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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Incomparable Realms

Spain during the Golden Age, 1500–1700

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Incomparable Realms

Spain during the Golden Age, 1500–1700

A sumptuous history of Golden Age Spain that explores the irresistible tension between heavenly and earthly realms.
Incomparable Realms offers a vision of Spanish culture and society during the so-called Golden Age, the period from 1500 to 1700 when Spain unexpectedly rose to become the dominant European power. But in what ways was this a Golden Age, and for whom? The relationship between the Habsburg monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church shaped the period, with both constructing narratives to bind Spanish society together. Incomparable Realms unpicks the impact of these two historical forces on thought and culture and examines the people and perspectives such powerful projections sought to eradicate.
The book shows that the tension between the heavenly and earthly realms, and in particular the struggle between the spiritual and the corporeal, defines Golden Age culture. In art and literature, mystical theology and moral polemic, ideology, doctrine, and everyday life, the problematic pull of the body and the material world is the unacknowledged force behind early modern Spain. Life is a dream, as the title of Calderón’s famous play of the period proclaimed, but there is always a body dreaming it.

464 pages | 39 color plates, 31 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

Art: European Art

History: European History

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"A brilliant account of the Spanish monarchy in its 'Golden Age,' when it was the foremost power in Europe and ruled a global empire. This is an exceptional achievement by one of the very best cultural historians in the field, combining the art, architecture, literature, social values, political ideas, religious practices, and especially, the thought of Renaissance and Baroque Spain in a coherent and convincing synthesis. Grounded in solid, up-to-date scholarship, it is an invaluable resource for historians, while its lucid style makes this fascinating subject accessible to the general reader. Destined to become a classic of European cultural history."

Edwin Williamson, author of "The Penguin History of Latin America"

"Another fundamental work by one of Britain’s foremost scholars on the Spanish Golden Age. Robbins delivers a masterful analysis of the intellectual, literary, and visual culture of the global Hispanic world in the early modern period."

Rodrigo Cacho, professor of early modern Iberian and Latin American literature, University of Cambridge

"In this admirable and learned study Robbins reassesses the Spain of popular imagination—'angels and austerity, morality and morbidity; Habsburg power and discrete opulence'—to examine afresh its culture and society, its art, literature, mystical theology, its ideology, doctrine, and 'moral polemic.'...One of the book's significant strengths is the author's close and revealing reading of the paintings, never less than fascinating, illuminating, and authoritative. The book includes thirty-nine color plates and numerous black-and-white images embedded in the text that immeasurably add to the reader's understanding."

Catholic Herald

"The book offers a superb introduction to a period of imperial brutality. . . Handsomely illustrated with color reproductions of stunning works. Incomparable Realms is a testament to the imbrication and the incommensurability of the earthly and sublime."

Times Literary Supplement

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