Mediterranean Melting Pot (I): Medieval Spain

From Almohadic (Arab) rule to the Reconquista (the war aimed at Spain's re-christianization).

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Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn What a marvelous list. Names I heard of only in graduate school and only tangentially in our Anglo-centric culture (Thank you, Kenneth Clark, LORD Clark.....You cultural snob, you).

Where should one start, I wonder. Which of these is most comprehensive and readable ?


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Dunno about "comprehensive," but one book that captures the the era incredibly well (at least the way I imagine it to have been), in addition to asking a few pertinent questions about religion, tolerance, politics, and power (political and otherwise) is Feuchtwanger's "The Jewess of Toledo" (a/k/a "Raquel," a/k/a "The Spanish Ballad"). It's actually one of my all-time favorite novels and the book that inspired the creation of this entire list -- sadly out of print in the U.S., but that doesn't mean it's not very well worth hunting down! (If you're feeling bold, you can order it in German from Amazon.de ... no shortage of in-print copies hereabouts, thank God. German title is "Die Jüdin von Toledo.")

For background on the story (it's based on real events and in that, remarkable enough in itself, though Feuchtwanger, like most novelists, does take some liberties), try to hunt down something -- anything, actually -- on Alfonso VIII of Castile, and for one of his greatest successors, a biography on Alfonso X ("el Sabio" -- "the Wise") ... as well as, of course, something (anything) on Ferdinand and Isabella. (For a larger context regarding the latter couple, I suppose one should also look into the youth of Catherine of Aragon who was, after all, Ferdinand and Isabella's daughter, and whose personality -- and later conflict with Henry VIII -- equally can't be understood without a reference to her upbringing. Antonia Fraser gives quite a succinct and, as always, supremely readable sketch of this at the beginning of "The Wives of Henry VIII.")

By way of nonfiction introductions to the era as such, both Lowney's "A Vanished World" and Fletcher's "Moorish Spain" read fairly easily -- and along the lines of "original voices from ...," Averroes and Maimonides can stand up to Plato and Aristotle any time (at least for all yours truly can tell, being herself neither a student of Greek nor of medieval nor of any other age's philosophy).

For somewhat more lightweight fiction, I admit a certain partiality for the novels of Jean Plaidy, though I do realize in terms of both style and substance they're not everybody's cup of tea ... but for historic accuracy and, for that matter, genuine sympathy for/empathy with her own books' protagonists, I'll take Plaidy over Philippa Gregory any time.

And lastly, Baer's "Bridge of Alcantara" (which you'll also have to track down in either Spanish or German I'm afraid), though a veritable brick, is another incredibly well-done (and well-researched) historical novel, bringing together the fates of three protagonists in late 11th century Spain -- one representative of each of the era's major religions.


message 3: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Thank you, this list looks fabulous! My to-read list is already too long, but these are very appealing.


message 4: by Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) (last edited Apr 17, 2010 05:03AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Thank you in turn -- I'm glad you're enjoying the list. And thanks for adding the book by Reston!!


message 5: by José Luís (last edited Jun 28, 2015 02:44PM) (new)

José Luís  Fernandes I think that the economic and political factors behind the Reconquista should be also explicit on this list's description. The way how it's pictured above on the description is too simplistic.


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