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When the Moors Ruled in Europe

3.7 out of 5 stars 387 customer reviews

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(Jun 10, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This critically acclaimed documentary explores the 700-year history of Islamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula. Although generations of Spanish historians have portrayed the Moors as brutish occupiers, recent research paints a much different picture. The Islamic invaders actually brought stunning advances in science and art to their territories. Oxford-educated historian Bettany Hughes gives modern viewers a rich, nuanced understanding of Islamic history and culture while visiting such sites as the Alhambra Palace and the Great Mosque at Cordoba.

Review

"The drama seems infused, suddenly, with important complexity, with great questions of war, peace, civilian casualties -- The Wall Street Journal

highly informative and entertaining -- Memorable TV

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Bettany Hughes
  • Directors: Timothy Copestake
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: June 10, 2008
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (387 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013XS87U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,423 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
The purpose of this documentary appears to have been to rehabilitate the reputation of Islamic rule in Spain from the eighth through the fifteenth centuries. Although the film does contain some interesting facts and lovely images, I found it to be an extraordinarily simplistic treatment of the period and its subject. Some of the themes I perceived in this work include the following: on the whole, Muslims were broadly tolerant of all other faiths, while Christians were narrow-minded bigots; the Islamic invasion of the Iberian peninsula was entirely benign and, in some cases, the Muslims took the role of savior of the people oppressed by the Visigoths; and the flow of knowledge and culture from Islamic Spain to Christian Europe was essentially a one-way current rather than a mutually beneficial interchange.

There are elements of truth in some of the picture Bettany Hughes paints in this documentary, and it is certainly important today to remember the high points of Islamic civilization in medieval Spain. However, the viewpoint advocacy employed in this documentary leaves the viewer with skewed understanding of what we actually know about the Moors in Spain and how they interacted with their neighbors. I will only take a couple of examples to show what I mean.

First, this documentary leaves one with the impression that Islam in the Spanish medieval world was largely monolithic and tolerant, with the primary sources of tension coming from outside--from the usual Christian suspects. However, in reality, the beginning of the end of al-Andalus did not derive from Christians but from divisions within Islam. It is certainly true that many of the early rulers of al-Andalus were relatively enlightened, cultured men interested in knowledge and learning.
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Format: DVD
I found this documentary very informative and beautiful to watch. As other reviewers have noted, this does not have as much factual information as an educated reader could learn from a text in the same time as it takes to view the film - but these media serve different purposes and, frankly, different people, or at least people with different inclinations about how they would like to spend their time.

The information I learned here does also align with what I had already learned about this period of Spain's history from other sources, so I am doubtful that she is somehow just trying to be an iconoclast for the sake of being shocking. Rather, I suspect she takes on material that tends to be colored in one, plausibly inaccurate, light - history, as they say, is written by the victors (and sometimes the dictators, later on, like Franco).

Yes, Bettany Hughes is beautiful and is shown speaking to the camera and interviewing other people in the documentary, just as men have been and continue to do in documentaries on diverse subjects. I am not, in the slightest, aware how her physical presence on screen detracts from the documentary, or how she is seen as self-aggrandizing. I don't recall a single comment she made in the documentary about how intelligent she is or how much she knows or even why she knows it. I think that this ad hominem attack is probably simply because she is a woman, period, in a male-dominated field.

I would agree with the reviewer who noted that it would be wise to discuss the contributions of the Jewish people to learning, in the time of Moorish Spain, as well as the consequences to them of the Spanish Inquisition, but I do not think it is a dramatic failing of the film.
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Format: DVD
Historian Bettany Hughes gives a decent, sometimes too politically correct overview of the influence of Islam on Medieval Spain. Ms. Hughes starts her journey with the conquest of the Visigoth Kingdom by the Moors coming from North Africa at the beginning of the 8th century C.E. She ends this journey with the fall of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada at the hands of the armies of the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand at the end of the 15th century C.E. Ms. Hughes introduces her audience to the splendors of Moorish architecture in cities such as Grenada, Cordoba, and Toledo. Ms. Hughes rightly reminds viewers about the decisive but often-ignored contribution of Moorish Spain to the European Renaissance in domains such as medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. Italy is usually credited as the key driver for the European Renaissance. To her credit, Ms. Hughes emphasizes that the Christian Reconquista of Moorish Spain often was about gaining land, prestige, and wealth under a veneer of religious fervor. The Reconquista turned out to be a civil war rather than the black-and-white antagonism between Christianity and Islam that has carried the day in the popular imagination. Many inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula converted to Islam for a variety of reasons in the centuries following the arrival of the Moors. Ms. Hughes rightly compares the expulsion of many Muslims from Spain after 1492 C.E. with what is today understood as ethnic cleansing. Ms. Hughes is at her weakest when she almost completely ignores the important contribution of the Jewish community to the splendor of Moorish Spain. This lapse of judgment is somewhat surprising because Ms. Hughes rightly denounces again and again the selective interpretation that has been given to the contribution of Moorish Spain to this day.
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