all those things that you might wish to know
about the history of Spain and Portugal
as a visitor or an ex-patriot
|1492 and all that!|
ISBN: 978 0 9569643 4 2
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1492 and All That! was a light-hearted whisk through Iberian history for an ex-pat reader. This meant I had now published six books.
When I travelled to Spain and Portugal for holidays and meetings I realised that my knowledge of Iberian history and culture was nothing short of shocking. It was very disturbingly Anglo-centric, much more about how we Brits interacted with the peninsula rather than anything of its own history.
When I subsequently bought a home in Spain I thought that this might mean I would learn more, perhaps by some form of osmosis.
In fact one of my Anglo-Spanish neighbours bemoaned the fact that his use of the Spanish language was not improving despite him having Spanish blood in him – he had had a blood transfusion! But most of my ingestion proved not to be about local facts, historical figures and folklore, but most often was merely local food and drink. In my defence, I do not believe I was noticeably worse informed than other ex-pats that I met up with while living there.
My meagre knowledge could be readily summed up in a few paragraphs, which in retrospect seem to be rather ‘Boy’s Own’.
I had vague concepts inspired by fiestas of militant Catholics battling exotic Moors, of Charlton Heston as El Cid dead and strapped to his horse and of a gaunt Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Images of proud horsemen from Castile and Aragón, wielding swords fashioned in Toledo steel. Then of course there was Monty Python’s skit repeating the mantra ‘nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’.
I knew of the discoveries of Christopher Columbus and of the Portuguese navigators like Magellan discovering new sea routes around the globe. Then later of the Conquistadors searching for El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth; some falling victim to Montezuma’s revenge. I knew of Portuguese and Spanish treasure ships from South America hounded by swashbuckling privateers on the Spanish Main, of Drake singeing Philip’s beard and the disastrous Spanish Armada.
This thin understanding was sprinkled over with some imperfect ideas about the Spanish Civil War and Guernica, of General Franco, of ETA and the Basques. This was then all mixed up with images of bull-fighting, flamenco, castanets and sombreros (when the latter is in fact Mexican!).
I confess that I had next to no understanding of where Portugal sat in that picture, it was tangled up in the shared history of the two countries, I had no appreciation of the two nationalities similarities or differences.
It was my sudden recognition of how appallingly uninformed I was that drove me to remedy it by researching and writing ‘1492 and all that!’
But, by now we had lived full-time in Spain for the agreed five years and were heading back to live in England. I have pursued a number of fiction and non-fiction notions, but my work on a BA and subsequently an MA intruded and none of these other books have yet been rounded off for publication. Those more advanced are here on bobdenton.com as work in progress.