MOORISH SPAIN by Richard Fletcher


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 A brief yet insightful introduction to Moorish Spain, from the invasion in A.D. 711 by Berbers crossing the Straits of Gibraltar to the expulsion in 1614 of 300,000 Moslems by Philip III. Fletcher (History/York Univ.) is the author of The Quest for El Cid (1990), which recounted one of the many Spanish revolts against the alien Moorish culture. Starting with the misconceptions of romance, mystery, and exotica projected by 19th-century travel-writers, Fletcher argues that, in fact, the Arabs were transmitters of a highly evolved Islamic culture, bringing Christian Spain valuable contributions to its native language, art, architecture, and economy even as the invaders showed how distant empires could be governed. Between the invasion and 1492, when the reconquest began, Iberian civilization flourished. Absorbing both ancient Persian and Greek learning, classical Arabic wisdom--once translated into Latin by Christian scholars--provided Europe with Aristotelian philosophy; the navigational instruments necessary for voyages of discovery; the mathematics that inspired Newton; and the rudiments of medicine. But Fletcher concludes that, ironically, Islam's greatest gift to Spain was the myth of Christianity triumphant, born of the reconquest--of the defeat of the crescent by the cross--and manifested in subsequent centuries through intolerance, xenophobia, and religious bigotry. Fletcher is a gifted historian with an eye for vivid detail, an ear for language, and a recognition of what matters. His chronicle offers a powerful defense of assimilation and tolerance- -as well as a timely political statement, given the current belligerents in Europe and the Middle East who, like those in medieval Spain, confuse national identity with ethnic, racial, and religious uniformity. (Sixteen halftones--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1992
ISBN: 0-8050-2395-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992


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