Book Notes: Juan Eslava Galán’s History of Spain for Sceptics

The best way to start a new year is with a new book. Eslava Galán is a bestselling author of history books for wide audiences. His books are gossipy and humorous but the research is actually pretty good. I teach Spain’s history in college, and I didn’t find anything unreliable or wrong in the book.

All history books are ideological but Eslava Galán is at least very open about his ideology and never tries to mask bias and present it as objective. He loves Spain and wants to write it up as positively as possible while recognizing everything that’s messed up about it.

There are three things this author hates in a somewhat obsessive way: the Catholic Church, the Habsburg dynasty of Spanish kings, and the mass migration of Muslims. He’s really obsessed with the Muslims, which, however, doesn’t prevent him from writing a really great, well-balanced and historically correct account of the Reconquista and the Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula. So Eslava Galán doesn’t fudge facts to make a point. There’s hardly a chapter that goes by, though, without his reminding the readers that he’s opposed to mass migration of Muslims to Europe. It does get funny after a point.

I know Spain’s history so well that there was little new for me in this book but it was a pleasant, fun read. I highly recommend it to those who are new to the subject and don’t want to get into anything heavy.