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Moorish Spain

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  271 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Beginning in the year 711 and continuing for nearly a thousand years, the Islamic presence survived in Spain, at times flourishing, and at other times dwindling into warring fiefdoms. But the culture and science thereby brought to Spain, including long-buried knowledge from Greece, largely forgotten during Europe’s Dark Ages, was to have an enduring impact on the country a ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published May 5th 2006 by University of California Press (first published 1992)
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  271 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Since I have friends visiting from abroad and we will be travelling to Andalusia, it was time to revise the history of the Muslims in Spain. After the disappointing read of Menocal, eyeing my library I saw this book, which I had read years ago, and pulled it out again and sat with it. What a delight to read a commonsensical account of this difficult period.

Fletcher is very clear in his narrative. He follows a chronological order, differentiating very well the various phases: the arrival and fast
Roy Lotz
Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding.

After reading and being disappointed with Menocal’s famous book on Moorish Spain, The Ornament of the World, I decided to take another crack with this book. And I am happy to report that Fletcher’s book is much better.

While Menocal is wistful and romantic, Fletcher is more detached and occasionally wry. While Menocal hardly acknowledges her sources, Fletcher is usually careful to note where he is getting his information from, even if this book
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A brisk canter through the history of the Moorish regimes in Spain. The north African invasion of Iberia in 711 led to almost 800 years of Muslim rule in what is now Spain and Portugal. Fletcher manages to incorporate a huge amount of information in what is a slim volume, yet in a way that is accessible and enjoyable. He writes in a fluid, almost chatty, style and wears his obvious erudition lightly - referring to more involved themes which are then summarised with admirable brevity.

I liked the
Peter A
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Peter by: saw review on Amazon
Shelves: history
In preparing for a vacation in Spain, in particular in Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada, I wanted to read more about the history of Andalucía, in particular of the time between 711 and 1492, when there was a strong Moorish influence. I had read the book by Maria Rosa Menocal, “The Ornament of the World ..” (see my review). In looking for a different perspective I read some of the reviews in Amazon, and this book was mentioned as providing both a concise history and an interesting counterpoint to Me ...more
the gift
041016: thanks to kalliope i have read this: this is exactly the sort of history of the Iberian peninsula i wanted. not simply kings and battles, this covers more the extent, nature, history of an entire cultural integration and conflict. not simply a paean to lost glories, nor nostalgic memory of what might not have been there. i do not know much ancient history of Europe let alone Spain, but for certain fiction works and this works as a nonfiction novel. doubtless an abrieviated portrayal of t ...more
Brilliant summary of a truly exotic, elegant, learned and tolerant civilisation that existed for 900 years in the peninsula and made Spain what it is today to a very great extent. You need the music as well of course, and I link to a classic whether NGE cares for that sort of thing or not.

The ghosts of the Alhambra just refuse to go and will haunt it for ever. Very civilised ghosts, of course. Better than the living.
Aug 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An excellent book outlining the history of Moorish Spain! In 711 a relatively small army crossed over from Africa to establish a presence on the Iberian peninsula which was to last for almost a thousand years. Richard Fletcher describes the development of Moorish civilization from its beginnings, its relationship with Christian Europe and the rest of the Islamic world through to its final collapse in 1492. The book also shows how Islamic learning introduced science, agricultural practices and an ...more
Jan 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The very interesting time of the Muslim Moors in Spain is detailed in a quite non-romantic way. His emphasis is on the Moors and the Christians. Whereas my interest is in the Jews and how they survived or didn't under the rule , often intolerant of both religious groups. Nonetheless it is an interesting complex picture that he paints. In all cases intolerance ended up ruling the day because both sides refused to learn about the other in any serious way. So the strict constructionists ( read fund ...more
Alex Goldstein
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Interesting things from the book:

-Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad were the centres of Islam, al-Andalus was on the periphery and considered quite provincial in regards to these cosmopolitan centres of enlightenment
-Spain and Portugal are more mountaneous than any other European country, except Norway and Switzerland.
-The Berbers, who had originally invaded Spain in the ninth century, were hardly 'Islamicised' themselves. Moreover, Islamic law guarantees toleration for Christians and Jews, as 'People
Michael Cayley
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A mainly narrative history of the muslim presence in Spain, which lasted for not that far off a millennium. Clearly written, and requiring very very little previous background knowledge, it focuses largely on political, religious and military history, but there is also some discussion of intellectual and cultural history, and this helps to bring out the key role played by muslim Spain in the preservation of the thinking and knowledge of the ancient world, and in philosophy and islamic literature ...more
Sebastian Reyn
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fletcher, Richard, Moorish Spain (Berkeley: University of California, 1992) – Prachtig geschreven inleiding tot de boeiende geschiedenis van de Moren in Spanje, van de invasie van een Berber-leger uit Marokko in 711 tot de val van Granada in 1492. Fletcher heeft weinig op met het in de negentiende eeuw ontstane romantische beeld van de Moorse samenleving: “The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was a land of tranquillity.” (172) ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Another useless book written to pave the way of some uninteresting bureaucrat to a better state paid pension plan.

The book opens with the state orthodoxy. A Berber army lead by Arabs and one named Tariq starts conquering lands in the space occupied by the Spanish crown in 2018. That's it. The Arab leadership implies without saying that Tariq was Arab and that's it. On to the next point on the checklist. Only that it is not clear who Tariq was. He might have been Arab. Or Berber. Some say he migh
Marco Dadda
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book written by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable author, showing deep knowledge and research about the history of Islamic Iberia: from the invasion of the Berbers in 711, the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, to the Caliphate of Al-Andalus, the Taifas period, the Almohads and the "Reconquista". The author is successful in explaining the complexity of the historical period, in terms of struggle for power and land and the differences between the tribes within the Muslim world and the Cathol ...more
Philip Webre
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought a good antidote to the romantic view idealized view of Spain during the middle ages, often spread by anglophile scholars in attempts to diss Spaniards.

The more nuanced understanding makes it clear the catholic kings were indeed responsible for virulence of their conquest of the new world. It wasn't merely a carryover of the reconquista.

Slavery existed much later in Spain than elsewhere in Europe. This may explain the new world.
Juan Antonio
Tres años después de publicar su gran estudio The Quest for El Cid (1989), Richard Fletcher (1944-2005) lanzó un nuevo libro titulado: Moorish Spain o en nuestro idioma La España Mora; segunda obra que comentaré del hispanista anglosajón en esta sección.

Tras dedicar diversos estudios al universo cristiano medieval en la península Ibérica, el profesor de la Universidad de York, consagró este trabajo a la realidad análoga de al-Andalus, desde su implantación a principios del siglo VIII hasta la ex
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is one of an excellent generation of contemporary history books that re-examines the assumptions of Romantic history and takes a sharp look at the documentary and archaeological evidence. The air is clearer once you blow Washington Irving off and settle down for a clearly argued consideration of Moorish Spain. Well worth it!
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chose this book to get a general overview of Islamic Spain. My first book on the topic. Richard Fletcher gives a good overview on the subject, easy to read and enjoyable.
Christopher Moore
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very good overview of the history of Islamic Spain.
Daniel Barker
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Supremely useful when I was traveling around southern Spain.
Aatif Rashid
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good overview of the history of Spain under Muslim rule from 711-1492, or Moorish Spain as the author argues it should be called to capture all its complexities. The chapters themselves do a great job portraying a diverse, tolerant, vibrant civilization and mix descriptions of political events and economic trends with analyses of artistic works. But the last chapter strangely undermines much of the good work with a bizarre and vaguely racially insensitive polemic that tries to argue that Muslim ...more
David Nichols
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This slim and elegant volume, adorned with ample photo illustrations and samples of Moorish poetry, provides an excellent historical overview of the most romanticized and culturally significant epoch of Spanish history: the eight centuries of Muslim conquest and Christian counter-conquest preceding 1492. Following a brief account of the unraveling of Visigothic Spain and its colonization by Moorish warriors, Fletcher charts (through judicial records of family name changes) the gradual conversion ...more
I think this is the edition I read. If it is, I found it more than a little disappointing.

I was looking for a story of the arts, poetry, sciences, medicine, etc. If this is the book I read, there was precious little of that. The notion that there were no individuals in Moorish culture is a bizarre one. I understand that many societies discourage individuals from drawing attention to themselves. But that doesn't mean that the individuals don't exist AS individuals--or that they don't have person
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spain, history
This book takes a complex series of incursions on the Iberian peninsula and makes it not only intelligible but interesting. While creating a simplified popular history, the author, nonetheless, goes beyond the usual script to describe the mechanisms by which Spanish culture was influenced by the Moors. I was surprised to discover that, as with the Norman conquest of Britain, the cultural changes were more complex than we are usually told. In some cases, the powerful elites already in place inter ...more
Claire S
I think I purchased this due to a mention by Josh Marshall on his talkingpointsmemo website a few years ago. He's a history buff, and I believe he listed this as just a really great covering of the subject, which is the Islamic presence in Spain from 711 forward the next thousand years.
I'm interested in it today due to my still-profound ignorance of much of Islamic history, plus of course my recent reading of 'People of the Book'.
Mark Freckleton
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In the year 711 a small Berber army under Arab leadership crossed from Morocco to Spain and defeated the army of Spain. Within a few years, the entire Iberian peninsula was theirs, transforming the course of Western civilization.

For 800 years the Islamic presence in Spain added to the culture of all Europe, brought long-buried knowledge from ancient Greece and some of the greatest philosophers of Medieval European history.
Nov 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Similar to the ornament of the world but the writing was not as interesting. This really was a straight up history book even though he prefaces that this is for travelers interested in more than what a guidebook can tell you. Instead of using profiles like ornament, this is all names and dates and places. Got repetitive and didn't really hold my interest. Mostly skimmed as well. Wasn't what I wanted which was more of a glimpse of day to day life in Andalusia.
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fletcher provides a brief, comprehensive, and easy to understand history of Islamic Spain. He makes a compelling argument against the traditional understanding of Moorish Spain as a time of great tranquility and tolerance. Overall, a good introduction to the topic. My only complaint is that I wish he would have included more citations to indicate where he draws his information from (though Fletcher does state at the outset that this work isn't meant to be an academic study).
May 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very different account of the same time period that Maria Rosa Menocal wrote about. The way of writing seems almost so dissimilar that I wonder if it is the same time period? There was a few historical references that were the same. If you want to get a different perspective this is the book to read.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, owned-books
Meticulous history that may wear a casual reader out. However, for a short history of a 500 year period critical to the history of Spain, this is a good. I particularly commend the numerous contemporary sources consulted, and the well-written, thoughtful final chapter. This make me want to read the author's book, "The Quest For El Cid".
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Richard A. Fletcher was a historian who specialized in the medieval period. He was Professor of History at the University of York and one of the outstanding talents in English and Spanish medieval scholarship.

Obituary @ the Times Online
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