The Spanish Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Edited by H. Michael Tarver and Emily Slape. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 2 vols. Acid free $198 (ISBN 978-1-61069-421-6). E-book available (978-1-61069-422-3) call for pricing.

Although a small, fractured kingdom during the fifteenth century, Spain’s interest in exploration and expanding resources led to a more unified kingdom and later the largest Empire in the world. This early history has shaped the world significantly. The exchange of foods, animals, and natural resources throughout the world, the introduction of diseases to new territories, and the blending of indigenous and European cultures continues to shape our world in unique ways.

The Spanish Empire is both its own work and part of the Empires of the World series which looks at influential empires that have defined history. While other works have addressed the Spanish Empire, this one balances the variety and larger scope of James Olson’s Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Empire (Greenwood, 1991) with the longer, more detailed entries of Merriman’s Rise of the Spanish Empire (MacMillan 1925) while updating key issues and concepts.

Also, in contrast to the traditional alphabetical format of Olson or the chronological format of Merriman, this set is organized into seven areas of significance: Government and Politics; Organization and Administration; Individuals, Groups and Organizations; Key Events; Military; Objects and Artifacts; and Key Places for more integrated research studies. Each category includes an overview essay that provides a summary of key issues and ideas covered, and the glossary at the end of the second volume clarifies key terms.

While using a topical focus could detract from the historical understanding, the early timeline and the chronological organization of more than thirty primary documents provide a structure for placing the various sections and ideas within the historical context. Furthermore, cross-referencing at the end of entries provides connections to additional internal resources while “further reading” guides the researcher to additional resources. Also, the selected bibliography offers important works for research based on geographical regions, and the extensive indexing allows research on topics that cross various sections.

Following each section introduction, several entries are presented in alphabetical order. These individual entries are about two to three pages long with strong overviews and insights from a variety of specialists and scholars. The addition of black and white photos and illustrations provides both information and visual appeal to the overall layout, and inset boxes add further specifics on key ideas, people, and locations related to the section texts.

Overall, while students can find resources that discuss the Spanish Empire and its various impacts around the world, few resources can provide the same currency of information and scope of time, depth of content, and broad geography with the primary and secondary resources combined in this two volume work. Therefore, this set would be an asset to larger public libraries as well as high schools, community colleges, and undergraduate programs that include coursework in Spanish history, colonialism, or Latin American studies.—Donna Church, Reference Librarian, Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri


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