Muslims in Spain, 1500 To 1614

Muslims in Spain, 1500 To 1614

Muslims in Spain, 1500 To 1614

Muslims in Spain, 1500 To 1614


On December 18, 1499, the Muslims in Granada revolted against the Christian city government's attempts to suppress their rights to live and worship as followers of Islam. Although the Granada riot was a local phenomenon that was soon contained, subsequent widespread rebellion provided the Christian government with an excuse- or justification, as its leaders saw things- to embark on the systematic elimination of the Islamic presence from Spain, as well as from the Iberian Peninsula as a whole, over the next hundred years.

Picking up at the end of his earlier classic study, Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500- which described the courageous efforts of the followers of Islam to preserve their secular, as well as sacred, culture in late medieval Spain- L. P. Harvey chronicles here the struggles of the Moriscos. These forced converts to Christianity lived clandestinely in the sixteenth century as Muslims, communicating in aljamiado- Spanish written in Arabic characters. More broadly, Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614, tells the story of an early modern nation struggling to deal with diversity and multiculturalism while torn by the fanaticism of the Counter-Reformation on one side and the threat of Ottoman expansion on the other. Harvey recounts how a century of tolerance degenerated into a vicious cycle of repression and rebellion until the final expulsion in 1614 of all Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula.

Retold in all its complexity and poignancy, this tale of religious intolerance, political maneuvering, and ethnic cleansing resonates with many modern concerns. Eagerly awaited by Islamist and Hispanist scholars since Harvey's first volume appeared in 1990, Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614, will be compulsory reading for student and specialist alike.

"The year's most rewarding historical work is L. P. Harvey's Muslims in Spain 1500 to 1614, a sobering account of the various ways in which a venerable Islamic culture fell victim to Christian bigotry. Harvey never urges the topicality of his subject on us, but this aspect inevitably sharpens an already compelling book."- Jonathan Keats, Times Literary Supplement


This history begins in 1500 or, perhaps more precisely, on December 18, 1499. On that day the inhabitants of what was then the principal Muslim quarter of the city of Granada, the Albaicín, exasperated with the failure of the Castilian authorities to respect certain fundamental clauses of the terms whereby the city had been surrendered eight years earlier (in particular, failure to keep the promises made to respect their right to live as Muslims), rose in revolt and took over their part of the city. In their own narrow and winding streets the populace easily established control, but theirs was a singularly ill-prepared revolt which collapsed within three days (just when disaffection was beginning to spread outside the city to the mountainous expanses of the Alpujarras, for example, where things went differently). Order was swiftly restored in the Albaicín, so what happened in Granada between December 1499 and January 1500 might well by now be remembered, if at all, as a merely local affair, an urban riot stifled by firm police action were it not that it marks a significant divide in the history of the Iberian Peninsula as a whole and the beginning of a process that led to the end of Spanish Islam altogether, 114 years later.

For centuries before the end of 1499, the Christian monarchs of the various Spanish kingdoms had ruled over Muslim as well as Christian subjects, and Muslims had had a secure and accepted place in Spanish life. It is true that in certain places and from time to time antagonism against Muslims might manifest itself, but there was never any doubt: they belonged in the land where they were born. In the great medieval Poema de Mio Cid the words “Moors and Christians” are to be taken simply to mean “everybody.” But from early 1500 onward, there begins in earnest the process whereby Spain's Muslims were to be eliminated from Spanish society. First they were obliged to convert to Christianity— not all of them at the same time; as we will see, it was not until the mid-1520s that the last Muslims were forced into compliance, then in . . .

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