The third national state and strong monarchy to be established by the end of the fifteenth century was in Spain. Separated from the rest of the Continent by the lofty and forbidding Pyrenees, Spanish culture developed in relative isolation from the main currents of Europe. The Iberian peninsula had a semi-arid climate, poor soil, and a scarcity of mineral resources. Only when they exploited the mines of Mexico and Peru, or those European lands gained through inheritance or marriage, were Spanish kings wealthy. The country' s poverty obstructed the rise of commerce and industry, limited the cosmopolitanism that accompanied them elsewhere, and hampered the rise of a middle class in Spanish society. The national state that developed in Spain, therefore, never threw off feudal traditions to the degree that occurred in England and France. Throughout the Middle Ages Spanish history was dominated by the Reconquista, the name given to the perennial crusade against the Mulim population which inhabited the peninsula. The centuries of struggle against Islam produced a race of soldiers filled with religious zeal and perhaps explain why Spanish national feeling had intense religious overtones. Very early in Spain there arose the notion that national unity was predicated upon religious orthodoxy. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "8. The National State in Spain. Pt. V: The Rise of Capitalism and the National State to 1500." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 43-44.