This is a history of conquerors, rather than conquered; a great majority of the protagonists are white, European and male. For the narrative historian, this is feast and famine: each story is fascinating, but there are an awful lot of them, they go every which way, and all the characters seem related to one another. Keeping all the names straight is a steep challenge for prosopagnosiac readers like me. View all New York Times newsletters. Since then his interests have drifted backward in time.

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Encountering this claim, one type of reader will happily settle in for several hundred pages of buckle and swash. Others will object: Hey, wait a minute!


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  • In Luther was establishing the first Protestant church. Copernicus was busy in his observatory, confirming that the Earth revolves around the Sun. This is a history of conquerors, rather than conquered; a great majority of the protagonists are white, European and male. For the narrative historian, this is feast and famine: each story is fascinating, but there are an awful lot of them, they go every which way, and all the characters seem related to one another. Keeping all the names straight is a steep challenge for prosopagnosiac readers like me. View all New York Times newsletters.

    At times, the narrative pulse is awfully faint.

    Hugh Thomas

    But the conquest was also fantastically important: many historians believe the vast silver deposits Spain found in the Andes provided Europe with the funds that allowed it to dominate the globe. The fight, which culminated in a remarkable court debate in , was a critical way station in the history of human rights. Puzzlingly, Thomas acknowledges that the reason Las Casas was ignored was that the empire had at last become profitable. But he almost entirely ignores the source of those profits: American silver, which historians have come ever more to emphasize.

    The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V
    The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V
    The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V
    The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V
    The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V

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