- Recent Works on the Early Modern History of Spanish Muslims
These three books tell us that Spain's Muslim remnants were conquered three times: first militarily, with the fall of Granada in 1492, then theologically when rebellions led to policies of forced conversion (1500, Granada; 1526, rest of Spain), and finally macro-politically, after the 1568–1570 Alpujarras rebellion proved neither military control nor parish reform were defeating crypto-Islam. Harvey's broad chronological coverage of the Muslim side is complemented by the younger scholars' detailed analysis of Christian perspectives. Harris's analysis of the Sacromonte lead tablets forged between 1588 and 1595, for example, illustrates their role in Granada's self-Christianization, while Harvey understands them as strategies for "New Christian/crypto-Muslim" survival, attempts to raise the self-esteem of a downtrodden elite, and an effort "to salvage something from the shipwreck of Spanish Islam" (p. 267). Taken singly, each work makes a necessary Moriscological addition; together, they testify to the sophistication of an important subfield in early modern Iberian history. [End Page 102]
Ehlers's is a complex study of Valencian archbishop Juan de Ribera's transformation from enthusiastic advocate of Christian lay spirituality to confirmed enemy of the newly converted Moriscos. He concludes that anti-Islamism did not cause the archbishop to adopt expulsion; but rather, he was influenced by a combination of missionary frustration, episcopal cynicism, and a nationalist conviction that Spain could ill afford a fifth-column presence (Ribera conflated religious and political loyalty). The more Ribera achieved success in promoting a renewed Tridentine emphasis on the Eucharist amongst Old Christians, the more crypto-Muslim ridicule drew lines in the sand. Ribera's initial position also succumbed to anti-Castilian Valencian rejection of Habsburg centralization (Harvey concurs, p. 258). Old and New Christians originally hoped that Ribera would rule with "benign neglect rather than leadership" (Ehlers, p. 39), but when the regional nobility blackmailed Moriscos by turning a blind eye to their Islamism, they scuppered Ribera's initial plans to tolerate slow conversion.
"Subnational" regionalism also played a significant part according to Harris in the mostly immigrant Granadan city council's promotion of the Torre Turpiana tablets and Sacromonte relics as authentic, in the face of "persistent challenges" from Madrid and Rome (p.133). However, unlike the Valencian nobility, who acquired no legitimacy by supporting Moriscos, Harris's council acquired "some of the historical continuity" the city lacked as a Muslim capital, a feat accomplished for them by the tablets revealing that Granada's first-century Christian converts had been Arabs (p. 135). The differences between Granada and Valencia explain why Philip III did not reject the tablets (precisely in 1609, the year of expulsion) and why Granadans refused to accept their condemnation as forgeries by Pope Innocent XI in 1682. Additionally, the Morisco problem in Ehlers's Valencia was ruralized, whereas Harris's Granada tablets were deeply imbedded in the urban politics that contemporary Latin civic panegyrics fostered.
In Ehlers's strongly political reading, Philip III's decision to expel the Moriscos responded to the political weakness caused by the truce that year with the heretical Netherlands. Harvey agrees, noting pre-1609 council discussions of mass murder, exile to Newfoundland, euthanasia, and castration; but he believes Philip III and Lerma chose expulsion mostly because the Peace with Holland allowed Spain to concentrate the necessary military personnel. Although Harvey's longue-dur...