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  • Tolerance and Coexistence in Early Modern Spain. Old Christians and Moriscos in the Campo de Calatrava by Trevor J. Dadson
  • Jason Busic
Dadson, Trevor J. Tolerance and Coexistence in Early Modern Spain. Old Christians and Moriscos in the Campo de Calatrava. Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2014. 279 pp.

In Tolerance and Coexistence, Professor Dadson discusses the integration of the Moriscos, or Muslims newly converted to Christianity at the beginning of the sixteenth century, into Christian society in early modern Spain. The study focuses on the Moriscos of the Campo de Calatrava and, specifically, the Old Moriscos (Muslims who had converted prior to the mass conversions of 1502) of Villarrubia. His study is rich in archival research, knowledge of the secondary literature, and the thoroughness and academic rigor we expect from Dadson. Tolerance and Coexistence includes eleven chapters, and addresses the central problem of assimilation through a variety of textual resources, including inquisitorial records, legal proceedings, wills and testaments, epistolary, memoriales, edicts, etc. Dadson argues that the records show a high degree of assimilation among the Moriscos of Villarrubia and, more generally, the Campo de Calatrava. Equally significant, he convincingly argues that Old Christians viewed these New Christian neighbors as indistinguishable in customs and faith. The Old Moriscos participated in all aspects of the religious, social, and governmental life of their community, and Old and New Christians resisted [End Page 581] the general expulsions from 1609–14 with significant success. The study thus contributes to a growing body of literature that questions the traditional view that the Moriscos were crypto-Muslims who refused to assimilate and whose eventual expulsion was both inevitable and supported by most Old Christians.

Any serious scholar of cristianos nuevos de moros should read this book, but the book may also serve as an introduction to the theme for non-specialists. The latter will find the general introduction helpful in understanding the state of the field, as well as the significance of the study. Furthermore, many of the chapters address the issues under debate from a perspective more general than the title suggests. For example, chapters five and six discuss the politics of the general expulsions at state and local levels, and only touch on the Campo de Calatrava and Villarrubia as but a couple examples of wide-spread resistance to and open critique of the crown’s policy. These chapters provide a convincing alternative to the traditional scholarly model of Old versus New Christians, of the Christian faithful versus crypto-Muslims, and might serve as an introduction to the theme even in undergraduate classes. Other chapters bring up less-discussed problems such as the Moriscos in Spanish garrisons in North Africa, and when and how many of them returned to their hometowns. Specialists will find chapters eight through ten particularly intriguing. Dadson discusses how entire communities returned after expulsion, were welcomed by their neighbors (and even the crown) and pursued legal action to recover property and status. Dadson focuses on the Campo de Calatrava and Villarrubia, but he also shows these cases’ relevance for the rest of Spain, particularly in the crown of Castile.

Tolerance and Coexistence thus constitutes a significant contribution to current scholarship on the Moriscos. However, in the nature of book reviews, the present reviewer will also point out some weak points in the study, none of which are grave. Firstly, Dadson might have given more recognition to other studies that contribute similar findings as Tolerance and Coexistence. For example, he cites a number of other regionally focused studies, but does so only in cursorily (4). As Dadson notes, these studies show the diversity of Morisco groups from region to region, but he does not place sufficient emphasis on how many of these scholars have also argued, like Dadson’s current study, that many Morisco communities had grown indistinguishable from their Old Christian neighbors and enjoyed their friendship before and during the expulsion. Indeed, one could argue that this has become the orthodox scholarly perspective in regards to Castile. Furthermore, Dadson suggests that there is “little written in English on the Moriscos, and certainly nothing that approached my revisionist view of the subject” (9). This is not altogether true. One case in point...


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