Muslims and Jews in Inquisitorial Spain
Publication Year: 2013
The distinct religious culture of early modern Spain -- characterized by religious unity at a time when fierce civil wars between Catholics and Protestants fractured northern Europe -- is further understood through examining the expulsion of the Jews and suspected Muslims. While these two groups had previously lived peaceably, if sometimes uneasily, with their Christian neighbors throughout much of the medieval era, the expulsions brought a new intensity to Spanish Christian perceptions of both the moriscos (converts from Islam) and the judeoconversos (converts from Judaism). In Parallel Histories, James S. Amelang reconstructs the compelling struggle of converts to coexist with a Christian majority that suspected them of secretly adhering to their ancestral faiths and destroying national religious unity in the process.
Discussing first Muslims and then Jews in turn, Amelang explores not only the expulsions themselves but also religious beliefs and practices, social and professional characteristics, the construction of collective and individual identities, cultural creativity, and, finally, the difficulties of maintaining orthodox rites and tenets under conditions of persecution. Despite the oppression these two groups experienced, the descendants of the judeoconversos would ultimately be assimilated into the mainstream, unlike their morisco counterparts, who were exiled in 1609.
Amelang masterfully presents a complex narrative that not only gives voice to religious minorities in early modern Spain but also focuses on one of the greatest divergences in the history of European Christianity.
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
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Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication
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Discussing the history of Judaism and Islam in a society that according to the letter of the law lacked Jews and Muslims may seem to be a task better suited to Don Quixote than to the present-day historian. As a challenge it presents both problems and opportunities. The problems, as will be seen, regard basic historical information, thanks to the secrecy which shrouded the lives of Muslims, Jews, and their descen-dants throughout the early modern era. But there are opportunities as well. ...
Introduction: Parallel Histories
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This is a rough sketch of two faiths in a specific time and place. Judaism and Islam, and indeed all religions, tend to have two his-tories. The first is universal, a ?great tradition? in which concrete historical situations take second place to the long sweep of spiritual beliefs and practices as they evolve over the millennia. The other history, a ?little tradition? in which the same beliefs and practices are examined in local, particular contexts, often comes across as a lesser story. It does, however, ...
Part I. The Moriscos and the End of Muslim Spain
1. The Decline of Coexistence
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The relations between the Catholic majority and the Islamic or formerly Islamic minority in early modern Spain ran a lengthy gamut that ranged from episodes of extreme hostility and violence to an impressive degree of coexistence. This was as true of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as it was of the Middle Ages, during most of which Not surprisingly, much of this history has been shrouded in myth. For centuries, the medieval era was uniformly depicted?and by many cel-...
2. Rise and Fall of the Moriscos: A Political History
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As the northern kingdoms gradually extended their control over the peninsula, particularly beginning in the eleventh century following the collapse of the formidable Caliphate of Cordoba, ever-greater numbers of Muslims fell under direct Christian rule. The victors allowed the continued practice of Islam and officially recognized their Muslim subjects as mud?jares (from the Arabic mudajjan, ?permitted to remain?). Worship tended to be more private than public?discretion was ...
3. Images and Realities
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Several basic attitudes dominated Old Christian views of recent Muslim converts. Foremost among these was fear. Catholic Spain perceived various sources of threat in the moriscos. Above all, they were seen as potential allies of their Muslim brethren in North Africa and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Nor were these fears of ?conspiracy and a pact for evil among them? misplaced.1 The strategic danger of the moriscos was not a fantasy. During the prolonged war with the Barbary pirates?one ...
4. “Christians in Appearance but Muslims Underneath”
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Crypto-Islam is arguably the most closely studied, as well as controversial, theme in historical writing on the moriscos.1 Curi-ously, until recently most speculation on this subject has echoed the two extreme positions of early modern commentators, which asserted that virtually all moriscos were either crypto-Muslims or (less frequently) sincere Christians. Historians today tend to prefer less schematic interpre-tations and allow room for more mixed experiences. That said, it is clearly ...
5. Communities and Individuals
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R eligious life in virtually all circumstances incorporates per-sonal as well as collective forms of observance. Fulfillment of spiritual obligations under conditions of vigilance and persecution usually tends to favor more individual, and less readily visible, practices. Yet at the same time, external, hostile pressures often foster greater solidar-ity among members of subordinate groups and wind up intensifying col-lective adherence to the sort of beliefs and conduct the majority hopes to ...
6. Morisco Expression
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The century-long history of morisco Spain left behind rela-tively little in terms of formal creativity. New Christians continued to transmit the decorative and architectural skills inherited from their Muslim past in those areas where mud?jar and late Nasrid styles were still in vogue. Thus many of the ambitious building projects of sixteenth-century Granada employed morisco masons and other skilled workers. Yet in none of them did New Christians play any but a subordinate role. Archi-...
7. A Final Bow
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It is fitting to end these pages on the moriscos with a brief glance at an extraordinary episode that took place shortly before the expulsion of 1609. There are admittedly many mysteries in early modern Spanish history, but few have proved stranger or more intriguing than the so-called plomos, or lead seals, of Granada. The story began with the demolition in 1588 of the Torre Turpiana. This was the minaret of what had formerly been the city?s main mosque, now absorbed into the huge cathedral that was still ...
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So what became of the moriscos? It is a bitter irony that so little is known of their fate following the expulsion. While they do not vanish from the historical record, there can be no denying their growing invisibility as a group, not only within Spain but also outside it. The sources are particularly silent about the most crucial aspect of their experience: their now-permanent and public profession and practice of Islam. For many moriscos the trauma of expulsion had at least one welcome side: it brought ...
Part II. From Jews to Christians
9. Creating Conversos, 1391–1492
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The puz.scz.scle begins with names. The term present-day historians usually prefer for this group, conversos, actually appears only rarely in early modern documents. Other designations were used much more frequently. These ranged from ?New Christians??a label ex-Jews and their descendants shared with the moriscos?to the more colloquial torna-dizos, which not only referred to those who ?had turned? Christian but also to ?those who having received the water of Baptism, then returned to their ...
10. Vigilance through Violence
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It is a common irony of history that the best information about a social group often comes from its bitterest enemies. That certainly is true of the conversos. By far the most voluminous record of their activities can be found among the trial papers of the Inquisition. These sources give a richly detailed, if consistently deformed, view of a category of Spaniards who otherwise left few documentary traces, at least relating to what most interested both their contemporaries and present-day readers: their alleged ...
11. New Christians in a New Spain
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Who were the conversos, and how did they differ from their Old Christian neighbors? One can begin to answer these ques-tions by pointing out the main traits that characterized the First, conversos were closely linked with specific trades. Not surprisingly, many of these economic and professional activities had long been associated with Jews. In an often-quoted passage Andr?s Bern?ldez, a late fifteenth-century cleric and a thorough antisemite, wrote of the Jews that...
12. The Persistence of Antisemitism
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If early modern Spain succeeded in eliminating its Jews, the same could not be said of the memory of them. Even when Judaism no lon-ger flourished in its midst, the figure of the Jew played a vital, if negative, role in defining the Catholic commonwealth. Antisemitism had long been an integral part of Christian identity, and all the classic elements of this tradition were found in depictions of Jews in early modern Spanish liturgy, literature, theater, and folklore. Hence the habitual litany of religious tropes?...
13. Rejection and Assimilation: A Porous Purity
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By far the most infamous manifestation of the racial definition of Jews was limpieza de sangre, or blood purity. Early modern Iberia begat a unique legal and biological construct based on the supposi-tion that religious difference ?infected? the blood of the persons carrying it. As a result, a propensity to heterodoxy could be inherited from one generation to another. The royal confessor and Inquisitor General Antonio de Sotomayor put it succinctly in a 1632 memorandum: ?This nation [the ...
14. Judaizing and the Impossibility of Orthodoxy
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It is time now to turn to those conversos who consciously rejected the path of assimilation and who opted instead for some degree of allegiance to their ancestral creed. The real extent of what the Inquisition referred to as judaizing is the single most controversial issue in the ample and grow-ing historiography of early modern Spanish Judaism. It is obvious that the exact numbers of these crypto-Jews, or even more generally the proportion they constituted within the overall body of conversos, will never be known. ...
15. Identity and Creativity
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It is difficult, if not impossible, to speak of a converso identity in collective terms. This is not to say that New Christians altogether lacked a sense of belonging to a social category of their own, much less that they failed to recognize other members of the same group. Crypto-Jews in particular resolved the dilemma caused by the incompatible needs for se-crecy and communal religious activity by inventing strategies for the iden-tification of fellow judaizers. These included the use of coded language with ...
16. Diaspora within the Diaspora
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Viewed in the long run, perhaps the most unusual feature, as well as the one with the most far-ranging consequences, of the history of early modern Spanish Jews and conversos was the way in which the experience of exile led to change and renewal outside the peninsula. The year 1492, far from bringing history to an end, inaugurated a new era in Judaism, one in which sephardim or Iberian Jews played a leading role, albeit on a stage that was considerably altered as it extended ...
17. From Heterodoxy to Modernity?
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The disappearance of the institutions and rituals of normative Judaism combined with Inquisitorial repression, the strength of Catholic indoctrination, and the sheer weight of majority opinion not only to weaken the attachment of would-be judaizers to the orthodox forms of Jewish belief. Such pressures also moved some of these desperate One might begin to chart this terrain by noting the silences as well as the emphases that issued from this unique religious context. Even a brief ...
Epilogue: Two Histories, Parallel and Different
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At first glance, what overwhelms are the similarities. Both the Jews and Muslims of Spain were the objects of collective violence. In both cases violence was accompanied by exclusion and followed by expulsion. And in both instances the victor was the same: a self-confident, militant Christianity, now determined to mark a new course by disowning its former willingness, however grudging, to tolerate followers of different dogmas. The result was the creation of two new social categories within a ...
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...1. I am similarly indebted to all three for kindly keeping me supplied with copies of their own work. Other colleagues who have suggested references and given or sent me their pub-lications include Manuel Barrios, Jaime Contreras, Baltasar Cuart, Mar?a Antonia Garc?s, Lu Ann Homza, Kim Lynn, Natalia Muchnik, Jos? Pardo Tom?s, Felipe Pereda, Fernando 1. Luis del M?rmol Carvajal, Historia de la rebeli?n y castigo de los moriscos del Reino de ...
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Explanatory Note: W.schile originally written in English, this book first appeared in Spanish translation, as Historias paralelas: Judeo-conversos y moriscos en la Espa?a moderna (Madrid: Akal, 2011). Two unusual features marked this version. First, the footnotes to the text were limited strictly to sources of direct quotations. This self-denying ordinance was made possible by the second anomaly, the inclusion of a lengthy (164 pages!) bibliographic essay, in which I commented at leisure not only on ...
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2013