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Moorish Spain Paperback – May 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"Richard Fletcher is a distinguished historian and accomplished writer with the gift of making complex historical happenings comprehensible to his readers without losing a sense of their complexity."--"The Spectator

About the Author

Richard Fletcher was Professor of History at the University of York. He was the author of The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity (California, 1999)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (May 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248403
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 15, 2008
MOORISH SPAIN is a well-written and well-organized history of the nearly 800 years (711-1492) of political rule of parts of the Iberian peninsula by avowed Muslims. It was originally published in 1992, so it predates 9/11, but on balance I believe that is a plus. There was less reason or temptation to sacrifice broad historical perspective and the several judgments that Fletcher ventures are less likely to be dismissed or criticized as tainted by the more recent politico-religious furors. Probably the central point that Fletcher seeks to make, and substantiate, is that Moorish Spain, for all its artistic and intellectual accomplishments, was not a quasi-utopian oasis of peace and enlightened religious toleration, in stark contrast to Christian Europe of the Crusades and anti-Semitic pogroms. Another noteworthy lesson, at least to my mind, is that the Muslim conquests on the Iberian peninsula were motivated more by political considerations than by religious fervor.

There are a few slow patches (for example, Chapter 3) and several lapses into mind-numbing lists of political succession, but on the whole Fletcher, who obviously is conversant with a considerable number of both secondary and primary sources and clearly knows his stuff very well, does an admirable job of summarizing and synthesizing. I would be surprised to find another brief (less than 200 pages) history of the period and region that is comparable, much less superior.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 30, 2012
A previous reviewer has characterized this excellent book on Moorish Spain by Richard Fletcher as "a gem of popular history." I couldn't agree more, although it is also more than that.

It is no mean feat to be able to summarize in less than 180 pages over 780 years of history without being superficial. This is a tribute to both the author's writing skills and to his in-depth knowledge of Moorish Spain and of the" historical sources, some of which he has in fact edited himself in another of his books (The World of El Cid - Chronicles of the Spanish reconquest, Manchester University Press, 2000). The author's style is engaging, entertaining, but sharp and to the point. Each chapter is organized around a specific event or period. Perhaps the weakest of the lot is the one on Nasrid Grenada. It is one of the shortest (less than 20 pages) but it covers a period of over 200 years. The period (from about 1250 to 1492) does not generally raise the same amount of interest among general readers, with the notable exception of the last 10 years of the Kingdom of Grenada and its hopeless war against the joint forces of the Catholic Monarchs of Castille and Aragon -Ferdinand and Isabella).

Quite correctly, the fall of Grenada, like the fall of Constantinople in 1453, are the two competing dates that historians have traditionally picked as the end of the Middle Ages. This is what we were taught in school and while it is not strictly correct - the passage from one area to another was a slow transition rather than anything else - it is easy to understand why each of these dates are significant: they mark the end of a civilisation that had dominated the Middles Ages in their respective regions.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Cheri Montagu on October 21, 2006
A previous reviewer for Amazon has compared Maria Rosa Menocal's THE ORNAMENT OF THE WORLD unfavorably to Richard Fletcher's MOORISH SPAIN. By contrast, I find them quite complementary. The difference is a matter of style: Menocal's book is philosophical, impressionistic, attempting to penetrate the "essence" of Muslim Spain, which she views as a "toleration of contradictions" and provide a vivid portrait of some of the individuals whom it produced. Fletcher's work is by contrast a conventional narrative history, although certainly a well-written one. One comes away from both books with the same conclusion: that compared with its contemporaries (as well as what was to come in Spain), Al Andalus was remarkable for its religious tolerance, aesthetic sensibility, and scholarly and scientific achievements. Its contribution to Western civilization was so great that we should really speak of our "Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage" instead of just our "Judeo-Chrisian" one. That Fletcher chooses, in his final chapter, to negate all that he has said in his previous ones by judging Al-Andalus by standards which did not even exist until the Enlightenment is the book's greatest fault, and cost him a star, for surely the rest of the book deserves five.

There are of course other differences between the books. Having read Menocal first, I was under the impression that the Umayyad heir, Abd Al Rahman, crossed over to the Iberian peninsula in 711 and established his caliphate immediately in defiance of the Abbassid one in Baghdad, for in her quest for the essence of the culture, Menocal places little emphasis on the bare facts.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on June 7, 2013
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This was one of several books used in a course on "Literature and Culture of Muslim Spain" that I took in 2009. As our professor pointed out, the period from 711 to 1492 is difficult because the Muslim culture flourished early in Iberia and then went into a centuries-long, anticlimactic decline. At the time I took the course I found this book difficult to absorb and much preferred the Maria Rosa Menocal's book on the same subject. However, post-graduation I've had time to read these two books separately and in their entirety. Fletcher's book has risen mightily in my esteem. While Menocal's very entertaining collection of essays does make it easy to relate to "Muslim Spain," Fletcher's task is far more difficult. He's trying to help the general reader make sense of a chaotic and scantily-documented period. His basic approach is chronological, but events often were affected by other events happening in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond the Pyrenees, sometimes simultaneously, which often necessitates a little backtracking. Fletcher's writing is concise. It was often necessary for me to put the book down and think about what I'd read. However, by reading carefully the reader can learn a lot about the historian's tools. The book would be valuable to me for this reason, if for no other. "Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding," writes Fletcher in the final chapter of this book. As Ms. Menocal's book so aptly exemplifies, there is a tendency to romanticize al-Andalus. Fletcher romanticizes nothing. His agenda is historical understanding. I'd recommend, if possible, reading both Fletcher's and Menocal's books. They reinforce and support each other. Five stars for Fletcher, too.
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