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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Because of the high range of the Pyrenees Mountains


would not be able to say, without failing in sincerity (and therefore in the first duty of historiography), that I share in and subscribe to all the conclusions and generalizations of Professor Chapman about the contemporary history and present condition of Spain. At times my dissent would not be more than one of the mere shade of meaning, perhaps from the form of expression, given to an act which, according as it is presented, is, or is not, exact. But in general I believe that Professor Chapman sees modern Spain correctly, and does us justice in many things in which it is not frequent that we are accorded that consideration. This alone would indeed be a great merit in our eyes and would deserve our applause. The English-speaking public will have a guarantee, through this work, of being able to contemplate a quite faithful portrait of Spain, instead of a caricature drawn in ignorance of the facts or in bad faith. With this noble example of historiographical calm, Professor Chapman amply sustains one of the most sympathetic notes which, with relation to the work of Spain in America, has for some years been characteristic, that which we should indeed call the school of North American historians.


February, 1918.




[Sidenote: Isolation of the Iberian Peninsula.]

The Iberian Peninsula, embracing the modern states of Spain and Portugal, is entirely surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, except for a strip in the north a little less than three hundred miles in length, which touches the southern border of France. Even at that point Spain is almost completely shut off from the rest of Europe, because of the high range of the Pyrenees Mountains. Portugal, although an independent state and set apart to a certain extent by a mountainous boundary, cannot be said to be geographically distinct from Spain. Indeed, many regions in Spain are quite as separate from each other as is Portugal from the Spanish lands she borders upon. Until the late medieval period, too, the history of Portugal was in the same current as that of the peninsula as a whole.

[Sidenote: Mountains and plateaus.]

The greatest average elevation in Spain is found in the centre, in Castile and Extremadura, whence there is a descent, by great steps as it were, to the east and to the west. On the eastern side the descent is short and rapid to the Mediterranean Sea. On the west, the land falls by longer and more gradual slopes to the Atlantic Ocean, so that central Spain may be said to look geographically toward the west. There is an even more gentle decline from the base of the Pyrenees to the valley of the Guadalquivir, although it is interrupted by plateaus which rise above the general level. All of these gradients are modified greatly by the mountain ranges within the peninsula. The Pyrenean range not only separates France from Spain, but also continues westward under the name Cantabrian Mountains for an even greater distance along the northern coast of the latter country, leaving but little lowland space along the sea, until it reaches Galicia in the extreme northwest. Here it expands until it covers an area embracing northern Portugal as well. At about the point where the Pyrenees proper and the Cantabrian Mountains come together the Iberian, or Celtiberian, range, a series of isolated mountains for the most part, breaks off to the southeast until near the Mediterranean, when it curves to the west, merging with the Penib?tica range (better known as the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the name of that part of the range lying south of the city of Granada), which moves westward near the southern coast to end in the cape of Tarifa.

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