Invention Of Spain

This is a hugely important and professionally produced history of Spain from 1492 – 2013 and was first broadcast by the BBC in the autumn of 2013. In total it is 90 minutes of quality audio that I highly recommend.

Catalonia, Castille, Galicia and the Basques … it’s been said that many of Spain’s problems come from the pretence that she is one country. In The Invention of Spain Misha Glenny explores whether this is true. Three documentaries, from 1492 to 1898, from Columbus to El Desastre, tell the story of the rise and fall of an empire. But they also reveal the fractured state of a nation, both in history and now.

“I can’t imagine Spain ever cohering – if it did it wouldn’t be Spain.” Felipe Fernandez Armesto.

The first programme begins in the annus mirabilis of 1492, when the last Moors in Granada surrendered, Columbus discovered the New World, and an edict was published expelling the Jews. This year is frequently cited as the birth of modern Spain, but behind the national mythology another story lurks. “The birth of this embryonic Spain is rooted in the idea of exclusion,” says one contributor, “and that is a very nasty thing to have in your history.”

Misha Glenny is a former BBC correspondent and winner of a Sony gold. Producer Miles Warde has previously collaborated with Misha Glenny on The Invention of Germany, Garibaldi’s Grand Scheme and The Alps. Contributors include Sir John Elliott, Inigo Gurruchaga of El Correo newspaper, Mia Rodriguez Salgado and Madrid MP Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo.

Listen to Part One here (30 mins)

September 11th in Barcelona is celebrated annually as the national day of Catalonia. in 2013 more than a million people marched through the city, waving their distinctive flags – many want independence from Madrid. This is clearly a critical moment in Spanish history, but the mood of separation is not new.

In The Invention of Spain, Misha Glenny explores flashpoints and fragmentation in the Spanish monarchy’s territorial possessions – from the revolts of Catalonia in both 1640 and 1714, to the emergence of the United Provinces, or the Dutch, as a nation separate and free from their Habsburg overlords.

“This was a David and Goliath struggle. The Spanish army was indisputably the strongest in Europe,” says Ben Kaplan of UCL. “”For this smattering of rebels living in this marshy bogland was adventurous at best, and suicidal at worst.”

With contributions from Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo, Felipe Fernandez Armesto and Sir John Elliott.

Listen to Part Two here

On February 15 1898, an American warship blew up suddenly and sank. The USS Maine had been moored in Havana harbour, sent by President McKinley from Key West to protect American interests in Cuba. It’s still unclear if Spanish colonial forces were in anyway responsible for the sinking of the USS Maine. What we know for certain is that the brief, bloody war that followed completely changed the world.

In the third and final programme of The Invention of Spain, Misha Glenny charts imperial decline, from the early independence of Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, up to the 1898 war that saw Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines all break free. With contributrions from Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo, Sir John Elliott, and Samuel Moncada, historian and Venezuelan ambassador to London. “The point is why do they (the colonies) follow Spain so long ? That is the miracle, not independence.”

Listen to Part Three here