Each chapter offers a succinct perspective of life during early modern Spain, covering the political and social setting, the Church, the Inquisition, Jews and Conversos, Muslims and Moriscos, the court, urban and rural life, family life, clothes and fashions, food, arts and entertainment, military life, education, and health and medicine. All these aspects of life are discussed in the context of a society experiencing profound internal conflicts arising from matters of religion, class, gender, and ethnic prejudice. Interwoven in the text is a discussion of relevant political and economic events that helped to shape the times, as well as comments from both contemporary Spanish writers and foreign visitors who witnessed firsthand the conditions and attitudes of the people. More than 40 illustrations, a timeline of important events, a list of Spanish rulers during the centuries of the Inquisition, a glossary, and a bibliography add value to the narrative.
In nine chapters, Anderson discusses the geography of Portugal, its prehistoric antecedents, its formation as a nation, and the events that once made it a world leader in exploration, discovery, and imperial power. How and why the country was drawn into the orbit of its large neighbor, Spain, lost much of its empire, and yet managed to regain its independence are examined, along with the trials and tribulations encountered on its journey from monarchy to modern republic. The discussion presents the factors that kept Portugal one of the poorest nations in Europe for most of its existence and the reasons that it is now, leading into the 21st century, closing the economic gap with wealthier nations.