The University of Southampton

HIST2053 Habsburg Spain, 1469-1700: The Rise and Decline of the First European Superpower

Module Overview

This module aims to introduce students to the history of Spain during its “Golden Age” under the Hapsburg Dynasty, and the ways in which it established a global empire.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• The history of the rise and decline of Spain under the Habsburg dynasty in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. • The structure of the Spanish Empire: its strengths and weaknesses. • The modern historiographical debates that surround the history of the rise and decline early modern Spain and the Spanish Empire.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Key events and episodes in the history of early modern Spain and by extension of early modern Europe.
  • Key themes and debates in the historiography of Habsburg Spain and its American Empire.
  • Various genres of source material and how modern historians might interpret them, sometimes very differently, as historical evidence.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Participate effectively in group discussion.
  • Locate and use effective written and visual sources in the University library and available on-line.
  • Develop your presentation skills.
  • Analyze a translated document.
  • Research historical questions and communicate your findings convincingly and concisely both in essays and written reports.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Argue your case in a group discussion
  • Structure your ideas and research findings into well ordered presentations and essays.
  • Evaluate and analyze critically a variety of primary written and visual sources.
  • Engage with the existing secondary literature and contribute to the debates relating to the historiography for this period.


This module aims to introduce you to the history of Spain during its “Golden Age” under the Hapsburg Dynasty. During this period, Spain rose to become not only the most powerful kingdom in Christian Europe but also the first European state in modern history to establish a global empire over which “the sun never set”. You will study the abrupt rise to supremacy and subsequent slow decline of Spain as a major actor on both the European and World stages in the early modern period. You will work with translated primary sources and examine the many problems that confront historians when examining Imperial Spain, including the impact of Spain’s foreign policy in Europe, its economic and fiscal woes as well as its persecution of religious minorities.

Special Features

The presentations and discussions that take place in seminars will enable you to develop key interpersonal and intellectual skills. As these oral presentations are not formally assessed, you will have the chance to develop these skills in a sympathetic and stress-free environment with your peers and the module convenor (Dr François Soyer). Your knowledge and understanding will be developed through your presence at the lectures, participation in seminars, your own independent research in the library and at home, your writing of essays as well as the end- of-semester examination.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • One two-hour lecture per week. • One hour seminar per week (the lecture group will be divided into two separate groups) in which you will make presentations, you will actively discuss primary source material and you will take part in debates relating to issues that were raised in the lecture/seminar. • Individual consultation in person and by email about assessed work on the unit. Learning activities include • You will be asked to work both independently and in groups in order to prepare for the presentations that you will make in seminars. • You will conduct individual research for your assessed essays. • You will use internet resources to help you prepare the presentations to be delivered in seminars and your individual research for assessed essays. • You will analyze and engage critically with the many books and articles on this subject that have been written by modern historians. • You will learn to formulate your opinions in class discussions held during seminars. Innovative or special features of this unit ? You will work with unedited sources, translated into English by the module convenor (Dr François Soyer). ? Use of existing modern film to illustrate points made in lectures and seminars.

Completion of assessment task30
Preparation for scheduled sessions200
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Kamen, H (1991). Spain, 1469-1714: A Society of Conflict. 

Elliott, J.H (2002). Imperial Spain, 1469-1716. 

Lynch, J (1991). Spain, 1516-1598: from Nation State to World Empire. 

Lynch, J (1992). The Hispanic world in Crisis and Change, 1598-1700. 

Kamen, H (2002). Empire: How Spain became a World Power 1492-1763. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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