Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Conquerors, Brides and Concubines: Interfaith Relations and Social Power in Medieval Iberia

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Conquerors, Brides and Concubines: Interfaith Relations and Social Power in Medieval Iberia

Article excerpt

SIMON BARTON, Conquerors, Brides and Concubines: Interfaith Relations and Social Power in Medieval Iberia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 261 pp. ISBN 978-0-8122-4675-9.

Simon Barton's book, both readable and erudite, concentrates specifically on sexual relations between people of different religions in the Iberian Middle Ages, and reinforces the view which has become increasingly convincing over the years that everything began to change in the Peninsula towards the end of the eleventh century. Before that time, human relations could work on a basis of humanity rather than religion; after that period, personal relations were increasingly dominated by the religion which people professed.

Cross-border inter-faith marriages were an accepted part of diplomatic activity in the earlier period. In Barton's words, this 'seems to demonstrate the primacy of pragmatism over cultural scruples' (46). The same applied to concubines; most of the Umayyad emirs or caliphs before the eleventh century were born to slave concubines, many of them Christian (42). Before the twelfth century the fueros, which are such an important window on their world, do not bother to mention sex between people of different faiths (what Barton refers to as 'sexual mixing'). Histories, historical documents and stories (including the tales of the hundred doncellas and the condesa traidora) from that earlier period refer to, in particular, Christian women in Muslim societies, more commonly than vice versa, without great condemnation. Alfonso VI's Zaida is thus on the hinge of the period when attitudes were changing, which makes her even more interesting, and Barton discusses her at length, both for her historical reality and the way she is presented in different accounts. Subsequent to the changes, involving increasingly 'incendiary' language on the Christian side (71), even Christian prostitutes who slept with Muslim men were liable to severe punishment; Barton details at some length the case of Alicsén de Tolba in 1304, whose only available defence against capital punishment was to say that she did not realize the man was a Muslim (55). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.