In 1821 Alexander von Humboldt suggested that the ancestors of the rather mysterious Basques were the still more mysterious Iberians. The problem of the origins and composition of the primitive population of Spain has continued to engage the attention of scholars. Historians will be glad to have a handy and intelligent summary of our present knowledge on the problem. Señor Arribas regards the Iberians as primarily a cultural group, holding that an interaction between the native ethnic cultural substratum and Greek and Phoenician colonists enables us from the fifth or fourth centuries B.C. onwards to designate them as Iberians. The bulk of the author’s attention goes to a consideration of the living habits, agriculture, handicraft, learning, architecture, economy, and arts of the Iberians. Description is aided by numerous illustrations. As nearly as a historian may judge a work of anthropology, the information is up to date and comprehensive, and the interpretations seem sound and sensible. There are a bibliography and a good index. This is, then, a popularization on a high level, useful for background orientation.
The books of Elliott and Lynch are of great interest to most historians. Two eminent British Hispanists have addressed themselves to examining the greatness and the decline of Spain. Both aim to write synthetic accounts, embracing current research and suggesting problems of contemporary interest. Though the authors’ goals were similar, their products are considerably different. Part of this difference is connected to the fact that Lynch ends his first volume (of a projected two volumes) with the death of Phillip II. Elliott, in nearly the same length, covers the whole line of the Hapsburg kings. Hence, Elliott’s book is of necessity highly selective and presents a synthetic and reflective account without detailed narrative. Lynch’s work, in contrast, is more detailed, more comprehensive, and scrutinizes events much more closely.
Yet to a substantial degree, they touch on the same subjects, the work of the Catholic Kings, the accession of Charles V and the imperial endeavor, and the trials of the Emperor and his son with the Comuneros, the Turks, the Protestants, or the British. In short, the familiar succession of events forms the skeleton of the two works. Most commendably, both authors avoid the excessively Castillian orientation all too common in treating Spanish history and give due attention to Aragon, the Mediterranean, and the Indies. Both are careful to deal with economic and social problems. This reviewer found no startlingly wide divergence of interpretation. For example. Elliott seems rather more sympathetic to the constitutional institutions of Aragon and to consider Charles and Phillip as sincere (or at least resigned) converts to patrimonialism in dealing with their heterogeneous dominions. Lynch thinks the crown of Aragon escaped centralization because it was poor. In any case, a final comparison must await the publication of Lynch’s second volume, which will apparently contain his general conclusions.
Perhaps the most interesting idea advanced by Elliott is that the really decisive divergence between Spanish and north European development did not come until the last fifty years of the seventeenth century. At this moment when other European states grew radically in economic and political power Spain, crippled by the disastrous defeats of Olivares, was at “the moment of maximum political and intellectual stagnation.” In such a condition, she found it impossible to face either the rapidly changing politics of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century or the tremendous intellectual developments of that period.
Lynch and Elliott have used with discrimination a large variety of specialized works and monographs. Moreover, Elliott’s chapters on the seventeenth century and Lynch’s treatment of colonial affairs have the special insight of their own studies.
Elliott has recently spoken of the necessity of writing history well, and his present book certainly conforms to this standard. Lynch’s style is perhaps less harmonious with the armchair, but has a commendable clarity. Both books, then, belong on the shelf of every student of Spanish history, and though parallel, they neatly compliment each other. Both writers may be congratulated on careful summarization, thoughtful conclusion, and clear exposition.