The Mirror of Spain, 1500-1700

The Formation of a Myth
J. N. Hillgarth
Spanish national character imposed and exposed


In this major new work, J. N. Hillgarth investigates how Spain was seen by non-Spaniards in the period when it was the leading power in Europe. The author brings together a wide range of sources that elucidate Spanish history and Spanish character. He demonstrates the ways that propaganda has distorted both these things in the past and even continues to do so in the present.

In the first of the volume's four parts, the author discusses the reasons—geographic, political, and religious—why Spain has proved a hard country to understand. Hillgarth looks at travelers to Spain, from pilgrims to diplomats, spies, exiles, and foreign residents. In its second part, special attention is devoted to the interaction between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, including Jewish and Muslim exiles and secret Jews within Spain.

In its third section, The Mirror of Spain explores reactions to Spain by those who saw it from the outside, the Italians, Dutch, French, and English. One chapter deals with the English, Scottish, and Irish Catholics, who, like the Jewish and Muslim exiles, played a double role in that they were at once "insiders" and outsiders. Finally, Hillgarth attempts to show how two crucial centuries have affected the way Spain has been seen down to the present.

The Mirror of Spain draws on a wide range of sources in different languages. It relies on documents in the Public Record Office and the British Library, the Archivo General de Simancas and the collections of the colleges founded by exiles in Spain, and on major libraries in Venice and Jerusalem. The volume will be of interest to a broad spectrum of scholars—to medievalists, historians of Spain, scholars of political and literary thought, and all those interested in notions of national identity.

J. N. Hillgarth has taught for many years at the University of Toronto and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and has received awards and honors from a wide variety of distinguished institutions in Europe and North America.

Praise / Awards

  • "The profusion of citations and anecdotes in this impressively erudite book yields a mine of information based on prodigious reading and archival research."
    —James Amelang, American Historical Review, February 2002
  • "Based upon an astonishing array of archival and printed primary materials and secondary sources, this is a scholarly tour de force that belongs in every academic and large public library."
    —M. A. Burkholder, University of Missouri, St. Louis, Choice, June 2001
  • "In this ambitious and wide-ranging study, J. N. Hillgarth explores non-Spaniards' perceptions of the country between 1500 and 1700 and seeks to explain how an increasingly negative view of Spain became engrained in the wider European consciousness. . . . Drawing on a vast array of sources—archival, printed, literary and artistic—Hillgarth's broad canvas teems with colour and life: among the many beguiling scenes provided we find women washing their clothes in the River Manzanares, ice skaters frolicking on the frozen waters of the Retiro lake, and the harmless 'buffooneries' of a merry band of Franciscans, dressed up as shepherds, attending Midnight Mass. . . . [T]here is much to admire and enjoy in this volume which should prove of the greatest interest to academics and the general reader alike."
    —Simon Barton, University of Exeter, English Historical Review, September 2002
  • "A valuable contribution on the increasingly pertinent question of Spain's position in early modern Europe and, by extension, a historian's approach to the field at large. The book is also beautifully written, and it deserves, and will surely receive, a wide and admiring readership."
    —Bruce Taylor, History, Summer 2001
  • ". . . a magnificent and carefully researched compendium of information on the reading and mis-reading [sic] of early modern Spain by contemporary observers, which will profitably be plundered by historians of both Spain and Europe for a long time to come."
    —J. H. Elliott, Oriel College, Oxford, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April 2002
  • "Judicious, thorough and perceptive, this volume makes for stimulating and enjoyable reading. It is highly recommended for students of the early modern Spanish world and for Hispanists in general who are interested in the historical bases for outsiders' views of Spain."
    The Americas

  • "In many ways, the book is indispensable: it reflects, far better than any existing study, the complex relationship between Spain and the rest of Europe during the early modern era."
    —Richard Kagan, The International History Review, Volume 24, No. 1 (2002)
  • ". . . an excellent general perspective and a minutely researched study, based largely on reworking standard sources but also on considerable new material."
    —Henry Kamen, TLS, June 16, 2001

Look Inside

Copyright © 2000, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 608pp.
  • 28 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11092-6

Add to Cart
  • $99.95 U.S.