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The Spanish Renaissance is more typically referred to as the Siglo de Oro, or Golden Age, although the potential political incorrectness of this term has come under fire in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (was this a golden age for everyone? for women? for the colonized?). Consequently, the alternative “early modern” is preferred in many circles, although Golden Age is very much still employed, particularly in Spain. Another slippery aspect of this umbrella term is the rather long period it covers. Typically its starting date is late medieval (1492 marked Christopher Columbus’s “encounter” with the “New” World, the end of the Reconquest, and the expulsion of the Jews). It extends through at least the early Baroque (a commonly chosen terminus ante quem for Spain’s period of greatest hegemony is the reign of the feeble monarch Carlos II, which ended in 1700). As is obvious from this time frame, the Renaissance happened later in Spain than in some other European countries. This factor has led to a certain sense of “belatedness” in both Spain’s historical process and its historiography. This time period proved extraordinarily fertile, however, coinciding with what could only be termed an era of Spanish world dominance: at various points during this same epoch, Spain controlled southern Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands in addition to its New World colonies. The rulers of this far-flung empire, beginning with the Holy Roman emperor Charles V, all came from one royal family, the Habsburgs of Austria. Imperial Spain was the birthplace of several important literary and artistic movements and genres, including the first modern novel. Opinions are divided on whether historical phenomena, such as the Inquisition, actually stifled or rather stimulated artistic creativity.
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Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation