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Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors Paperback – October 10, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031915
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031917
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran journalist and author Reston brings to life three key elements of Spanish history that intertwined in 1492. Columbus takes a back seat to the Inquisition and the defeat of Islamic Granada, but plays a key role in demonstrating their relationship to the rise of empire and the modern state. Reston (Warriors of God; Galileo) has done tremendous research, though the shadows of his mostly older sources tend to show in stereotypes of the treasure-hungry, Machiavellian Ferdinand and the handsome adventurer Columbus charming Isabella. While he reduces the order of Dominicans to their role as inquisitors, he generally does justice to the complexities of his subject, examining the worlds of Christians, Muslims and Jews with sympathy and irony, and incorporating portraits of several lesser-known figures. The Inquisition emerges from political as much as religious circumstances, and the clerics presented run the gamut from saints to careerists, rabble-rousing preachers and prophets. Parallel civil wars in Christian and Muslim Spain and images of mobs on both sides suggest the interplay of popular feeling, government policy and theological debate. Despite minor disappointments in the details, this is a highly entertaining, thoughtful and complex narrative that both introduces and analyzes a greatly misunderstood era.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Identifying the year 1492 as one of the most pivotal in American and Spanish history, in Jewish and Arab history, and in world and Catholic Church history, Reston proceeds to delineate the reasons why. During the course of one year, Columbus set sail for America, the final date was set for the expulsion of all Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, and the Moors suffered their final defeat at the hands of the Spaniards. Weaving these seemingly disparate events together, he is able to paint a portrait of an individual society and an entire world poised on the brink of monumental change. As all the major and some of the minor characters involved in the Columbian Expedition, the Inquisition, and the assault on the Moors are introduced, the reader gains a sense of the actions, personalities, politics, science, religious beliefs, and ambitions that converged and consequently were responsible for ushering in a seminal epoch in history. This scholarly subject is made less intimidating by the author's digestible narrative style. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Over all a very well written book.
Nicoletta Carlone
In 1492 the Spanish finally eliminated the Moors from Southern Spain when the great fortress at Granada, the Al Hambra, fell.
John Matlock
It is a book that has made an imprint on my mind and one I will never forget.
Marcia Ikonomopoulos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By I. Martinez-Ybor VINE VOICE on December 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The narrative is structured to culminate in three pivotal events which occupied Spain in 1492: the recapture of Spanish territories held by Moors for about 700 years, the expulsion of Jews who refused to convert, and the launching of Columbus' expeditions and subsequent discovery of America. In the process, we witness the creation of the first formidable modern state. Much is devoted to the Inquisition's role in constructing a coherent polity. We get snapshots of Vatican politics, orgiastic cardinals, fiery Dominicans, Spanish sucessional disputes, poisonings, European slave trade, Portuguese adventures, and fifteenth century "scientific" thinking. Mr. Reston has put together a very amusing read and one is not shortchanged if the general topic is of interest and this is all one expects.

Indeed, Mr. Reston aims to write "popular" history, that is, plot, drama and color, emotion, sustained momentum, some intellectual stimulation but not much analysis or interpretation. More often than not he succeeds. But for me, genre success proved to be the book's shortcoming. I wanted more analysis, more probing, more competing interpretations of what now seem to us truly strange events. His point of view is of our day: post-Enlightenment, post-Einstein, post-Holocaust, post-Stalinist, post-Vietnam, post- all horrible events of the twentieth (and twenty-first?) century. To what extent is it proper to apply such prism to events which occurred over five centuries ago, to characters who lived in a world devoid of all knowledge and experience we subsequently acquired? Mr. Reston is not bashful about doing just that, passionately so at times. Perhaps such scruples are not applicable to a book aiming primarily to entertain. He certainly is not bashful in showing his outrage.
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100 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Observer on December 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Notwithstanding prior reviewers' judgments, Reston's history is a travesty. Dogs of War purports to describe the "apocalyptic" consequences of the destruction of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada, the expulsion of practicing Jews from Spain and the discovery of the Americas. Reston attempts to describe the origins and nature of the Inquisition, but in fact does little to clearly or accurately portray its scope and nature. It reads more like a history for middle-schoolers than for grown-ups. Its one merit was that his simplistic and unqualified arguments drove me to find additional sources to check his facts and claims. The contrast between the Dogs of God and Henry Kamen's The Spanish Inquisition (1999) could not be starker: Kamen's book is history, Reston's is little more than a well-written polemic. Reston's own admission that "This is not history in the traditional sense..." is perhaps one of the few assertions in the book that can be taken at face value.

One of the most amazing omissions in Reston's book is any effort to actually quantify the numbers of individuals who were victims of the Inquisition. Clearly, a single victim to such an unjust and horrifying tribunal is one too many, but in writing a history it makes sense to introduce some level of proportionality. Reston seems anxious to equate the Inquisition with the Holocaust. Certainly both are examples of rampant and primeval racism, but the equivalency diminishes the singularity of the most horrific crime in human history.

Reston uses no footnotes!! There is no way one can check his sources or his interpretation of those sources. There is little evidence that he seriously examined original sources. I am no expert in this period, but one example may serve to illustrate the weaknesses of Reston's book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Demers on May 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is not meant to be a super scholarly treatment of the period and events in questions. Instead, the book is meant to be an invitation to the characters, history and events that make up a pivotal period in western history. Reston succeeds in wonderfully telling a story of the pivotal events that were taking place in late 15th century Spain, including: the final defeat of the Moors, Ferdinand and Isabella's expulsion of the Jews, the discovery of the New World, the horrors of the inquisition and the overall consolidation of Spanish power into one united nation. As Reston argues, the ramifications of these events are still reverberating through the ages.

The maps are pretty decent, but not all places named are displayed on them. There are no footnotes (maybe 1 or 2) as this book is not meant to be another production of esoteric historians who examine fact after fact. Overall, this is a great book and a fantastic introduction to the period for those in need of such an introduction.
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Format: Hardcover
Reston documents a critical period of history, when great socio-political and religious changes converge, the Moors finally defeated by the Christians and the gestation of the long deadly years of the Inquisition, birthed in Spain with the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Columbus's mission to the New World charged with the conflict of ownership of the lands he discovers. Although Columbus is but a footnote to the immense cataclysmic events of the fifteenth century, his endeavor is significant, if only because the voyage represents the future expansion of the west, medieval Europe torn by centuries of war for the domination of one religion over another, as an extensive body of Arabic science and literature is claimed by the scions of the Catholic Church.

The gradual defeat of the Moors is of huge significance in 1492, a pivotal year in American, Spanish, Jewish and Arab history, as well as World and Church history. Here is the confluence of a five hundred-year push to conquer the infidels, the demise of eight hundred-years of Islamic Spain, the establishment of the modern Spanish state, the Spanish Inquisition that terrorizes Jews and unbelievers, the discovery of the New World and the division of that world between Spain and Portugal. The expulsion of Spanish Jews and the election of a corrupt Borgia pope augers profound change in religious expression, the arts and the development of a culture that is the forerunner of the modern nation-state.

Focusing on this great cultural apocalypse, Reston links the significant players and events that shape the world of the fifteenth century, a legacy that reverberates today, as we grapple in real time with the age-old issues of religious doctrine and political ambition.
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