An epic documentary series that explores the world's greatest empires.

The Spanish Empire

Until the 15th century Spain had not made it’s mark as an empire, instead being the object of conquest itself, first by the Romans and then by the Moslem Moors who both occupied much of the country for several hundred years. However, it was at this time that Spain’s monarchy produced a series of remarkably ambitious and powerful leaders.

Spanish Mission, California

Spanish Mission, California

It was King Ferdinand II and his wife Isabella I of Castile who finally expelled the Moors in 1492, unleashing a bloody inquisition and then funding the journey of the Italian Christopher Columbus to the New World – a journey that was to change the fortunes of Spain and the world forever. The riches bestowed by the New World would usher in a golden age for Spain, not just making it the most powerful nation in Europe but a global superpower.

In this episode of Empire Builders we explore 10 sites that chart the rise of this crusading Catholic empire.

We begin in the walled and highly religious medieval city of Avilla before witnessing the wonders of Granada’s Alhambra, its capture from the Moors marking the final victory of the Reconquista. We explore the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the magnificent Aztec city destroyed by the Conquistador Hernan Cortes, and Cajamarca in Peru taken by Fransisco Pizarro putting an end to the Incan Empire in Latin America.

El Escorial Palace

El Escorial Palace

We then examine the elaborate forts the Spanish constructed across the Americas and the Caribbean on the coasts of Cuba, Panama, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Florida – to protect the gold and silver mined in the New World and the treasure fleets used to carry these riches back across the Atlantic to Spain.

Finally we visit the port city of Cadiz, which grew rich on the trans-Atlantic trade but became a virtual backwater when Spain lost the last of its empire at the conclusion of the 19th century after its defeat in Spanish American War of 1898.


Places Mentioned - Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Spain

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Central America and the Caribbean

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South America

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