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La Convivencia - Wikipedia
Usually, when we think about Middle Ages we think of our own countries, the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty, Vikings and Saracens. And of course — the Crusaders, but without appropriate context and information about both sides of the conflict. This book tries to do that and does it quite nicely.
This book actually made me want to go to Spain and visit some places that are mentioned in the book which is good, because it means that the author can interest in the topic. The best thing of this book? It makes you think about the differences and similarities of both religions, how they could, at some point in some places coexist and how money and trade became more important than religions after all. Apr 28, Bruce rated it it was amazing. This is a very well written military history of the medieval Mediterranean. Sparks flew for many reasons, the greatest of which was the belief in war as the ultimate arbiter of politics and policy.
There was, however, a tax on unbelief.
As his vocabulary, as witnessed by how many times I had to look up the adjectives he uses in the Oxford English Dictionary. Apr 11, Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing. Unusually, this rivetting study of the interplay between Islam and Christianity through the Middle Ages speaks of both conflict and convivencia.
Spanning a thousand years of interaction punctuated by five major battles, this masterful account paints a more nuanced picture than any I have otherwise encountered. The explosive rise of Islam overturned a status quo in the Mediterranean which pre-dated Christianity and was bound to sow permanent rivalry. Mare nostrum, "our sea", had been a private Ro Unusually, this rivetting study of the interplay between Islam and Christianity through the Middle Ages speaks of both conflict and convivencia.
Mare nostrum, "our sea", had been a private Roman lake for a millenium before Islam, in less than a human lifetime, swept along its shores from Lebanon to the Pyrennees and choked off the trade with Africa. The ailing and exhausted Byzantine empire declined irreversibly and Europe entered a Dark Age. In due course, Constantinople itself, the new Rome, fell to the immense cannon of the Turks and Byzantium was no more, its Greek culture spilling into Europe to trigger a Renaissance and the end of the Middle Ages.
Out of this sea was born our modern world and the shock of the Enlightenment. At the same time as the old order fell, however, a dazzling civilisation arose under Islam. Jews, Muslims, Copts, Nestorians and Orthodox Christians entered a period of sometimes uneasy and often very unequal coexistence. The brilliance of ha Sefarad, al-Andalus, is well known. The Sephardic Jews, twice bereft in the aftermath of the Inquisition and their expulsion from Iberia, contributed to one of the great and productive civilisations of the Middle Ages.
Less well known were the convivencias in the Levant, Egypt and Mesopotamia. The surprise for me, however, was that convivencias persisted for a time in Iberia and Sicily after the fall of Islamic governance. The various peoples had come to terms after centuries together and trade and cultural links were strong enough that a change of governance did not mean an immediate descent into persecution. The Crusaders softened through contact with the Muslim version of the good life and coveted its luxuries.
The horrors of the Inquisition are known to all, but the period of coexistence following Christian irredentism and the pragmatic and secular nature of traditionally Christian heroes such as el Cid come as a shock. El Cid. The boss. The Spanish lexicon contains perhaps ten percent words of Arabic provenance. Gibraltar - Jebel al-Tariq. Guadalquivir - Wadi ul-Qibir. Clearly this is a convivencia with legs. This was still a rivalry, of course. Yarmuk, Poitiers, Manzikert, Hattin, las Navas de Tolosa, Malta and the odious Hospitallers - one cannot understand the sea of faith, our sea, without treating with the battles, it seems.
Mathematics, architecture, philosophy, language, diet - traditional historiography sweeps these under the carpet at the echo of the clash of steel. This book does not repeat this routine distortion. While it places the changing of hands in context, swords gripped and bloodied , it is clear from O'Shea's treatment that the Sea of Faith was much more than conflict.
This is a tapestry. And what a tapestry.
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Mar 25, Tripp rated it liked it. This is in many ways a very good book. The three is given mostly because I think the book is too long. Before you hiss and catcall, hear me out. The book is about the interplay, and well, mutual murder, between the Christian West and the Islamic East.
O'Shea starts his story with a brief description of the rise of the Arabian Empire, but quickly moves to the Battle of Poitiers, one of the points at which Islam was stopped in its quest to spread across the globe. It ends with a similar check, at This is in many ways a very good book. It ends with a similar check, at Malta, in the 16th century. This was odd. Why stop there? What about Vienna in ?