This book traces the political evolution of the Iberian peninsula from a collection of late Roman imperial provinces to the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies of the fifteenth century. That evolution is explained initially as a product of the interaction of the geography of Iberia and the successive invations of it by the Visigoths in the fifth and sixth centuries and the Muslim invation of the eight century. The character of the Muslim organization of peninsular society is discussed and its failure to achieve a stable political order is assessed.
The rival cultures of Iberia came increasingly under the influence of Europe north of the Pyrenees and, as the peninsula developed agriculturally and institutionally, acted as the vanguard of that western European culture. Nevertheless, the different opportunities offered by the peculiarities of terrain and the relavive weakness of the Islamic power confronting them led to the emergence of the variety of Christian kingdoms whose partial consilidation had only just begun by the late Middle Ages.