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In a world torn by religious antagonism, lessons can be learned from medieval Spanish villages where Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a daily basis--sharing irrigation canals, bathhouses, municipal ovens, and marketplaces. Medieval Spaniards introduced Europeans to paper manufacture, Hindu-Arabic numerals, philosophical classics, algebra, citrus fruits, co In a world torn by religious antagonism, lessons can be learned from medieval Spanish villages where Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a daily basis--sharing irrigation canals, bathhouses, municipal ovens, and marketplaces. Medieval Spaniards introduced Europeans to paper manufacture, Hindu-Arabic numerals, philosophical classics, algebra, citrus fruits, cotton, and new medical techniques. Her mystics penned classics of Kabbalah and Sufism. More astonishing than Spain's wide-ranging accomplishments, however, was the simple fact that until the destruction of the last Muslim Kingdom by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492, Spain's Muslims, Christians, and Jews often managed to bestow tolerance and freedom of worship on the minorities in their midst. A Vanished World chronicles this panoramic sweep of human history and achievement, encompassing both the agony of Jihad, Crusades, and Inquisition, and the glory of a multi-religious, multi-cultural civilization that forever changed the West. Lowney shows how these three controversial religious groups once lived and worked together in Spain, creating commerce, culture, art, and architecture. He reveals how these three faith groups eventually veered into a thicket of resentment and violence, and shows how our current policies and approaches might lead us down the same path. Rising above politics, propaganda, and name-calling, A Vanished World provides a hopeful meditation on how relations among these three faith groups have gone wrong and some ideas on how to make their interactions right.


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In a world torn by religious antagonism, lessons can be learned from medieval Spanish villages where Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a daily basis--sharing irrigation canals, bathhouses, municipal ovens, and marketplaces. Medieval Spaniards introduced Europeans to paper manufacture, Hindu-Arabic numerals, philosophical classics, algebra, citrus fruits, co In a world torn by religious antagonism, lessons can be learned from medieval Spanish villages where Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a daily basis--sharing irrigation canals, bathhouses, municipal ovens, and marketplaces. Medieval Spaniards introduced Europeans to paper manufacture, Hindu-Arabic numerals, philosophical classics, algebra, citrus fruits, cotton, and new medical techniques. Her mystics penned classics of Kabbalah and Sufism. More astonishing than Spain's wide-ranging accomplishments, however, was the simple fact that until the destruction of the last Muslim Kingdom by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492, Spain's Muslims, Christians, and Jews often managed to bestow tolerance and freedom of worship on the minorities in their midst. A Vanished World chronicles this panoramic sweep of human history and achievement, encompassing both the agony of Jihad, Crusades, and Inquisition, and the glory of a multi-religious, multi-cultural civilization that forever changed the West. Lowney shows how these three controversial religious groups once lived and worked together in Spain, creating commerce, culture, art, and architecture. He reveals how these three faith groups eventually veered into a thicket of resentment and violence, and shows how our current policies and approaches might lead us down the same path. Rising above politics, propaganda, and name-calling, A Vanished World provides a hopeful meditation on how relations among these three faith groups have gone wrong and some ideas on how to make their interactions right.

30 review for A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Vanished World sets medieval Spain before the reader with the warning; we may be blessed or cursed by emulating its example. The Iberian peninsula is the very perimeter of western Europe, within a stone's throw of both the vast continent of Africa and the looming expanse of the Atlantic. Despite its apparent remoteness, Iberia was throughout the ages in the very thick of the action -- the pitch wherin civilizations clashed. In an earlier age, Rome and Carthage sparred; a thousand years later, Vi Vanished World sets medieval Spain before the reader with the warning; we may be blessed or cursed by emulating its example. The Iberian peninsula is the very perimeter of western Europe, within a stone's throw of both the vast continent of Africa and the looming expanse of the Atlantic. Despite its apparent remoteness, Iberia was throughout the ages in the very thick of the action -- the pitch wherin civilizations clashed. In an earlier age, Rome and Carthage sparred; a thousand years later, Visigoths and Muslims fought. The invasion of Spain in 711 by the Umayyad caliphate made the former province of the Romans, then yet another ruin ruled by nominally Christian barbarians, into an outpost of a far larger, far more sophisticated civilization, where it enjoyed a golden age that was for Europe a preview of the Renaissance and enlightenment. Here the gifts of the Greeks were preserved and built on; here both Islam and Rabbinic Judaism grew in new directions. Vanished World is a brief and romantic history of medieval Spain, one brimming with hope that we can all just get along. Until the triumph of Ferdinand and Isabella, who united their kingdoms and created a state commanding the peninsula, Iberia was home to a multitude of peoples and minor states. While many were drawn by commercial cross-traffic, others came to carve out kingdoms, like the Visigoths and their successors from Africa, the Umayyads. Iberia was fractured and destitute, lingering in a winter of civilization that was chased away by an eastern wind. Unlike the barely literate Goths, the Muslim invaders were part of a vibrant, culturally rich civilization on the ascendant. Sweeping over the peninsula, they infused it with new life, creating a social order that allowed their new subjects to participate in it. Although the calpihate would falter after the death of its leader, breaking into squabbling branches that were brushed aside by a Castillian comeback, it reigned for several hundred years and created an environment that brought the best of human passion, creativity, and intelligence to the surface. After an introduction which establishes an outline of Spain's political history. most of the book is given over to sections which explore different aspects of the civilization that prevailed between the fall of the Goths and the rise of Castille. These include chapters on the growth of science, as Muslim and Jewish scholars built upon Greek knowledge and advanced it considerably, as well as some on religious revolution; the Judeo-Muslim mystical traditions both flourished in the Iberian setting. Downey's vision for the book is made apparent in contrasting several pairs of legends. The patron saint of Spain. St. James, was remembered alternatively as either a humble and kind apostle who spread the Gospel to the furthest reaches of the continent, or as Santiago the Muslim-Slayer, who was said to have appeared and led a Christian army to victory. A similar contrast is offered by the Song of Roland, depicting Charlemagne as a Christian warrior fighting the fiendish Muslims, and the story of El Cid, who found honor and friendship among the ranks of both. Christian and Muslim need not spar, Downey writes, offering various examples of cross-cultural pollination and episodes of historical cooperation, as when Christian and Muslim powers joined together to fight...other Muslim powers. Although the subject is fascinating and I wanted badly to like it, in truth the book is limited. Downey is a very casual historian, chatty and informal. That can work to a degree, but sometimes retards a reader's ability to take the text seriously. Assuming one is completely oblivious to intellectual life in the medieval epoch, Vanished World will be quite exciting. Personally, Spangenburg and Moser's history of science covered this ground too well for me to take much here, though I did find the bits about Sufism and Kabbalah of interest. The history is also heavily sanitized in view of Downey's objection. It's a laudable goal, of course, and he does mention a few trifling incidents of unpleasantness, but haranguing Christians for the Crusades is hardly fair when no mention of the Battle of Tours is made. Sixty years after the conquest of Spain by Moorish armies, the Umayyads advanced on France itself, meeting defeat scarcely 150 miles from Paris. Humans will never cease to war with one another, though, regardless of religion; Christians may fight Muslims, but as this and countless other books demonstrate, they will happily dig into one another as well. We're a hot-blooded species given to destruction. That considering, it's nice to review the many ways we are capable of working together, as Downey does here, touching on science, art, medicine, and even the invention of cowboys. Look for a future comparison to Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I thought this book gave an excellent introduction to the history of al-Andalus, a chapter of European history of which I was woefully ignorant. Western history books seem to teach that Spanish history began in 1492, but really some of its brightest moments were centuries before that and Modern Spain is only beginning to catch up. Plus, the juxtaposition of the Song of Roland and the epic of El Cid and the author's interpretation of their differences gave some food for thought. However, I find t I thought this book gave an excellent introduction to the history of al-Andalus, a chapter of European history of which I was woefully ignorant. Western history books seem to teach that Spanish history began in 1492, but really some of its brightest moments were centuries before that and Modern Spain is only beginning to catch up. Plus, the juxtaposition of the Song of Roland and the epic of El Cid and the author's interpretation of their differences gave some food for thought. However, I find too many "You see! Muslims and Christians can get along just fine!" moments can get a little old.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Love

    Appropriately timed, I found this book, accidentally, prior to my vacation to Barcelona. Unfortunately, as I progressed through the Spanish history, I seemed to always be one area e.g., Valencia or the Pyrenees, behind in my reading. Therefore, I missed many an opportunity to see the sites described in the book. This was an excellent book for any interested in the social/cultural ramifications of the three Abrahamic religions living together and the dire consequences of the minority when the major Appropriately timed, I found this book, accidentally, prior to my vacation to Barcelona. Unfortunately, as I progressed through the Spanish history, I seemed to always be one area e.g., Valencia or the Pyrenees, behind in my reading. Therefore, I missed many an opportunity to see the sites described in the book. This was an excellent book for any interested in the social/cultural ramifications of the three Abrahamic religions living together and the dire consequences of the minority when the majority deems the others "unsightly". Obviously, this book has an excellent account of Spanish history, but is all based around the book's subtitle.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I read this book for my Atlantic history class, which started with medieval southern Spain (Andalusia, al-Andalus in Arabic) and the Reconquista and then covered the colonization of West Africa (by the Portuguese) and the West Indies (by the Spanish). This book shows how Andalusia became a center of learning, innovation and religious tolerance unlike anywhere else in medieval Europe. There are chapters on mathematics, philosophy and medicine, and also some examples of agricultural innovation (ne I read this book for my Atlantic history class, which started with medieval southern Spain (Andalusia, al-Andalus in Arabic) and the Reconquista and then covered the colonization of West Africa (by the Portuguese) and the West Indies (by the Spanish). This book shows how Andalusia became a center of learning, innovation and religious tolerance unlike anywhere else in medieval Europe. There are chapters on mathematics, philosophy and medicine, and also some examples of agricultural innovation (new crops, irrigation, and water mills). Some famous examples of Muslim Spain's architecture are described (the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the palace Madinat al-Zahra, and the later and more famous palace the Alhambra.) The book describes the arguments of religious scholars such as the Jewish Maimonides and the Muslim Ibn Rushd (Averroes) that religion can be reconciled with reason, and compares them to mystics such as Ibn Arabi (one of the most famous Sufi mystics) and Moses de Leon (founder of the mystical Kabbalah tradition in Judaism). The decline of al-Andalus began with political infighting among its rulers, and the Christian kingdoms in the north took advantage of this to start taking over the south. In the late eleventh century, the North African Almoravid dynasty invaded and took control of al-Andalus. The Almoravids temporarily brought stability to southern Spain, but they didn't think much of the Spanish Muslims. The Almoravids traced Muslim Spain's political problems to their "religious and moral laxity. Muslim Spain's elite "defied the Quran by besotting themselves on Spanish wines, from grapes grown in Muslim-owned vineyards, no less. They insulted fellow Muslims by awarding Christians and Jews positions of authority in government." The Crusades began about ten years later, and the church urged Spanish Christian knights to stay in Spain and join the Reconquest. The book shows that there were still many examples of coexistence between Christians and Muslims before the Muslims were expelled from Spain in 1502 (under Ferdinand and Isabella). A Muslim chronicler wrote of Alfonso VI's treatment of Muslim Toledo, "he began to govern the people with justice and moderation, hoping to gain them over to polytheism" (a lot of Muslims saw Christianity as polytheistic because of the doctrine of the Trinity). From the other side, Lowney's chapter on The Song of Roland (which is French, but set in Muslim Spain) shows how Christian conquerors thought the same thing about Islam (the Song of Roland portrays Muslims worshipping Muhammad, Apollo, and other idols). Chapters 9 and 10 compare the portrayal of Islam in the epics The Song of Roland and El Cid.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    Very readable and interesting. Author has quite the varied experiences . . . was a managing director for J.P. Morgan, a graduate of Jesuit university with degrees in medieval history and philosophy, world traveler. Book was published soon after the 2004 Madrid train bombings & that is referenced in the introduction but I'm not sure if it served as the impetus for book itself, which traces Spain's history first as a Christian country under the Visigoths, then Muslim, and then for several centurie Very readable and interesting. Author has quite the varied experiences . . . was a managing director for J.P. Morgan, a graduate of Jesuit university with degrees in medieval history and philosophy, world traveler. Book was published soon after the 2004 Madrid train bombings & that is referenced in the introduction but I'm not sure if it served as the impetus for book itself, which traces Spain's history first as a Christian country under the Visigoths, then Muslim, and then for several centuries a country divided and ruled by both Christians and Muslims, always with a mixture of those 2 religions and then with Europe's largest Jewish community also present and a vital contributor to the flourishing Al-Andalus culture of that time and place. Perhaps the most interesting chapter of the book described the development of both Muslim and Jewish mysticism (Suffism and the Kabbalah) in Spain. Earlier chapter telling the story of El Cid interesting too; he wasn't always fighting for the Christian kings in his battles. A complicated but advanced world for its time and place, swept away by the Reconquista and the Inquisition.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Noreen

    Cultural History of Spain written by a Jesuit. Great background reading for Don Quixote

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    I purchased this book this summer from the shop at Granada's Alhambra, as an addition to my many books about medieval Judaism. It proved to be an interesting and most worthwhile investment. Chris Lowney introduces us - or for those of us who are already familiar with the history, takes us back to - Spain before Islam, to a time when the Visigoths had visions of a fully Christian Iberian peninsula. Then we are taken on a journey throughout the centuries, through the Moorish conquests of Spain, int I purchased this book this summer from the shop at Granada's Alhambra, as an addition to my many books about medieval Judaism. It proved to be an interesting and most worthwhile investment. Chris Lowney introduces us - or for those of us who are already familiar with the history, takes us back to - Spain before Islam, to a time when the Visigoths had visions of a fully Christian Iberian peninsula. Then we are taken on a journey throughout the centuries, through the Moorish conquests of Spain, introduced to Jewish statesmen, and presented with great cultural works of literature, astronomy, and multifaith translations of books from Latin to Castilian, before being plunged into the inquisitorial times of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. We journey with pilgrims trekking the long trail from France and beyond, over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, and visit the magnificent Andalusian cities of Cordoba, Granada, and Seville. Lowney writes with passion and conviction. Medieval Spain was, in some ways, a time of multifaith, interfaith, and multicultural enlightenment which enjoyed not one, but three, Golden Ages. Indeed, the final part of his last chapter concerning Christopher Columbus and the New World, and his epilogue to the entire book, are not just mere closing pages to the retelling of a long ago time. They are also the presentation of our present world... the New World which unfolded after the death of the Catholic Monarchs, not just in Spain, but elsewhere. For in the centuries spanning the gap between the Middle Ages and our present times, rulers - and sometimes the general population - strove to create a perfect society, with religious, social, cultural, and political homogeneity. And yet, no matter how much strife such an ambition still demands of those wishing to fulfill it, modern technology makes it, in many ways, completely unattainable. For the world is now much smaller than it was all those centuries ago, thanks to planes, trains, GPS, and even the internet. Muslims, Jews, and Christians rub shoulders with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether in business or in social circles, face to face, or online. And so, writes Chris Lowney, we now find ourselves in a new kind of "Medieval Spain". We have been brought full circle. So what, asks Lowney, can the vanished world of medieval Spain teach us about history? Do we, he asks, "adopt Santiago the Killer's ever-resentful posture, where each backward glance through history is a prelude to settling old scores"? Or do we "choose Santiago the Pilgrim's optimistic journey forward, glancing back to learn the lessons from our past that might enable reconciliation in our future"? Of course, only time will tell. The journey will be what we make it. Throughout this well written, fully engaging look back to a time when the three main faiths of today's world lived in relative harmony of what many still (wrongly) consider a backward era, Medieval Spain shows us, as Lowney correctly puts it, that the future is shaped by us, and not by the Gods, and that we are all capable of sharing this Earth together, in the same relative harmony. A fully educational book, which I recommend to amateur and professional historians alike, either as an introduction to the history of al-Andalus, or as a complementary read to any other good books about the remarkable Spanish peninsula.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Dunn

    Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it ~ George Santayana 
 “[Suspects]...had no right to know the identities of accusers, the accused were not represented by counsel: under certain circumstances, torture could be used to extract confessions...” Lowney, regarding the Spanish Inquisition, A Vanished World A Vanished World is a book that demonstrates why the study of history is so important and why we must take stock of its lessons. A Vanished World examines Medieval Spain during a time Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it ~ George Santayana 
 “[Suspects]...had no right to know the identities of accusers, the accused were not represented by counsel: under certain circumstances, torture could be used to extract confessions...” Lowney, regarding the Spanish Inquisition, A Vanished World A Vanished World is a book that demonstrates why the study of history is so important and why we must take stock of its lessons. A Vanished World examines Medieval Spain during a time when Christians, Jews, and Muslims coexisted. At times, this coexistence came so close to getting it right, creating a time and place where society flowered to a golden era of true enlightenment. Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all followers of one God, learnt from one another and worked together, often in a true harmony. This was a time when many in Medieval Spain dared question whether it was possible to journey to God by many roads and acknowledged that faith does not mean setting aside reason. It was a time when a Muslim mystic wrote: 
 
My heart has become capable of every form: 
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, 
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Kaa'ba, 
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran. 
I follow the religion of Love. 
 
With the quest for knowledge and understanding providing the key, the three faiths of this Medieval World interwove a society that still shines a light for us in our darkening world rent by widening divisions. 

Lowney's chapter on the Spanish Inquisition is especially pertinent to what's happening in Australia, my own country, and I feel, necessary reading and warning for anyone currently in politics. Consider the example of Pope Sixtus IV and the Spanish Inquisition. For Pope Sixtus IV, the Spanish Inquisition became a monster that “moved not by seal for the faith and salvation of souls, but by lust for wealth...many true and faithful Christians...have without legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, torture and condemned...” A Vanished World reminds us that all the “Abrahamic faiths” honour the creed “love our neighbours as ourselves” and to do any other than that is to go against the teachings of the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran. 
 Our world lives in a climate of fear, but history, as Lowney illustrates in his book, has known many such moments, when other societies also tottered on the brink of destruction. Such times left unhealed wounds difficult to forget or forgive, yet history also shows, over and over, our mutual capability of moving beyond such times to build bridges of peace. For our present world, the past hints at a possible blue print to span these bridges again. 

Obviously passionate about this subject and a consummate writer and storyteller, Lowney offers here a book of great insight and power. A Vanished World shows that even if the Pandora's box is open before us hope always remains.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Raymonds009

    For me this filled in a lot of information that I missed in undergraduate study. I don't think that information like this was considered so pertinent 45 years ago. Understanding the roots and permutations of our present day dilemmas with how religion and politics have interacted over the years is now of paramount importance. There are many eye-opening passages here describing both the good and the ugly in Spain during this period. I feel that, in general, we don't know enough about the interplay For me this filled in a lot of information that I missed in undergraduate study. I don't think that information like this was considered so pertinent 45 years ago. Understanding the roots and permutations of our present day dilemmas with how religion and politics have interacted over the years is now of paramount importance. There are many eye-opening passages here describing both the good and the ugly in Spain during this period. I feel that, in general, we don't know enough about the interplay of the crusades or the everyday clashes and at times the love and understanding of people who were living at the time. The consequences for all of Europe and eventually to the new world are all explored here. I can not recommend this book highly enough. Page after page led me to further research. I wish something of this scope had been in my curriculum back then. It should be required reading now in a general West. Civ. class.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    A brief survey of the great medieval Spaniards -- Muslim, Jewish, and Christian -- who made significant contributions to world civilization. The chapters form mini-biographies. Chris Lowney's great strength is to show that a multi-religious society (even when toleration was based on necessity rather than choice) can make contributions a homogenous society will often neglect; drawbacks are an occasionally simplistic approach and an arch style. The "Suggested Readings" were just what I would want A brief survey of the great medieval Spaniards -- Muslim, Jewish, and Christian -- who made significant contributions to world civilization. The chapters form mini-biographies. Chris Lowney's great strength is to show that a multi-religious society (even when toleration was based on necessity rather than choice) can make contributions a homogenous society will often neglect; drawbacks are an occasionally simplistic approach and an arch style. The "Suggested Readings" were just what I would want, and the index was good.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Granger

    Much like The Ornament of the World, a very readable overview of the culture and history of Andalusian Spain with moments of fascinating insight -- but in frustratingly brief glances. Recommended to anyone interested in the cultural meeting point between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, as well as the roots of the European Renaissance. But I'm still waiting for a truly deep philosophical and historical examination of this fascinating, forgotten era. Much like The Ornament of the World, a very readable overview of the culture and history of Andalusian Spain with moments of fascinating insight -- but in frustratingly brief glances. Recommended to anyone interested in the cultural meeting point between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, as well as the roots of the European Renaissance. But I'm still waiting for a truly deep philosophical and historical examination of this fascinating, forgotten era.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    A bit too slow and dry for my taste. Even the exciting topics (El Cid, Charlemagne) were made to feel boring, though I think the author did a great job of making this history feel relevant with the war on terror, etc.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Colin J.

    Informative and well written.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Ann

    I found this interesting and well-written, and it's a period of history I knew almost nothing about. It did seem, by the time I was halfway through, that the publisher's blurb overstates Lowney's thesis considerably, making the 700 years of Al-Andalus sound like seven centuries of sheer brotherly love between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In fact, much of the book traces the political strife between Christians and Muslims. There's one, very welcome chapter where the interaction between the comm I found this interesting and well-written, and it's a period of history I knew almost nothing about. It did seem, by the time I was halfway through, that the publisher's blurb overstates Lowney's thesis considerably, making the 700 years of Al-Andalus sound like seven centuries of sheer brotherly love between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In fact, much of the book traces the political strife between Christians and Muslims. There's one, very welcome chapter where the interaction between the common people of all three faiths are hinted at through small bits of historical evidence; I would gladly read an entire volume on that subject alone. Still, despite the focus not being what I expected, this was well worth reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rik Brooymans

    Absolutely outstanding. An extremely interesting and complex topic, the interaction between Christians, Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain, handled in a such a way that offers illumination and entertainment. The overall viewpoint is balanced and common-sense and the writing is clear. There is a great combination of insight and anecdote. I will definitely try and find more works by this author. If the topic is of interest for you, this is the perfect place to start.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daughters Of Abraham

    We did not like this book as a group. It was a difficult read and seemed like a collection of articles rather than a book. Especially since most of the group had very little knowledge about Muslim Spain, it was not a good introduction to the topic. Most members were not able to finish the book, despite being excited to read on the subject. (Review by Merrimack Valley Group)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I read this a few years ago while traveling through Spain (Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Seville) and ended up reading each chapter slightly before visiting its respective city -- it served as a brilliant travel guide in terms of understanding the cultural history (and present) of the places I was visiting. Overall, I found reading this to be informative, exciting and poignant.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sean Mccarrey

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. From the depictions of Sufism and Kabbalah, to the historical overtones, this book was quite readable. I felt as though it shed a great deal of light on an area of the world I've grown up hearing about, but never really knew about. It was also quite fascinating to delve into the roots of one of the societies that created the city in which I currently live. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. From the depictions of Sufism and Kabbalah, to the historical overtones, this book was quite readable. I felt as though it shed a great deal of light on an area of the world I've grown up hearing about, but never really knew about. It was also quite fascinating to delve into the roots of one of the societies that created the city in which I currently live.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I loved this book because it looked away from the big kings and empire shirfts towards the small guy on the street. The analysis of the Chanson de Roland and El Cid was well done. Written in a journalist's easy style it is a good travel companion: something you can dip into with your morning café con leche. I loved this book because it looked away from the big kings and empire shirfts towards the small guy on the street. The analysis of the Chanson de Roland and El Cid was well done. Written in a journalist's easy style it is a good travel companion: something you can dip into with your morning café con leche.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lorena

    While I was reading this book, the news came out about the executions of three young Muslim college students by an atheist in North Carolina, and then the executions of Christians by ISIS in Egypt. It made me long not for medieval Spain, but for something from that world, for the world of St. James the pilgrim, not St. James the moor killer.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    I strangely really enjoyed the book while still finding it somewhat fractured in its narrative. Perhaps it simply read to me more like a connected of linked essays. But it was worth reading and I certainly learned a lot.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Khadija

    Biased, I felt. Negative perspective towards Muslim rule in Spain. I found one factual error in the book: the author stated that Muslims in Spain did not pay taxes. Muslims in Spain were obligated to give 2.5% of their wealth as taxes.

  23. 4 out of 5

    DeLys

    I am currently using this book as the primary text for a course on medieval Spanish culture and civilization. I have received a lot of positive feedback from my students. They find it to be very approachable, especially compared to some of the other required readings.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Robinson

    A little bit too intellectual. I was hoping for something more intimate, like verbatim dialog from a princely court, the diary of a town physician or a letter from a village priest. Instead, there is too much focus on literature, philosphy and the lives of a few great men.

  25. 5 out of 5

    George

    Well written not dry history of medieval Spain and the interplay between Christians, Muslims and Jews. In conclusion, people can live together with mutual self interest, but it can quickly disintegrate when power balance changes.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anuar Kassim

    An enlightening read on medieval Spain.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wasabi

    A reflective look back.A useful source of inspiration for our diverse nation to use as a way to actualize compassion and understanding toward different cultures."They" are "us". A reflective look back.A useful source of inspiration for our diverse nation to use as a way to actualize compassion and understanding toward different cultures."They" are "us".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Isidro Rivera

    Solid book. Wonderful overview of Muslin, Jewish and Christian interactions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Farless

    A little dry in some parts, and a little rambling in others, it ultimately gives the reader a clear window into the world of al-Andalus. It sparked my desire to study the period further.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    excellent but scholarly. It's hard to understand Spain without understanding the threads that run through it. Fascinating at times. excellent but scholarly. It's hard to understand Spain without understanding the threads that run through it. Fascinating at times.

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