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Reviewed by:
  • Muslims in Spain: 1500 to 1614
  • James B. Tueller
L. P. Harvey . Muslims in Spain: 1500 to 1614. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 2005. xiv + 448 pp. index. append. map. bibl. $40. ISBN: 0–226–31963–6.

In Muslims in Spain: 1500 to 1614, L. P. Harvey insists that the Muslims of Spain were a part of early modern Europe. The unprecedented 1609-14 expulsion of baptized Christians from a Christian land, the remnants of the Muslims of Spain, may shock us today. In the preface, Harvey notes that "the Muslims of the Iberian Peninsula felt as secure in their entitlement to their lands as do the present citizens of the United States in theirs." Those entitlements are relatively new from a Native American perspective; nevertheless, it is precisely the present-day sensibility in Harvey's book that brings the past so near.

The subtitle's dates are significant, for in 1500 the Muslims of conquered Granada rebelled. After failure, they were given a choice of exile or baptism. Over the next three decades, all the Muslims of Spain faced this decision. The crypto-Muslim community had begun. Then in 1614 Philip III declared the expulsion a success. No longer were there heretical Christians of Muslim ancestry in his kingdoms. Harvey defends his title, insisting that they were Muslims, and that calling them Moriscos adds an "insidious ideological bias" and "imposes a Christian identity without his [the Muslim's] assent" (5). His stated goal is that "in this study every endeavor will be made to use explicit terminology where necessary." (130). Thus he unravels the layers of words like Morisco, Aljamiado, Ladino, Calque, Islamicist, and European. Harvey even corrects an editor for assuming that £. s. and d. are British quirks. Christians and Muslims in sixteenth-century Spain also used these monetary terms, recalling the Roman librae, solidi, and denari (167). I value the historical etymologies, but still use Morisco because the Spanish documents use it and, by the expulsion, so did the crypto-Muslims. Most importantly, we cannot know who among the Moriscos were faithful Muslims or Christians.

The book contains twelve chapters, eight appendices, and a bibliography. The bibliography will help readers deepen their knowledge of Islam in Spain. The inclusion of Spanish and Arabic secondary sources impresses. Harvey omits some recent scholarship on the Moriscos, such as publications by Mary Elizabeth Perry, Mary Halavais, David Coleman, Katie Harris, Benjamin Ehlers, Antonio Feros, and Bernardo García. The appendices provide primary sources like the Sacromonte texts, expulsion rationales, and popular reactions to the expulsion. Oddly, appendix 1 consists of articles from the 1978 Spanish Constitution, addressing issues of [End Page 166] religious freedom. I am wholeheartedly for such articles, but between 1614 and 1978 there are many other histories.

The chapters follow a chronological story of the Muslims in Spain after 1500. Most are about forty pages long, although chapter 5 is exceptional. In 100 pages it examines the sources of the intellectual life of the clandestine Muslims. This chapter illustrates Harvey's scholarship and enthusiasm. The types of surviving Aljamiado texts are itemized; reasons for using the Arabic alphabet to write a romance language are explained. With Aljamiado, we learn what an oppressed group did secretly to maintain their identity. Harvey very ably translates the language, whose orthography was idiosyncratic and pronunciation localized. Reading Aljamiado requires fluency with Arabic and Spanish, not just linguistically but also religiously. For example, the Arabic nazila — "to descend" in English — can become a revelation because it descended from heaven.

His examination of the surviving documents written by the Muslims of Spain during the sixteenth century is important reading. Most of the sources are works of devotion. There are fifty manuscripts of the Qur'an. Hadith and lives of the prophets also survive. Harvey describes other types of materials, such as polemics, grammars, dictionaries, poetry, prose, and ephemera. The section on the famous "Young Man of Arévalo" is also welcome. In the previous chapter, Harvey uncovers evidence from Inquisition records that the "Young Man" may have been named Agustín de Ribera. In chapter 5, however, he holds to what can be known from the young man's documents...


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pp. 166-167
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2009
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