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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broadbrush Treatment of Tumultuous Period
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...
Published on December 3, 2005 by I. Martinez-Ybor

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91 of 108 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where are the footnotes?
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...
Published on December 11, 2005 by Observer


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26 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is why journalists shouldn't write history, July 21, 2007
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It's bad enough when journalists use their superficial, misleading style in writing "news" or books on modern topics. It's worse when they apply this to real history. Reston takes controversial events from 500 years ago and presents them (with no attribution) as established fact. This book is also slathered with a thick layer of political correctness, violently attacking Christianity for what was undoubtedly a dark period in its past, while gushing over the wonders of Islam. There is no mention that the West has progressed beyond that stage since then, while the religious toleration, spirit of scientific discovery and philosophical debate which abounded in Islam in the 15th century is nowhere present in Islam today. A good question might have been why? As an example, one would take from the book that the institution of African slavery was a Christian European invention, when the Portuguese and Spanish encroachment into the trade was merely an effort to steal this lucrative business away from its Moslem directors, then as today. One will come away from this book with little more knowledge than when one started. Half of it is garbage, half trivial, and you can't even tell which is which.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great starter biography on late 15th century Spain..., July 25, 2010
A very readable history of the Spanish Conquest of Moorish Spain and the Americas and the resulting power and influence of Catholic Spain over Rome and the rest of Europe. I great place to start if you want to learn about this time period in Spain's history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique look at a a tumultuous era in history, December 17, 2007
This book offers a unique look at what lead up to the year 1492, according to the author, and in my opinion too one of the most important years in our history. The unique part is because the author looks at this history more through the eyes of the Muslims, who civalization before 1492 was an amazing and advanced civalization, really the golden age of Islam civilization. I do think though that the author spend too much time being pro-islam and forgets about the Christian side as well, it would have been nice to see both sides of the conflict. I like how the author compares the downfall of the moorish civilization, and the reconquista. I would also have liked if the author spent more time actually talking about the year 1492, and less about what lead up to it. Over all a very well written book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Agreeable Tour, August 30, 2007
By 
exurbanite (Inverness, CA) - See all my reviews
A smoothly written summary focusing on events in late 15th century Catholic Spain, but touching also on political intrigue in Portugal, the Vatican, among the defeated Moors, and elsewhere. The Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews, and Columbus' at times clumsy efforts to win support for his initial voyage West are covered in some detail. This book is not intended for the historically learned or professional scholar. Rather, it is an agreeable tour through a fascinating and significant era in European history. I recommend it to lay readers who enjoy history while also taking pleasure in a well told story.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Example We Cannot Afford to Ignore, October 25, 2006
By 
Cheri Montagu "Writer" (San Francisco Bay Area, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
James Reston Jr.'s THE DOGS OF GOD is extemely timely. Its relevance to the American public does not lie in its inclusion of Columbus, but in its analysis of the world's first totalitarian state. By totalitarian state, I mean one in which the rulers attempt to monitor and control the private lives of all their subjects. What is so important about the evolution of such totalitarianism in fifteenth century Spain is that the first steps in its direction were judicial-- a rejection of what we would call Sixth Amendment rights. Civil libertarians have long expected the first blow to democracy to come in the form of the rejection of First Amendment Rights. But under the Spanish Inquisition, people were being burnt long before books were. That is because they were denied the rudiments of due process as they were recognized even then. For instance, Pope Sixtus IV tried to moderate the Spanish Inquisition by the following rules, which were rejected by Ferdinand and Isabella: "Heresy must be tried like any other crime, and the accused must have the right to a fair trial... The names of the accusers and witnesses must be revealed to the accused. He or she must be given counsel, and have the right to appeal..." (p. 101). Of course the notion of trying anyone for heresy is anathema to us today. But to ignore the manner in which judicial abuses were used in this instance to erect a totalitarian government is to ignore the fact that improper judicial procedures-- such as the elimination of the right to appeal for a writ of habeas corpus-- may by themselves be used to lay the foundations for a totalitarian state, even if the transgression that they are aimed at is one which we would today recognize as a crime-- for instance terrorist activities.

Reston establishes clearly that the responsibility for the Spanish Inquisition rested with the secular powers, and their favorite churchmen--above all Tomas Torquemada. The defeat of the last bastion of Moorish Spain, Granada, is recounted in heartbreaking detail. Its leaders were quite obviously unequal to the task of defending their state, and far too inclined to trust the reassurances of Christian monarchs. As one of their more astute generals, Musa Ben Abdil, said when he saw them lamenting, "Leave this useless weeping, men of Granada, to the eyes of children and delicate maidens. Let us be men and expend our emotions, not in the shedding of unmanly tears, but in pouring forth our blood even unto the last drop... Why should you refuse the honorable death of the battlefield? Death is the least of the evils that threaten you. More fearful are the humiliations that are being prepared: plunder of our houses, desecration of our mosques, violation of our wives and daughters, cruel intolerance, and the burning pile of the bigot." (p. 140) He was right. Although Ferdinand and Isabella had promised security of person and property as well as religious freedom to the Granadans as a condition of surrender on January 2, 1492, only four days later they went back on their promises. Muslims began to be persecuted. To make things worse, on March 30 of that year, the Most Catholic Monarchs issued a decree expelling all Jews from Spain. Ethnic Jews were already being persecuted by the Inquisition, even those whose families had converted to Christianity and who were known as conversos. As in a later totalitarian state, what mattered most was not the person's actions or beliefs but limpieza-- purity of blood.

What struck me, as an historian of the Third Reich, is how similar the situation for the Jews and Moors of fifteenth century Spain was to that of Jews and other persecuted groups in nineteen-thirties Germany. For they had established a comfortable niche for themselves in the body politic. The conversos in particular often served Christian monarchs as tax collectors, became wealthy, and intermarried with the best families. Ferdinand, Isabella, and Torquemada all had Jewish blood running in their veins. Who could suppose that thousands of them, along with the Muslims, would end up being tortured and murdered by the Inquisition? But they were, as they would be later in Germany. One is left to wonder what comfortable, well-integrated and unsuspecting segments of American society may someday find themselves in a similar situation.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!", February 12, 2007
The title of this book refers to the members of the Dominican order, who were called the "Hounds of God" for their determined efort to stamp out what they considered to be heresy and other ills facing the Catholic Church in Spain and elsewhere. This book takes many diverse paths: the beginning of the inquisition in Spain, the uniting of Spain under one Spanish kingdom, the expulsion of the Jews and the Moors, and the efforts of Christopher Columbus to receive backing for his attempt to sail West across the Atlantic. To his credit, the author handles all of these things quite well. We receive thumbnail biographies of the most important "players" of the time, and we follow each thread until there emerges one pattern that combines all of them. It's extremely well-written, and is never dull. It's a good primer for a tumultous period in Spanish (and Church) history, and I highly recommend it! (Sorry about the silly review title, but I'm an avid Monthy Python fan.)
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spanish 1491, November 4, 2006
By 
Alan Mills (Chicago, Illinois USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
1492 is a very important year. As we all know, in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...and "discovered" America....ahh, but what was happening back at home?

Reston takes this familiar story as the centerpiece, and brings together all of the disparate movements which shook Spain, and the world, to its core in 1492. We all have a vague knowledge of the Inquisition--a really bad period in the history of the Catholic Church, and know generally that parts of Spain were once Muslim. But, at least speaking from a personal point of view, I had never quite put together the fact that all three of these events happened at the same time.

As Ferdinand and Isabelle consolidated their rule among the various Spanish provinces in the north, and began their fight to regain the south of Spain for the Church, they mobilized the Church (and vice versa). Within the church hierarchy, hardline bishops rose to power, and began to purify the country--targeting heretics of all stripes, leading to massive oppression of their enemies within the church, under the guise of enforcing purity, and expelling all Jews from the entire country.

Bouncing around the periphery of all of this was Columbus. He was simply looking for financing of a sea voyage--hoping to get rich doing what so many others had already done in Africa and the middle east, opening new trade routes. However, Ferdinand and Isabella were all too busy in battle to pay much attention to Columbus. Through artful politicking, he ultimately made the right connections, got some cash, and headed west.

Aside from putting Columbus' journey into a historical perspective most Americans do not know about, this particular slice of history is instructive for its description of the interplay between religion, "purification" of enemies, war, and capital. The parallels to current US policy are truly disturbing.

One of the more enlightening books I have read in many years.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meanwhile, over in 1492 Spain, December 25, 2011
By 
Paul Suni (Colorado, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
1492 was a remarkable year in the history of Spain. While Columbus's discovery of America (oh, shut up) remains the best-known highlight in our age, it was also the year that Spain drove out the Muslim Moors for good, and the inquisition really took off with public burnings at the stake and the forced exodus of Jews from the country.

In the beginning the book seems to jump abruptly between Moors, Spanish royalty, events in Portugal, and an Italian names Colon (better known after he changed his name to the "classier" Columbus) and various other topics. However, it soon becomes clear that this is largely unavoidable given the patchwork of people and events that eventually come together as a unified story.

While not pretending to be an academic history book (e.g. no footnotes), it is extremely well written and provides a great deal of historical context to events that shaped development of the Western world for centuries to come. To pick just one example, the ordeal of Columbus in getting his initial voyage funded and off the ground - well, out to sea really - is very interesting. Not only did he have to convince funders that this could be a good financial investment, but he also had to convince royalty that he alone was the man to do it. The Portuguese blindsided him by sending out their own man to see if there really was a short-cut to India by going west (he failed). The Spanish royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella were intrigued, but were too busy with other affairs of the state to make risky sea voyages a priority. It took well over a decade and the final Spanish victory over the Moors to provide a change in priorities and he was off. The whole episode was very much like getting business ventures funded today.

The book left me ambivalent about the period. The juxtaposition of the extreme cruelty of the inquisition with Isabella's refined sensibilities and apparent kindness is very odd. One supposes that life was good, provided you were on the right side. That meant converting to Christianity and its customs. As much as you didn't want to be a Muslim, you most definitely didn't want to be a Jew.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The critical forces that shaped Spain in the Middle Ages., January 2, 2014
By 
David Meyer "LifelongStudent" (Greenville, OH United States) - See all my reviews
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This book answered many of my questions about the Inquisition and the long battle between the Moors and Christians in Spain.
The book was highly readable while providing necessary facts and details.
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5.0 out of 5 stars WOW, August 16, 2013
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A story that should be told more loudly. Lots of names that should be looked at more deeply but then the book would be 10X as long. I learned a lot and find that I have a much better appreciation of where we are as a civilization as a result of what happened in the 1400s and before. Food for thought and further reading.
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Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors
Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors by James Reston (Hardcover - October 11, 2005)
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