Ferdinand in the uncommitted flesh; Isabella with an aureole. In exalting her motives to excuse her behavior, the authors have weakened a generally sound and often illuminating history of the period. The process whereby Ferdinand and Isabella consolidated their power at the expense of nobility, clergy and municipalities is effectively delineated; somewhat disproportionate attention is given to the military details of their conquest of Granada but its significance is clear. What is less supportable is the justification for their policy of stripping and scorching the land, of enslaving and later deceiving the Malagan people--that such actions would shorten the war. The toughest aspect is unquestionably the persecution of the Jews: here the authors provide a balanced account of long-standing resentments, of conflict between Old Christians and conversos; they recognize that the edict of conversion or expulsion was motivated more by a desire for social stability than for religious unity, and then offer a most curious conclusion; ""The Queen was certainly a bigot; dogmatic and even narrow-minded prejudices were inevitable in a person of her great piety and zeal."" Hardly a recommendation for religion or for the book -- such an able and enterprising ruler would be better met head-on.