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Reviewed by:
  • Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614, and: The Handless Maiden: Moriscos and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Spain, and: Between Christians and Moriscos: Juan de Ribera and Religious Reform in Valencia, 1568–1614
  • Már Jónsson
Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614. By Leonard Patrick Harvey (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. xiv plus 448 pp.).
The Handless Maiden: Moriscos and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Spain. By Mary Elizabeth Perry (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2005. xxii plus 202 pp.).
Between Christians and Moriscos: Juan de Ribera and Religious Reform in Valencia, 1568–1614. By Benjamin Ehlers (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. xviii + 241 pp.).

As most people know, the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Muslims in the early eighth century AD but gradually lost again. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, only the Kingdom of Granada remained. In 1487 the city of Malaga fell into Christian hands and four years later the capital of Granada. The royal couple of Castile and Aragon, Ferdinand and Isabel, entered the city on January 1, 1492. According to agreements made between the victors and the vanquished, Muslims would be allowed to practice their religion and maintain their customs. However, a campaign of evangelization led to a Muslim revolt in 1499 that was crushed in a few months. In a series of decrees in 1501 and 1502 the remaining Muslims of Granada and Castile were given a choice between conversion and departure. In 1525 and 1526 the Muslims of Valencia, Aragon and Catalonia faced the same options. A majority chose to > stay—perhaps 300 thousand individuals or approximately 5% of the population of Spain. All remnants of Islam were to be destroyed. This, however, did not happen and thus started the fascinating story of the Moriscos, in other words "the newly converted Christian Moors."

The Moriscos have attracted scholarly interest for decades, with intense studies on all aspects of their culture and history, as seen, for instance, in the huge bibliography recently published by the Instituto Cervantes in Spain; see Until recently most studies were written in Spanish and French but now increasingly in English. The three interesting and engaging books discussed here are good indicators of this trend and the authors all try to provide something new and exiting, never seen before! The renowned aljamiado specialist Leonard Patrick Harvey attempts a survey of most things concerning the Moriscos, a sequel to his acclaimed Islamic Spain, 1250-1500 (1990). Mary Elizabeth Perry proposes a fresh understanding of the Moriscos by concentrating on women and contemplating them from the point of view of modern critical theory. Benjamin Ehlers explains the changing and ambivalent official attitudes towards the Moriscos by focusing on the important figure of Juan de Ribera, archbishop of Valencia. The three authors, of course, abhor the persecution the Moriscos had to suffer, lament their expulsion from Spain in 1609-1614 and strive to discern their point of view.

L.P. Harvey wishes to "listen to what the Muslims, crypto-Muslims, Moriscos of Spain, themselves had to say" (ix), particularly by emphasizing what the Moriscos themselves wrote: "their own underground literature" (viii). His point of departure is that they were Muslims at heart: "a new, complex, and inherently muddled identity was in play... Moriscos was what they were forced to become; unwillingly; Muslims is what they were underneath" (5). His discussion of what distinguished the Moriscos from the "Old" Christians is useful, and he convingly argues that Muslim identity and customs counted more than physical appearance or dress, and certainly not genetics (7-10). The chapter on the period 1492-1502 is fascinating and well written, based on Harvey's own research and the work of Miguel Angel Ladero Quesada (14-58). Harvey's excellent analysis of the Oran fatwa of 1504 which defined what the Moriscos should do in order to keep their faith despite forcible conversions (60-64), is also based on his own work. If prevented from praying during the day, the Moriscos were advised to make it up at night, and if no ritually...


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