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Moorish Spain Paperback – May 5, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By N. Clarke on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Dealing with the 700 years of Muslim civilisation in Iberia, this is a gem of popular history, entertaining without sacrificing scholarly attention to detail. The prose is sharp, evocative, and eminently easy to read; the pages are filled with ancedotes and stories that bring this lost world to life. A taster rather than comprehensive, this is an essential companion to travels in Spain, or an ideal way to begin learning more about this oft-overlooked period.
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Format: Paperback
Any casual reader traveling to Southern Spain for the first time should read Fletcher's book before departure. Simply put, it is one of the best summaries of the 700 years of Islamic rule in Moorish Spain. Fletcher's sharp analysis and story-telling skills make this book a real stand-out. If you are familiar with the work of Bernard Lewis, the gifted and prolific Middle East historian, I suspect you will appreciate the efforts of Richard Fletcher.
My wife and I own a home in one of the oldest Moorish & Jewish quarters in Southern Spain, have visited many significant Moorish sites and have read dozens of books about Spain's Islamic period, including Maria Rosa Menocal's "Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain."
We want you to know Fletcher's book remains one of the most dog-eared, and borrowed books about Spain in our library today. If you are a fan of Moorish architecture, history, music, poetry and art, I suspect Fletcher's book will become an important companion for many years to come.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Fletcher's MOORISH SPAIN is an excellent addition to the library shelf holding Bovill's GOLDEN TRADE OF THE MOORS and Peter Russell's PRINCE HENRY 'THE NAVIGATOR': A life. The book is an easy and enjoyable read, but probably intended more for the lay reader than for scholars of al-Andalus (indeed, the author states that the work "is intended as an introduction to the history and culture of Islamic Spain" which lays "no claim to deep or original scholarship" which explains why it only includes a list of recommended reading rather than a complete bibliography with chapter sources). That being said, the book should deepen the understanding of the general reader.

Fletcher details the Islamic, Arab-led Berber invasion of Visgothic Spain (formerly a Roman territory) from northern Africa in 711 (after the conquest of northern Africa). We are informed that in large part the conquest was intended to further the Islamicization of the Berbers. Many of the cities were originally surrounded and reached an accomodation with the invaders allowing the continued existence of djimmis of Christians. Those which did not were crushed and the lands of those who made any attempt to oppose the invasion were taken and redistributed (with the Arabs getting the most arable land and the Berbers getting the remnants). Captives were either ransomed or - if too poor or otherwise unable to pay ransom - sold into slavery. Conversion from Christianity meant an opportunity to advance oneself and to avoid periodic outbreaks of anti-Christian violence. In the meanwhile, the conquest was pushed back from those northernmost areas considered least habitable, setting the stage for the slow "reconquest" of Spain.
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Format: Paperback
Fletcher's goal is to serve the "inquisitive traveller." That's a perfect description of me. I'm going to Spain next year and have been trying to learn more about the country and its history. I've already read a book on medieval/Visigoth Spain. It was OK, but it was more detail than I need and it was not written in a very engaging style. Fletcher's book, in contrast, fit my needs perfectly. He treats the topic broadly--but you never feel that he's trying to tell you everything there is to know. He illustrates issues with vivid, but select, examples. His style is easy and inviting. As a former history major, I appreciate how he discusses what kind of evidence exists for the period and how he evaluates it. But these musings are never a barrier to his just telling a good story about an interesting period in Spanish history.
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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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