The main goal of the article is to show the major tendencies in Spanish historiography of the reconquista from 1800 to 1975 (from Napoleon's invasion to Franco's death) and the impact of this historiography on the intellectual and political culture of the time. The author shows what the reconquista meant to Spanish historians. The notion of reconquista goes to the heart of the problem of Spanish historical identity, the heart of the questions: Who are 'true Spaniards'? At what point can a historian speak of 'Spanish' culture? Spanish intellectuals were divided between two tendencies: on the one hand, a conservative affirmation of Spain's identity as a Catholic nation, for whom the reconquista was a glorious prelude to the Spanish colonization and evangelization of America; on the other, a progressive, anti-clerical reinterpretation of Spain's medieval past as a period of substantial political freedoms and of openness and cultural exchange between Muslims, Jews and Christians, followed by a tragic imposition of autocracy and religious unity. This debate about the historical reality of 'Spanishness' took place in the historiography from the nineteenth century through the 1970s. It seems irrelevant to a new generation of Spanish historians, while the reconquista is still seen by many Spaniards as a vital formative element of their culture.