The city of Salamanca has an ancient past but until the Renaissance was a center of trade and peace. During the late Middle Ages the University of Salamanca was founded by King Alphonse IX just after the Universities of Bolonga and Paris, and it is the oldest Christian university in Spain, and one of the oldest in the world. The history of the university can be studied in Manuel Fernández Alvarez’s “ The University of Salamanca: Eight centuries of scholarship ,” which looks at the school’s founding and impact on Spanish culture. George M. Addy’s “ The Enlightenment in the University of Salamanca (Duke historical publications) ” serves an excellent companion read.

Near the university quarter is also where you’ll find not one but “The Two Catherdals of Salamanca,” and Antonio Casaseca explains when and how these unique structures were build with the finest of detail.

The city’s greatest threat came during the reign of Napoleon when the British and French struggled for domination over Spain. The British were helping to liberate Spain from rule under Napoleon’s brother, and the history of this conflict has been well chronicled. Sir Charles Oman looks at the larger struggle in “A History of the Peninsular War Volume 5: October 11 to August 31, 1812: Alencia, Cuidad, Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Madrid (History of the Peninsular War Series).” The actual battle and events leading up to it, are the subject of “Salamanca, 1812” which discusses how British forces under the command of Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, defeated the French at the critical battle. Ian Fletcher covers the same topic with a bit more emphasis on the men in his book “Salamanca 1812: Wellington Crushes Marmont.”

The modern history of the region and the events leading up to Spain’s bloody Civil War also can be understood with “Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic: Religion and Politics in Salamanca, 1930-1936,” by Mary Vincent.