Apparently Fernandez-Armesto is not alone in his rejection of the view that Ferdinand and Isabella truly ""united"" Spain during theft reign since a number of historians agree that their union was one of crowns rather than countries -- both Ferdinand's Aragon and Isabella's Castile retained their unique laws and institutions. The author is not as convincing, however, when he argues that the ramrod Isabella, because she was ""vulnerable to the disappointments of wife and mother,"" was not as politic.ally efficient as her husband. There is a solid section devoted to the intricate marriage contract which laid the foundations for joint rule and a painstaking review of the early obstacles to the throne, including the war with Alfonso of Portugal. The author outlines the Catholic monarchs' political and economic policies -- the control of trade, the ban on enclosure and encouragement of wool exports, patronage based on the distribution of conquered land such as Granada, and the strengthening of loyal noble houses, the establishment of the Hermandad (a kind of royal militia), etc. On the inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews Fernandez.Armesto makes a curious point: "". . . some action to resolve the crisis of tolerance between Christians [and Jews] was the only statesmanlike course."" And there were ""only"" 700 burnings in ten years. (The Britannica estimates 2000 during Torquemada's reign of fifteen years -- slow start or slow finish?) Control of the Spanish Church is assessed as an act of ""purification"" rather than an extension of secular control. There are other controversial statements like the above which academics may enjoy but in the main this is too stiffly written -- as history or biography -- for the general reader.